The archive includes 28 letters to Sister Majella and 3 files of Saro Wiwa's poetry.
The importance of the archive is that it captures in rich detail the last two years of Saro-Wiwa's life and documents his transition from activist to political prisoner. The letters and poems record themes such as the on-going struggle to protect the Ogoni people, growing instability in Nigeria, Saro-wiwa's conditions during his detention, and the importance of his friendship with a nun from County Fermanagh, Sister Majella McCarron, during the final chapter in his life.
A letter to Sister Majella dated 13th July 1994, provides an intimate account of Saro-Wiwa's living conditions during his imprisonment. He states:
'My condition is not very bad. I have an air-conditioned room to myself and the electricity has only failed once. I can write and only yesterday succeeded in smuggling my computer into this place. I can cook (though I cannot cook) for myself and from time to time, I can smuggle out letters The only thing is that family members, lawyers and doctor are not allowed to see me.'
Despite his lack of freedom, Saro-Wiwa continued to write. Many of his letters to Sister Majella contain references to novels, short stories and other written material that he was working on. Poems, which are included in the collection, cover wide-ranging themes including the struggle of the Ogoni people, his prison conditions, love, and the tragic death of his son. In a letter dated 1st October 1994, he notes:
'I'm keeping myself mentally busy and doing a lot those things which I may not have done as a free man.'
On the subject of getting access to his writing materials whilst in captivity, Saro-Wiwa states in the same letter:
'Getting all these things in has meant paying money out to my guards - quite a sum of money. Nigeria being Nigeria Freedom can be quite expensive or cheap depending on how you look at it. To those who have freedom, it's cheap, those of us who lack it, pay a lot to get just a bit.'
To the fore of Saro-Wiwa's mind, however, is always the plight of the Ogoni people. Letter after letter, he expresses his concern regarding their welfare. His commitment to his people and their protection is unwavering, even when he himself is faced with death. In a letter dated 29th October 1994 he states:
'My moments of depression here had more to do with the political situation in the country: worries over the Ogoni and such-like than the fact of my confinement. I miss my family, of course, but it is a fitting price to pay for the joy of others.'
These worries are echoed in his undated poem 'Ogoni Ogoni' where he refers to the environmental damage caused to the 'ancestral farmlands' of Ogoniland.
Throughout his detention, and during some of the darkest chapters in his life, Saro-Wiwa reached out again and again, to his supporter and friend, Sister Majella McCarron or 'Sister M' as he often referred to her in his letters. Aside from exchanging ideas about politics and current affairs, some of his letters refer to matters of a more personal nature, with updates on the health, well-being and whereabouts of various members of his family. A quote from another of his letters, dated 1 October 1994, captures the importance of their friendship to him. He tells her:
'I long to see you back in Nigeria, helping among others, to guide the Ogoni people .You don't know what help you have been to us, and to me personally, intellectually.'
Ken Saro-Wiwa was tried and sentenced to death by a special military tribunal. He was hanged on 10th November 1995 along with eight others.