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In Death, Theatre Community Celebrate The Daodu Of Nigerian Theatre, Prof. Dapo Adelugba


WHEN, in February 2009, former students, mentees, associates and admirers of the late Professor Dapo Adelugba met at the Post Graduate room of the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, to discuss the celebration of the 70th birthday of the erudite scholar, little did they know that they were starting a movement, which has become a standard in the country’s theatre history.

With the social media playing an important role in dissemination of information, the Dapo Adelugba @ 70 group became a critical source of gleaning information on theatrical theory and praxis in the country.

In a spate of one year, the group had been able to publish two books on theatre and host a series of events and seminars to celebrate theatre in the country, paramount of which is the Geoffrey Axworthy lecture on theatre, which Prof Wole Soyinka was the first speaker in March 2013.

Therefore, it was no surprise that months after the theatre teacher and professor of professors, who is often known as Daodu of Nigerian theatre passed on, members of this ‘theatre community’ held a post humus seminar to celebrate the late professor’s 76th birthday.

Held at the Afe Babalola Hall of the University of Lagos, on March 9, the seminar was themed, Dapo Adelugba: Reminiscences On a Distinguished Life.

The event featured paper presentations and tribute by many of his former students including, Prof. Duro Oni, Deputy Vice Chancellor University of Lagos; Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo of the Department of English, University of Lagos; the poet and literary activist, Odia Ofeimun; Ben Tomoloju, a playwright and arts and culture communicator; Prof. Sunday Enesi Ododo, a theatre teacher at the University of Maiduguri, Dr. Esohe Suinner-Molokwu, Dr. Sola Fosudo, Longley Evru, Tade Adekunle, Teju Kareem and Tunji Sotimirin, while Mr. and Mrs. Segun Adelugba, Chief and Mrs Kufo, Dr. and Mrs. Bolarinwa represented the Adelugba family.

For Folusade Kufo, sister of the late Adelugba, “the man was an inspiration to all. He was gentle, though, he could be stubborn. He was a humble and generous person. He helped members of his family financially to get into the university to study.”

Teniayo Adelugba, Prof Adelugba’s daughter sent in a message from London, to express her gratitude to all those who stood by them when the man of theatre passed on.

Her words: “But like the wonderful clan that you are, you rallied around us and came to our aid. And you enabled us to see him off with honour. I want to thank you. We want to thank you. Without your support, daddy’s homegoing would not have been what it was. Your collective efforts made it so beautiful. Thank you for the many-pronged support rendered — emotional, practical, financial — thank you for every kind of support that you gave us. All those who came, all those who gave in whatever capacity, all those who ran around with us, those who called, those who sent messages of support, those who prayed, everyone who helped in one way or another, we say thank you.”

Ofeimun read a poem titled, Opelenge, which he wrote when the late Adelugba’s house was gutted by fire. He noted, “Adelugba was a man of knowledge who gave himself to everybody, he believed that helping the younger generation to grow was the best in the world, virtually everybody who studied theatre arts in this country was a student of Adelugba, whether they stood in his class or not because his impact on theatre in Nigeria was second to none.”

Ofeimun said, “Adelugba was a very humble person, who never allowed whatever his personal circumstances were to stand between himself and the need to care for other people, where ever you have a school of theatre in Africa, there must be a student of his. And those of us, who did not study theatre, can actually consider ourselves his students, in the sense that we learnt a lot from his stage drama back then. Adelugba was never in a hurry with his students, he had a very strong firm of what should be done about the stage and the theatre, and he was involved in most of the major theatre events in Nigeria.”

Ofeimun said Adelugba was a great teacher and believes that there are many ‘Adelugbas’ in the country possibly with his kind of commitment.

Highlight of the event was presentation of an excerpt from Eniyan (Wale Ogunyemi’s adaptation of the medieval play, Everyman) one of Adelugba’s favourite plays that was directed by Sotiminrin, featuring students of Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos.

Chair of the Adelugba Group, Prof. Oni, seized the opportunity to announce the yearly Dapo Adelugba Theatre Arts Lecture Series, which takes off on March 9, 2016.

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