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20 years on…remembering Ola Rotimi, a complete man of the theatre

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The Theatre Arts Programme and College of Liberal Studies of Bowen University is set to host a webinar in commemoration of Nigerian scholar, playwright, and director, Ola Rotimi on August 18, 2020 at the institution.

The Webinar themed, ‘Remembering Ola Rotimi, A Complete Man of the Theatre, 20 Years On’ will be channeled towards ensuring that though the irreplaceable Ola Rotimi who was a complete man of theatre is gone, he is not forgotten.

The celebrated man of theatre Olawale Emmanuel Gladstone Rotimi, famously known as Ola Rotimi who passed on to glory 20-years ago on August 18, 2000 at Ile Ife, in his lifetime, significantly contributed to the development of Nigerian theatre especially by domesticating the English language with a view to fostering a linkage between the town and the gown.

His raison d’être as a theatre maker, therefore, was to bridge the gap between the so-called popular theatre tradition exemplified by the likes of Hubert Ogunde and Duro Ladipo, and the literary theatre tradition epitomised by the works of Wole Soyinka and JP Clark through creating a populist theatre that resonated not only with university dons on campus, but also the entire populace of the community of Ile Ife town.

Born on April 13, 1938, Rotimi was unarguably one of the most prolific Nigerian playwrights. Aside from being a skillful playwright of historical plays, which usually reflect Nigeria’s cultural diversity, Ola Rotimi was also the founder of the ‘Ori Olokun Theatre’, a lecturer, an actor, a choreographer, a designer and a stage director who was famous for his mastery of characterisation and crowd scenes.

Before his death, 62-year- old Rotimi was working on a play that would have been staged by a revived Ori Olokun Theatre with a strong cast of 3000 performers in his house in Eleweran in Ile-Ife in 2000.

Although death has robbed Nigerians and the world at large of Rotimi’s most ambitious project, his legacy lives on in the numerous plays he wrote in his lifetime. His most staged plays that made him the darling of total theatre lovers at home and abroad include The Gods Are Not to Blame [1968], Kurunmi [1969] and Ovonramwen Nogbaisi [1971]. He was also the author of Our Husband Has Gone Mad [1966], Holding Talks [1970], Grip Am [1973], If: A Tragedy of the Ruled [1979], Hopes of the living Dead [1985].


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