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Duro Ladipo: Remembering iconic playwright 41 years after

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When Duro Ladipo established the popular Mbari Mbayo Club, as a melting pot of culture in the 60s, little did he know that he was instituting a legacy to inspire and nurture finest contemporary renowned African artists such as Chief Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale (Twins Seven-Seven), Chief Muraina Oyelami, Chief Jimoh Buraimoh, Ademola Onibonokuta, and a host of others. That Mbari Mbayo became so renown, there is no denying the fact that the role played by two expatriates, Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier in discovering new talents in Osogbo, recovering, revamping and documenting both tangible and intangible Yoruba cultural values.

Duro Ladipo was born 1931and brought up in a Christian family. He developed passion for Yoruba tradition and cultural values at a very tender age. In spite of his father’s condemnation of the Yoruba traditional values, Ladipo succeeded in fusing Yoruba culture with the Christian culture. Throughout his lifetime, he remained one of the greatest playwrights, dramatists and composers of his generation.

As a cultural symbol and personification of Yoruba culture and tradition, Ladipo used his theatre group to reevaluate the significant of the Yoruba traditions and culture. His major movies, Ajagun Nla, Oba Koso, Oba Moro and Oba Waja among others reinforced our understanding of the Yoruba worldview through innovative folk dramas, which encompassed ritual poetry and traditional rhythms performed on local materials. Indeed, Ladipo was a masterstroke in his area of expertise.

Immortalizing Ladipo for is outstanding contributions to the development of theatre in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. In celebration of his 40 years of passage in 2018, the family of the late drama icon under the matriarch, Chief (Mrs.) Abiodun Duro Ladipo, popularly referred to as ‘Moremi’ and the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, Abere, Osun State, jointly organized a week long eventful programme. This is in line with the mandate of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, to recover, protect and promote both tangible and intangible culture of the Yoruba and the entire black race. Hence, the Board of Trustees of the Centre, under the leadership of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola agreed to partner with the Duro Ladipo’s family in ensuring that his legacies and memories are preserved for future generations.

In lieu of this partnership, the Centre proceeded with the rehabilitation of the Duro Ladipo’s Mbari Mbayo Club and Mausoleum at Poopo Street, Station Road, Osogbo, in 2018. This is to ensure that the resting place of this illustrious playwright assumes a new and befitting look. Indeed, the first phase of this rehabilitation has soon been completed, while the second phase is underway. During the weeklong programme, the Centre also organized a colloquium, titled: 40 Years After: The Reflections on the Enduring Legacies of Duro Ladipo. At the colloquium, a number of scholars reflected on some of the legacies of Duro Ladipo, his contributions to performance art and the challenges facing the Yoruba movies industry. Some of the dignitaries at the colloquium include, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Alhaji Kazeem Adio, Chief Jimoh Buraimoh, Professor Ahmed Yeri, Dr. Senayon Olaoluwa, cultural enthusiasts and the family of the playwright.

Also in attendance were notable royal majesties such as the Ataoja of Osogbo, the Orangun of Oke-Ila and the Aragbiji of Iragbiji among others. Another important highlight of the partnership was the yearly Inter-Secondary Schools Drama Competition. This is part of the process to bring back the memory of ‘stage play’ and revitalise its significance in contemporary times. Worthy of note was also the Award of Prizes to the best graduating undergraduate students in some Nigerian universities. It is believed that impacting lives and bringing these yearly events together will enable the legacies of Duro Ladipo to continue to live on.

In commemorating the 41 years of Duro Ladipo in 2019, both the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding and the Duro Ladipo’s family will be organising a series of events. Some of the highlights of this year’s programmes include Inter-Secondary Schools Drama Competition, Award of Prizes to Best Graduating Students in Theatre Art/Drama at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, University of Ibadan, Lagos State University, University of Lagos and Redeemer’s University, Ede. Similarly, a memorial lecture will take place at the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, Abere, Osun State, on March 11, 2019. This Lecture will be delivered by a renowned Professor of Theatre Art and former Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, Professor Duro Oni.

• Professor Oyeweso is the Executive Director of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Osun State.


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