45 years after, theatre community remembers thunder king, Ladipo
Forty-four years ago, on March 11, 1978, the actor, playwright and musicologist, Duro Ladipo, passed on to glory during a brief illness at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State. He was aged 52.
‘Passed on’, perhaps, was a skinny adjective to describe the passage of the world-acclaimed thespian. ‘Ascension’, like the Yoruba firm belief of the departure of Alaafin Sango, whose alter ego, Ladipo, should be more appropriate.
Sango, the fire-spitting king, was the fourth Alaafin of the old Oyo Empire. He reigned for 60 years (1077-1137 AD). His mother was from the Nupe ethnic group of Niger State. Sango was a powerful and feared king who the Yoruba and his devotees in the diaspora (Brazil, Cuba, USA, South America, West Africa etc.) believed ascended into heaven, as against Sango’s critics’ false claim that he hanged himself. (Oba Ko So- The King did not hang).
Born on December 18, 1926 to an Anglican priest, the Reverend Joseph Oni Ladipo of Oderinlo clan, Popo Area, Osogbo and Madam Dorcas Towobola Ajike Ladipo, who believed that her newborn baby boy was the same baby that had tormented her in nine previous pregnancies!
The new baby boy was, therefore, appropriately and vengefully named Durodola Durosomo Duroorike Adisa Ladipo.
The late Ladipo belonged to the talented group of pioneers/doyens of Nigerian theatre such as, Hubert Ogunde, Oyin Adejobi, ‘Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Segun Olusola, Sam Akpabot, Sonnny Oti, Kola Ogunmola and Akin Euba.
Let me recall my article titled, An Evening with Sango published in some national weeklies 16 years ago. Please see The Guardian on Sunday issue of March 21, 2002 for ease of reference.
“We have since that 2002 evening of tributes established the Duro Ladipo Foundation, with ‘Moremi’ as the president and my humble self, her deputy. In celebrating the 30th anniversary of the passage Duro Ladipo in 2008, we published his biography co-authored by ‘Moremi’, and two of Nigeria’s star authors, academics, poets and playwrights, based at the University of Ibadan, Professor Remi Raji-Oyelade, President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and Professor Dapo Olorunyomi.
We also staged Oba Koso in Oyo and Osun states. Our intention to put three of Ladipo’s epic plays on celluloid is stalled by lack of funds/sponsorship. I pray this piece gingers philanthropists and endowed theatre lovers to rise up and lend helping hands.
In the documentary titled, The Creative Man, by American Educational Television, Ladipo talks about his life as a youth, who took an early interest in drama, while at school in Otan Ayegbaju in present-day Osun State. From there, he graduated to producing school plays when he became a pupil teacher. “I introduced native drums to church music in order to change the monotony. I shocked everybody”, he explains in the film.
According to Ladipo, his travelling theatre group made do with gas lamps and hurricane lanterns for stage effects. With vigorous rehearsals, attention to detail, research, guts, and sheer luck, he broke through the amateur ranks and emerged a notable dramatist whose group, the Duro Ladipo National Theatre would win the first prize at the Berlin Arts Festival in Germany in 1964 and at the first- ever Commonwealth Arts Festival in London, UK, the following year, with his epic play, Oba Koso.
Ladipo took his many well-researched Yoruba plays, Oba Koso, in particular round stages of the world, and he earned accolades from many countries and foreign critics. He really shook the theatre at home and abroad.
In June 1974, he completed his sprawling residential building in Bashorun area of Ibadan, originally called Akeeke Village. He moved into the building in November 1974. Ladipo named the abode Bode Waasinmi. Today, that name has taken over the old name of Akeeke Village, Bashorun, Ibadan.
Oloye Alabi, Ekefa Olubadan of Ibadanland