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Tunde Kelani’s Romance With Culture

At 70, Tunde Kelani has seen it all. With an experience in news reportage, photography and filmmaking, TK’s wealth of experience behind the camera is sterling.

What distinguishes him from other Nigerian filmmakers is his understanding and employment of culture in most of his films.


Kelani’s knowledge of Yoruba was first ignited by his grandparents with whom he stayed in Abeokuta. There he learned, first hand, the true essence of culture. He was also exposed to classic Yoruba literature, such as D. O. Fagunwa’s novels which are regarded to be among the first set of Yoruba novels ever written.

Tunde Kelani. Photo: Jerrie Rotimi

The totality of his experiences, including his interactions with the likes of late Professor Akinwunmi Ishola, Adebayo Faleti, Hubert Ogunde and Adeyemi ‘Ade Love’ Afolayan, are reflected in his seminal films such as Saworo Ide, Agogo Ewo, Arugba and Koseegbe.

“Growing up, I witnessed a lot, read a lot, heard a lot. So I had a lot of stories to tell,” he says. “I needed a medium to share my cultural experience and I settled for films as a medium of expression.”

His penchant for the use of Yoruba Language in his films has done little or nothing to limit their popularity. If anything, it has helped Kelani to accentuate his dialogue with over 40 million people who use the language in South West Nigeria, parts of the North Central and parts of Benin Republic and Togo.

Moreover, the English Language would have been inadequate for the expression of the peculiar nuances in some of Kelani’s films.

As much as he loves his culture, the ace cinematographer still believes Nigerian filmmakers must learn to use latest technologies that help in bettering their craft.

Pick a copy of Guardian Life tomorrow as we delve into the life and craft of Tunde Kelani.

In this article:
Tonye BakareTunde Kelani
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