Ola Rotimi

Ola Rotimi

Olawale Rotimi
Born Olawale Gladstone Emmanuel Rotimi
13 April 1938(1938-04-13)
Ilesha, Osun State, Nigeria
Occupation Playwright, director. Head of Department of Creative Arts at the University of Port Harcourt, Lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; has also served as visiting professor, playwright, and director in Germany and Italy, as well as at DePauw University and Wabash College.
Nationality Nigerian
Ethnicity Yoruba
Period 1938-2000
Notable work(s) The Gods Are Not To Blame, Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, and The Epilogue

Olawale Gladstone Emmanuel Rotimi, best known as Ola Rotimi regarded as one of Nigeria's leading playwrights and theatre directors.



Early life

Ola Rotimi was the son of Samuel Gladstone Enitan Rotimi a Yoruba steam-launch engineer (a successful director and producer of amateur theatricals)[1] and Dorcas Adolae Oruene Addo an Ijaw drama enthusiast. He was born in Sapele, Nigeria.;[2] cultural diversity was a recurring theme in his work. He attended St. Cyprians School in Port Harcourt from 1945 to 1949, St Jude's School, Lagos from 1951 to 1952 and the Methodist Boys High School in Lagos before traveling to the United States in 1959 to study at Boston University where he obtained a B.A in fine arts'. In 1965, he married Hazel Mae Guadreau originally from Gloucester ; Hazel also studied at Boston University where she majored in opera, voice and music education. In 1966 he obtained an M.A. from Yale School of Drama,[nb 1] where he earned the distinction of being a Rockefeller Foundation scholar in Playwriting and Dramatic Literature.[nb 2]

Theatrical career

Ola Rotimi often examined Nigeria’s history and local traditions in his works. His first plays To Stir the God of Iron (produced 1963) and Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again (produced 1966; published 1977) were staged at the drama schools of Boston University and Yale, respectively.

Later years

Upon returning to Nigeria in the 1960s, he taught at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Port Harcourt. Owing, in part, to political conditions in Nigeria, Rotimi spent much of the 1990s living in the Caribbean and the United States, where he taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2000 he returned to Ile-Ife, joining the faculty of Obafemi Awolowo University where he lectured till his demise. Sadly, Hazel (his wife) died in May 2000, only a couple of months before his own death.

His later dramas include The Gods Are Not to Blame (produced 1968; published 1971), a retelling adaptation of the Oedipus myth in imaginative verse; Kurunmi and the Prodigal (produced 1969; published as Kurunmi, 1971), written for the second Ife Festival of Arts; Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (produced 1971; published 1974), about the last ruler of the Benin empire; and Holding Talks (1979).

Later plays, such as If: A Tragedy of the Ruled (1983) and Hopes of the Living Dead (1988), premiered at the University of Port Harcourt and was a common play in OAU Drama department. The radio play Everyone His/Her Own Problem was broadcast in 1987. His book African Dramatic Literature: To Be or to Become? was published in 1991.

Ola Rotimi a patriot, who shunned the attraction of the West and Europe and returned home to contribute his own quota to nation building, was a rare breed. Diminutive in size but a giant in drama in Africa, he was one of the best things that could have happened to the literary community.

His dream of directing a play of 5000 cast members materialized at the Amphi Africa Theater when he was being put to rest as the crowd was drawn to a manuscript of the day's program outline. People made dramatic entry and exit to the stage around his casket with the man turning his casket.

Rotimi spent the second half of his last creative decade reworking two of his plays: Man talk, Woman talk and also Tororo, Tororo, Roro and the result, yet unpublished as at the time of his death in 2002, have now been published under the title, The Epilogue. The two plays were probably meant to be an epilogue to both Rotimi’s theatrical and comic careers which stretch the entire spectrum of his career.

It is comical and the language is a version of ‘Nigerian English’ and thus we have ‘Se you get?’ ‘I called God on him’ …

The works are also a social satire and this publication will spur renewed interest in his satires. Rotimi is sure to be remembered as a model in the literary genre whose views have shaped the conduct of the theater and whose plays have demonstrated the power of drama to shape the thinking of the society and attempted to solve some of the problems encountered in everyday living.


  • To Stir the God of Iron (1963)
  • Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again (1966)

Here Rotimi depicts the cocoa farmer and businessman Lejoka-Brown as a self-seeking, opportunistic leader who could make better contributions to his country outside of the political arena.

  • The Gods Are Not To Blame (1968)

An adaptation of the Greek Classic, Oedipus Rex; the main character gets trapped by pride, ignorance and the caprices of the divinities.

  • Kurunmi(1969)
  • Holding Talks(1970)
  • Ovonramven Nogbaisi (1971)

In Ovonramven Nogbaisi, the title character simply luxuriates in the grandeur of his office. Although he is a custodian of culture who inspires people, he does not actively participate in their struggles.

  • Grip Am(1973)
  • Invitation Into Madness (1973)
  • Akassa Youmi(1977)*
  • If: A Tragedy of The Ruled (1979)

In If:..., the young firebrand Hamidu is nowhere to be found when a real commitment is required

  • Hopes of The Living Dead (1985)

In Hopes of The Living Dead, Rotimi depicts a different kind of leader. Here we have a selfless, result-oriented, committed leadership complemented by a followership that believes in the good of the generality of its members through the application of itself to the cause that is beneficial.

  • When the Criminals Become Judges

The Epilogue: Two unpublished plays of Ola Rotimi

  • Man Talk, Womanm Talk

Man talk, Woman talk is humorous, as quintessential comedies from the author can be. He makes use of wry humour to seek a level playing ground for resolution of the biases men and women nurse about one another and which affect mutual co-existence of the two. The scene is a court though devoid of the usual technicalities of court rooms. Instead of legal jargon, there is humor, arguments and counter arguments. What the author arrives at is not to prove which gender is superior but to show the complementary roles of men and women. There is a great deal of wit in the work and the setting here is the university environment where the youthful contenders are idealistic.

  • Tororo, Tororo, Roro

Tororo, Tororo, Roro is a coincidental meeting of two fellows from Man talk, Woman talk, Tunji Oginni and Philomena James. Both run Hotel Kilimanjaro with different motives and a chance meeting by both of them elicits lessons as both share each other’s problems.


First performed in Nigeria in 1968, The Gods Are Not To Blame was set to light-up the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, London in 2005. Femi Elufowoju (Jr) had his first theatre experience in 1975, at the age of 11, when he saw a revival of this very play, performed in a reconstructed Greek amphitheatre at a university campus in Ife; and brought it to the UK shores as a British leading theatre director under the company name Tiata Fahodzi[3]

His last production was a staging of Man talk Woman talk at the French Institute in Lagos, Nigeria. He also produced Tororo Tororo roro, a play of the Absurd as a convocation play. very well

Textual sources


For Man talk, Woman talk, directorial approach must have fluidity which will allow for creativity of the actors. The technicalities of the stage should be carefully applied in such a way that they will kill expected boredom associated with court scenes for if not done, the whole dramatic in the act will be flattened out. It might do the play a favor if it is given the kind of approach Ola Rotimi himself used in the directing of the premiere of the play. It is the technique that allows a kind of participatory interaction; the one that accommodates the audience contribution.


Awarded two Fullbright Scholarships.

List of works

Books that contain his significant contributions (see notes for more information) are marked with a percentage(%); Conference publications are marked with an asterisk (*); thesis or disectations are marked with a dagger (†) below.


Plays and Literature
  • Kurunmi[nb 3]
  • The Gods Are Not To Blame[nb 4]
  • Ovọnramwẹn Nọgbaisi[nb 5]
  • Our husband has gone mad again[nb 6]
  • Holding talks[nb 7]
  • If: A tragedy of the ruled[nb 8]
  • Understanding "The Gods Are Not to Blame"[nb 9]
  • Hopes of the living dead[nb 10]
  • Viandanti della storia[nb 11]%
  • African dramatic literature
  • Playwriting and directing in Nigeria
  • The Epilogue[nb 12]
Books, Essays & Political Commentary


  • A dictionary of Nigerian Pidgin English: with an intoductory survey of the history, linguistics and socio-literary functions
  • Introduction to Nigerian literature[nb 13]%
  • The living culture of Nigeria[nb 14]%
  • A translation of the play "The Gods Are Not to Blame" into Setswana[nb 15]
  • Statement towards August '83-[nb 16]
  • The Masquerade in Nigerian history and culture[nb 17]*%
  • An interview (1975) with Ola Rotimi, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, University of Ifẹ, Ile Ifẹ[nb 18]
  • Diversity of creativity in Nigeria*
  • African theatre in performance%
  • Akassa you mi
  • Issues in African theatre


  • Conversation with Ola Rotimi
  • How the kingfisher learned fear
  • Review of: Kiabàrà: Journal of the Humanities 1(June 1978)
  • Through whom the spirits breathe
  • The trials of African literature
  • Everyone his/her own problem
  • No direction home
Archival material and ebooks

Archival material

  • [Papers[nb 19]*
  • African Papers, 1963, 1968-1989
  • Gbe'ku De:pièce en 1 acte


  • Initiation into madness
  • Our husband has gone mad again
  • If
  • Holding talks
  • Hopes of the living dead
  • Grip am
  • Akassa you mi
  • Kurunmi
  • Ovonramwen Nogbaisi

See also


  1. ^ He received professional training as a dramatist at Yale under John Gassner, one of America's distinguished dramatic critics, and Jack Landau, a professional New York director.Dictionary of Literary Biography: Olawale Gladstone Emmanuel Rotimi (page2)
  2. ^ His graduate project-play was declared "Yale University's Student Play of the Year".Olarotimi Foundation
  3. ^ Kurumi: An Historical Tragedy, Oxford University Press, Ibadan, Nigeria, 1971 ISBN 0-19-646040-9
  4. ^ The Gods Are Not to Blame (Three Crowns) (ed Paperback), Oxford University Press, London 1971 ISBN 0-19-211358-5
  5. ^ Ovọnramwẹn Nọgbaisi: An historical tragedy in English, Ethiope Pub. Corp., Benin City, Nigeria, 1974 ISBN 0-19-575233-3
  6. ^ Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again, (ed Paperback) University Press PLC, Nigeria, ©1977, 1999 ISBN 978-154-003-6
  7. ^ Holding Talks: An absurdist drama, Oxford University Press, Ibadan, Nigeria, 1979 ISBN 978-154-497-X
  8. ^ If: A tragedy of the ruled, (ed Paperback), Heinemann Educational Books, Ibadan, Nigeria, 1983 ISBN 9-781-29140-0
  9. ^ Ola Rotimi (Author) & C. Maduka (Author) -: A detailed interview with Ola Rotimi on his award-winning tragedy, "The Gods Are Not to Blame", Kurunmi Adventures, Lagos, Nigeria, 1984 ISBN 978-2321-42-7
  10. ^ Hopes of the living dead: a drama of struggle, Spectrum Books, Ibadan, Nigeria, ©1988 ISBN 978-2460-13-3
  11. ^ Series II lato dell'ombra. 24: Chinua Achebe (Author) ; Itala Vivan ; Ola Rotimi & Franca Cavagnoli (Author), Lavoro, Roma, ©1991
  12. ^ Ola Rotimi (Author) & Effiok Bassey Uwatt (Author, Editor), The Epilogue: Two Unpublished Plays of Ola Rotimi, (Content - Man talk, woman talk & Tororo, tororo ro-ro), Apex Books, Lagos, Nigeria, 2007 ISBN 978-48045-7-3
  13. ^ Bruce King, Introduction to Nigerian Literature, (ed Hardcover), New York, Africana Pub. Corp., 1972, ©1971 ISBN 0-8419-0111-2. Rotimi's contribution was contextual material relating to Traditional Nigerian drama.
  14. ^ Saburi O. Biobaku, The Living culture of Nigeria, T. Nelson Publishers, Lagos, Nigeria, 1976 ISBN 0-17-544201-0
  15. ^ Thandie Lerato Pilane, Ola Rotimi, University of Botswana: Thesis (B.A.) University of Botswana, Gaborone, 1979
  16. ^ Statements towards August '83, Kurunmi Adventures, Lagos, Nigeria, ©1983 ISBN 978-2321-41-9
  17. ^ Nwanna Nzewunwa (chief editor): sponsored by the University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1980 (ed Conference papers). Rotimi's contribution was an 18 paged material sub-titled "Through whom the spirits breathe"
  18. ^ Ola Rotimi (Author) & Dapọ Adelugba (Author, Editor): LACE occasional publications v. 1, no. 3., Dept. of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, 1984
  19. ^ Organized by the Institute of African Studies, University of Ife "in collaboration with the Dept. of English (ed Conference papers). Rotimi's contribution was a 13 paged material sub-titled "Trends in the Nigerian drama"


  1. ^ Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online: Emmanuel Gladstone Olawale Rotimi|E.G.O (ed 2009) Gale Research
  2. ^ Olarotimi Foundation
  3. ^ The Independent:Authentic rhythms of Africa, (Article) by Charlotte Cripps, May 2005

Profile Initiator on Wikipedia was Akinbo A. A. Cornerstone, a student and a friend of Ola Rotimi.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ola Rotimi — (* 13. April 1938 in Sapele; † 18. August 2000 in Ile Ife) war ein nigerianischer Schriftsteller, der in englischer Sprache schrieb und besonders für seine Theaterstücke bekannt wurde. Daneben verfasste er auch Kurzgeschichten, Hörspiele und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rotimi — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Christopher Oluwole Rotimi (*1935), nigerianischer Politiker Ola Rotimi (1938–2000), nigerianischer Schriftsteller Sunday Rotimi (*1980), nigerianischer Fußballspieler sowie der Vorname folgender Personen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rotimi, Ola — ▪ 2001 Emmanuel Gladstone Olawale Rotimi        Nigerian playwright and director (b. April 13, 1938, Sapele, Nigeria d. Aug. 18, 2000, Ife Ife, Nigeria), was trained in the Western theatre tradition but incorporated into his predominately English …   Universalium

  • theatre, African — ▪ art Introduction       an art, concerned almost exclusively with live performances in which the action is precisely planned to create a coherent and significant sense of drama, as it is presented in sub Saharan Africa.       The content and… …   Universalium

  • Ogun State —   State   Nickname(s): Gateway State …   Wikipedia

  • List of Nigerians — This is an incomplete list of notable Nigerian people. Academics *Chinua Achebe *Muhammadu Junaidu *Pius Okigbo *Bartholomew Nnaji *Oluwakayode Osuntokun *Akinola Aguda *Jacob Ade Ajayi *Lazarus Ekwueme *Oji Umozurike *Babs Fafunwa *Kelsey… …   Wikipedia

  • Sapele, Nigeria — Infobox Settlement official name =Sapele other name = native name = nickname = settlement type = motto = imagesize = 300px image caption = flag size = image seal size = image shield = shield size = image blank emblem = blank emblem type = blank… …   Wikipedia

  • Cy Grant — Born 8 November 1919(1919 11 08) Beterverwagting, British Guiana Died 13 February 2010(201 …   Wikipedia

  • Francis Agu — Infobox actor imagesize = birthname = Francis Agu birthdate = birth date|1965|02|18 birthplace = Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria deathdate = death date and age|2007|3|20|1965|2|18 spouse = Chris Martin (2003 ndash;present) yearsactive = 80 s presentFrancis …   Wikipedia

  • Liste nigerianischer Schriftsteller — Liste von in Nigeria geborenen bzw. zum größten Teil publizierten Schriftstellern. Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.