Rotimi, Ola

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-language plays traditional Nigerian cultural forms, including ethnic dances and indigenous languages. His works often presented figures or incidents of historical importance in Nigeria in an effort to highlight the relevance of the past to contemporary issues. A Nigerian government scholarship took Rotimi in 1959 to the United States, where he studied fine arts at Boston University and writing at the school of drama at Yale University. While at Boston and Yale, he wrote his first two plays, To Stir the God of Iron (1963) and Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again (1966). After earning a master's degree from Yale, Rotimi returned to Nigeria, lecturing first at what became Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife-Ife and later at the University of Port Harcourt. During this time, he wrote several plays, including the acclaimed The Gods Are Not to Blame (1968), a retelling of the Oedipus story; Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (1971), about the last ruler of the Benin empire; and Hopes of the Living Dead (1985), which recounted Nigerian choral composer Ikoli Harcourt Whyte's fight for equal rights for lepers. Rotimi had taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., until he returned home to Nigeria shortly before his death.

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▪ Nigerian scholar and dramatist
byname of  Emmanuel Gladstone Olawale Rotimi 
born April 13, 1938, Sapele, Nigeria
died August 18, 2000, Ile-Ife

      Nigerian scholar, playwright, and director.

      Rotimi was born to an Ijaw mother and a Yoruba father, and cultural diversity was a frequent theme in his work. Educated in Nigeria in Port Harcourt and Lagos, he traveled to the United States in 1959 to study at Boston University. After receiving a B.A. in fine arts in 1963, he attended the Yale School of Drama (M.A., 1966), concentrating on playwrighting. Upon returning to Nigeria in the 1960s, he taught at the Universities 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.

      Rotimi often examined Nigeria's history and ethnic 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. His later dramas include The Gods Are Not to Blame (produced 1968; published 1971), a retelling of the Oedipus myth in imagistic blank 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. 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.

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Universalium. 2010.

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