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Remembering Dapo Adelugba’s theatrical strides @ 70

By Japhet Alakam
One of Nigerian foremost scholars, Prof Charles Nnolim, in one of his presentations said that “Nigeria does not honour its intellectuals, rather Nigerians are only known for honouring politicians and soldiers, that is why  many Nigerian great scholars are not named after some streets in Abuja.”

It was perhaps based on the recognition of this high accusation  that friends, well wishers  and former students and all other people who benefitted from renowned playwright, Pa Dapo Adelugba under the name  “Professor Dapo Adelugba at 70 committee” have put up a programme of activities to celebrate one of the last surviving thorough bred academia.”

Dapo Adelugba is a Professor of Theatre Arts, Theatre Historian, Director, Actor, Critic, Writer and most importantly lecturer from 1967 – 2004. He is one theatre artist and teacher who has affected many lives during his teaching career which spanned over four decades and during which he affected and impacted on the lives of many students.

Prof.Dapo Adelugba held several positions in the country, he was the Director of Nigeria’s drama entry to the Second World Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac ’77), Chairman of Oyo State Council of Arts and Culture, the Arts Director of University of Ibadan, Theatre Arts, where he was also a Professor for many years. He is also the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Chapter of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). And currently a visiting Professor at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (2005 – Present). In all of these roles, Dapo Adelugba’s contributions place him alongside some of the greatest names in African theatre.

Adelugba has had a distinguished career in the academia. After taking an Honours’ degree in English from the University of London (Ibadan) in 1962, he proceeded to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for his postgraduate work in Theatre Arts.

Then he returned to Nigeria, where he began his teaching career at Ibadan Grammar school before joining the faculty of the University of Ibadan in September 1967. His position at Ibadan, together with his association with other Universities in Nigeria and other places as Fellow, External Examiner or Theatre Director, has given him the added benefit of working with a number of Theatre scholars like Professors Wole Soyinka, J P Cark-Bekedererno, Abiola Irele, Martin Banham, Ola Rotimi and Zulu Sofola.

He also worked extensively with late Wale Ogunyemi and Tunji Oyelana. Among the numerous students that have trained under Adelugba are: Professors Niyi Osundare, Duro Oni, Ziky Kofoworola, Saint Gbilekaa, Oga Steve Abah, Patrick Ebewo, Osita Okagbue. Others are Tunde Oloyede, Ihria Enakimio, Zulu Zik Okafor, Tade Adekunle, Jahman Anikulapo, Chuck Mike, etc.

He has written a number of seminar books including That Scoundrel Suberu and his English translation of Bakary Traore’s Le Theatre Negro Africain (The Black African Theatre and its Social Functions) have remained popular and as refreshing in Nigeria’s theatre circle.

Briefing newsmen on behalf of the committee on activities to mark the 70th birthday celebration of the  scholar and one of Nigeria’s pioneering Theatre Directors, popular1y referred to by many of his students as BABA(Father)Professor Dapo Adelugba who turned 70 in March this year. Prof. Duro Oni Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos said that the ceremony will start on the 29th of November 2009 and end on 5th December 2009.

Prof. Duro Oni  described Professor Dapo Adelugba as truly an icon who has raised, nutured and mentored many generation of creative Nigerians.

Activities lined up for the celebration include; an Art Stampede to be organised by CORA at the National Theatre on November 29th. This will be followed by a media event at NTA Victoria Island on 30thNov.  While December 1st and 2nd will feature an  international symposium at University of Lagos, with a command performance of Scoundrel Suberu at University of Lagos. December 3rd will witness another performance of the play (Scoundrel Suberu) while December 4th will witness a city tour of Lagos with the play.

Finally on 5th of December there will be performance of the play (Scoundrel Suberu)  and a variety night at Arts Theatre University of Ibadan . Prof.Oni also revealed that the keynote address will be presented by Professor Kris Dunton from University of Botswana while scholars and art lovers from Lesotho, Canada, UK and US are expected at the event.

Also speaking at the event Chief Dejumo Lewis (Kabyesi) of the Village Headmaster fame said that “though I did not pass through him but encountered him in FESTAC 77 and had great admiration for him as a great teacher and lecturer of Theatre Arts. He was such a humble fellow who despite his achievements and  giant structure he recorded in  academics remains silent and does not make noise.”

Another member of the committee Mr Ojo added that “I am one of his beneficiaries and I can attest to the fact that he is indeed a great man. The strength of his character is what we are celebrating. He is not a political person, he is very modest.” According to him “some of us are in the project not because of what we will gain ,but as part of the little contribution we can make in celebrating the life of a person , who has given out so much.”

Throwing more light on proposed arts stampede, Mr Jahman Onikulapo of CORA and a member of the committee said that the art stampede is a  fulfillment of a promise made when Adelugba turned 60. According to him “we organised a carnival for him at NCAC when he turned 60 and we saw the way Lagos arts and culture community welcomed it and so, we promised to do a larger one at his 70th birthday.”

“The stampede is a collective ownership of every artist and will be denied of formalities. It will be in the form of a carnival. But, we intend to use Adelugba’s character to narrate the story of Nigerian arts and culture.”


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