February 5, 2024

Renowned Nigerian storyteller, Jimi Solanke, is dead

Jimi Solanke

By James Ogunnaike, ABEOKUTA

A veteran actor, dramatist, folk singer, poet, and playwright, Jimi Solanke, is dead.

He passed away at the age of 82.

It was gathered that the iconic figure, known for his multifaceted talents, breathed his last on Monday morning after a brief illness while en route to the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital.

It was further gathered that he was seen last night holding a meeting with some stakeholders in Remo before he died the following day.

Born on July 4, 1942, in Ipara Remo, Jimi Solanke’s artistic journey began as a pioneer member of the Orisun Theatre Group, founded by the renowned Wole Soyinka, in 1961.

His contributions to the global entertainment industry spanned seven decades, leaving an indelible mark on various platforms, from the Western Nigeria Television in the 1960s to international festivals in Senegal and Algeria during the 1970s.

Solanke’s versatility shone through in epic performances such as “Death and the King’s Horseman,” “Kurunmi,” “Kongi’s Harvest,” “The Divorce,” and “Ovaramwen Nogbaisi.”

His captivating stagecraft and theatrical brilliance earned him accolades and recognition, both locally and internationally.

The Oxford Times hailed him as a “Skilled Nigerian Actor,” and the New York Times recognized him as the star of an “Excellent Troupe” during a performance of Wole Soyinka’s “Kongi’s Harvest.”

Affectionately known as Baba Agba, Solanke was more than just an actor; he was a consummate quintessential songwriter, performer, visual artist, and storyteller extraordinaire.

Described as “a better singer than an actor” by those who witnessed his enchanting performances, he often referred to himself as an “actor-singer,” seamlessly merging his acting prowess with musical delivery.

His impact extended beyond the stage and screen, as Solanke was the Founder and Artistic Director of Ibudo Asa in Ipara Remo, Remo North Local Government, Ogun State, Nigeria.

He leaves behind a legacy that transcends borders, resonating in the hearts of those who had the privilege to witness his artistry.

Jimi Solanke is survived by his wife, Chief Mrs. Toyin Solanke, and his passing marks the end of an era in Nigerian entertainment, leaving a void that will be felt for years to come.

The cultural ambassador extraordinaire has left an indomitable imprint on the history of African arts and will be remembered for his contributions to the enrichment of the nation’s cultural heritage.

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