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Oloye Hubert Adedeji Ogunde (10 July 1916 – 4 April 1990) was a Nigerian actor, playwright, theatre manager, and musician who founded the African Music Research Party in 1945, the first contemporary professional theatrical company in Nigeria. He changed the name to Ogunde Theater Party in 1947 and in 1950 he again changed the name to Ogunde Theater Party. Finally, in 1960 he changed the name of his company to Ogunde Theater which remained until his death in 1990. He has been described as "the father of Nigerian theatre, or the father of contemporary Yoruba theatre".[1] In his career on stage, he wrote more than 50 plays,[2] most of which incorporate dramatic action, dance and music with a story reflecting the political and social realities of the period.[3] His first production was a church-financed play called The Garden of Eden that premiered at Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos, in 1944. Its success encouraged Ogunde to produce more plays and he soon left his job with the police force for a career in theatre. In the 1940s, he released some plays with political commentaries: The Tiger's Empire, Strike and Hunger and Bread and Bullet (1950). During the 1950s, he toured various Nigerian cities with his travelling troupe. In 1964, he released Yoruba Ronu, a play that generated controversy and earned him the wrath of Akintola, premier of the Western Region. His Ogunde Theater was banned in the Western Region of Nigeria for two years and the ban was only revoked by the new military government of Lt. Col. F. A. Fajuyi on 4th Feb. 1966. In the late 1970s, Ogunde was spurred by the success of Ija Ominira and Ajani Ogun, two pioneer Yoruba feature-length films, to co-produce his first celluloid film, Aiye, in 1979. He released three more (Jaiyesimi, Aropin N'tenia and Ayanmo) feature-length films influenced by Yoruba mysticism.

Hubert Adedeji Ogunde
Born Hubert Adedeji Ogunde
(1916-07-10)10 July 1916
Ososa, Ogun State
Died 4 April 1990(1990-04-04) (aged 73)
London, England
Occupation Playwright, actor
Nationality Nigerian
Spouse More than 10
Child(ren) Many
Period 1944–90
Genre Drama, satire
Debut works Garden of Eden and the Throne of GOD
Notable work(s) Yoruba Ronu, Aiye
Awards Doctor of Letters from the University of Ife and University of Lagos, Nigeria

Ogunde starred in Mister Johnson,[1] the 1990 motion picture that also featured Pierce Brosnan. The movie was shot on location in Toro, near Bauchi, Nigeria.


Early lifeEdit

Ogunde was born in Ososa, near Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria,[4] to the family of Jeremiah Deinbo and Eunice Owotusan Ogunde. His father was a Baptist pastor and his maternal grandfather was an Ifa priest of no small repute. an African traditional religion. Ogunde briefly lived within the precincts of his grandfather's compound and was exposed to Ifá and Ogun and many traditional religious celebrations.[5] Both the Christian and traditional African religion influenced his upbringing. He had his education between 1925 and 1932, attending St John School, Ososa, (1925–28), St Peter's School, Faaji, Lagos, (1928–30) and Wasimi African School, (1931–32).[5] His first contact with performance art was as a young member of Egun Alarinjo during his elementary school days. After completing his education, he worked as a pupil-teacher at St. John's School and was also church choirmaster and organist. He later joined the Nigerian police force in March 1941 in Ibadan.[6] In 1943, the police force posted him to the Denton Police Station Ebute Metta where he joined an African initiated church a white garment church, the Church of the Lord (Aladura) at Ebute- Metta . In Lagos, he created an amateur drama group the African Music Research Party in 1945.[7]

Like many of his theatre contemporaries, such as A. B. David, P. A. Dawodu, Layeni and G. T. Onimole, his theatre career began under the patronage of the Church. In 1944, he co-produced his first folk opera with G. B. Kuyinu, The Garden of Eden and The Throne of God,[1] commissioned by the Lagos-based Church of the Lord (Aladura) founded by Josiah Ositelu. The performance was sanctioned to aid contributions to a Church building fund. The folk opera premiered at Glover Memorial Hall with the chairman of the ceremony, Azikiwe in attendance.[8] Ogunde's first play incorporated realism and dramatic action in the acting, dancing and singing of the performers separating it from the common Native Air Operas predominant in Yorubaland at the time[9] an innovation that contributed to making the play a success. At the request of the Alake of Abeokuta, Ogunde performed The Garden of Eden at the Ake Centenary Hall. Encouraged by the success of the play, Ogunde went on to write more operas. He wrote and co-directed three religious themed plays: Africa and God (1944), a folk opera infused with Yoruba cultural themes than were non-existent in The Garden of Eden, Israel in Egypt (1945) and Nebuchadnezzar's Reign and Belshazzar's Feast (1945). In 1946, he resigned his post with the police to become a professional dramatist.


Beginning of stage career: folk operasEdit

Ogunde's African Music Research Party later known as Ogunde Theatre Party founded in 1945[10] is the first contemporary professional theatre company in Yoruba land. Previous performance groups were masked theatre troupes called Alarinjo who were dependent on the court or church for support and grew in popularity as a result of word of mouth.[10] Ogunde distinguished his group by using promotion methods such as advertisements and posters and changing the round stage used by alarinjo performers to one with a proscenium. In addition, he introduced dramatic action and realism into his plays depending on the audience for commercial support. By these acts Ogunde began the rise of modern professional theatre in Nigeria, a movement in which he remains the father figure.[11] After leaving his job as a police constable, Ogunde moved away from his earlier focus on religious themes and started writing plays that were nationalistic or anti-colonial in outlook, a trend in Lagos during the furious forties.[8] During this period, many of his early operas were co-directed by G. B. Kuyinu.

In early 1945, he produced Worse than Crime, a political play infused with Yoruba dance and ancient folk songs and like most of his early plays, it was premiered at Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos. Later in that year, he wrote The Black Forest and Journey to Heaven, two Yoruba operas that also improved on his use of traditional Yoruba folklore but with the latter having a strong Christian influence. In November 1945, he wrote a pro-labour play, Strike and Hunger motivated by the events of a general strike by labour unions led by Michael Imoudu. In 1946 he wrote and produced Tiger's Empire. Premiered on 4 March 1946, Tiger's Empire was produced by The African Music Research Party and featured Ogunde, Beatrice Oyede and Abike Taiwo. The advertisement for the play was the result of Ogunde's call for "paid actresses". It marked the first time in Yoruba theatre that women were billed to appear in a play as professional artists in their own right. Tiger's Empire was an attack on colonial rule. He followed Tiger's Empire with Darkness and Light, a play he vaguely remembers.[9] Later in 1946, he produced Devil's Money, an African story about a man who entered a contract with an evil spirit so as to get rich. The folk opera was successful with a set of twenty-four actors donning costumes. After the death of Herbert Macaulay, he wrote the opera Herbert Macaulay, to commemorate the life of the nationalist who died in 1946. He then released another political themed play, Towards Liberty in 1947. Before 1948, Ogunde plays were staged in Lagos and occasionally in Abeokuta, both his growing popularity in other Western Nigeria provinces made him think about traveling to other cities with his theatre troupe. In 1948, he went on a tour major Western Nigerian cities with his group, including stops at Abeokuta, Ibadan, Oyo, Ede and Ogbomosho.[12] When he took his tour to the north, he had two major encounters with the police due to the political context of Worse than Crime and Tiger's Empire. His first tour outside Nigeria was not well received by the Ghanaian audience largely because they did not understand the Yoruba language and Ogunde was ignorant about the tastes of the audience.

Ogunde wrote his first satire, Human Parasites, about the craze for Aso ebi, a social culture which encourage both men and women to buy the most expensive materials for social gatherings. “The custom has lent itself to much abuse in that the occasions for celebrating marriages and funerals occur so often that one may be asked by friends to buy ‘Aso Ebi’ more than ten times a year”. Human Parasites lampooned Lagos socialites but many of them were Ogunde's patrons.[13] Around the time, he wrote Human Parasites, he changed the name of his troupe to Ogunde Theatre Party from the previous name of African Music Research Party. Ogunde's earliest dramas were folk operas whereby the actors on stage sang their lines with limited dialogue.

In 1947, Ogunde and Adesuwa, his wife and co-star traveled to London to make contacts with the promotion of his shows in England. The talks were not fruitful but in London, they had the opportunity to take waltz and tap dance classes. In his later operas, he syncretized the waltz with the traditional Batakoto dance and tap dance with traditional Yoruba Epa dance.[14]


In 1950, Ogunde continued writing plays with political undertones, Bread and Bullet, first performed in 1950 is Ogunde's play about the coal miners strike in Enugu that resulted in the shooting of twenty-two people. In Northern Nigeria, the performance of the play was limited to certain areas due to allegations of seditious dialogue.[15] It was during this time, Ogunde introduced English language to the dialogue of his plays. In January 1950, he staged a reproduction of his 1945 play Black Forest, he re-arranged the play introducing English and Yoruba dialogue with African music played by both Western and African instruments. The re-produced Black Forest and Bread and Bullet changed his style of drama from Yoruba folk opera to improvisational theatre where dialogue is spoken.[16] Ogunde then released a string of plays with dialogue either spoken or sung. He released an Islamic morality tale My Darling Fatima in 1951 followed by three situational comedies: Portmanteau Woman (1952), 'Beggar's Love (1952) and Princess Jaja (1953). In 1955, his theatre went on a tour Northern Nigeria, including performances at the Colonial Hotel, Kano. During this time, Ogunde wrote less but went on grueling road tours to different parts of the country becoming a traveling theatre group. He also changed the name of the group from Ogunde Theatre Party to Ogunde Concert Party in 1950.

In 1964, he produced two important plays: Yoruba Ronu and Otitokoro which refer to the political events in the Western Nigeria and which led to the declaration of the state of emergency in 1963. He was the most prominent of the dramatist of the folk opera. He composed over 40 operas in Yoruba. His play Yoruba Ronu (Yoruba Think) was a satirical account of the strife that plagued Yorubas in the 1960s. The protagonist of the play, Oba Fiwajoye, was betrayed by the actions of his frenemy deputy, he was betrayed to his enemy, Yeye-Iloba leading to his imprisonment along with two of his political allies. The deputy then assumed the throne but ruling with a tyrannical fist before he was eventually killed by the people. The play was staged at an Egbe Omo Olofin meeting in the presence of NNDP leaders such as Akintola. During the performance, Akintola and a few others walked out, feeling it was a subtle attack on their role in the Western region crisis. It was banned in western Nigeria for two years (1964 to 1966) but was produced with great success in other parts of the country.

In the 1960s, The advent of Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) gave Ogunde an avenue to reach his audience without traveling. He produced his plays: Ayanmo and Mama Eko for the television audience.[12]

Ogunde was a representative of Nigeria to Expo 67 in Montreal, on his way back to Nigeria, he stopped at New York and performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Celluloid yearsEdit

In the late 1970s, Ola Balogun, directed two pioneering and successful Yoruba films, the first, Ajani Ogun co-produced with Ade Love and the second Ija Ominira, with Ade Love. Ogunde joined the trend, he invited Ola Balogun to direct Aiye, an adaptation of one of his stage plays. Ogunde chose the play partly because it attracted crowds during its run of performances.[3] Unlike the stage act, the film was shot in a way to allow a sequel. The film premiered in 1979 and within a year it made its money back.[3] Aiye explored Yoruba mysticism, the issue of witchcraft and traditional notions of light and darkness.[2] Ogunde sold some of his properties to finance the movie.[12] The next Ogunde play was Jaiyesinmi, a sequel to Aiye co-directed by Ogunde and Freddie Goode. His third film is Aropin N'Tenia, another adaptation of a stage play which had premiered in 1964, the film had less superstitious moments like the previous ones.[13] He provided the funds for all of his movies without the exception. His fourth film was Ayanmo originally adapted from a play that was dedicated to his late wife (Adeshewa). Ogunde established a film village at Ososa, his home town to serve as a film shooting studio for his films in 1982. His last two films, Aropin N'tenia and Ayanmo were shot at the Ogunde film village.

Music albumsEdit

Ogunde released many music albums for his fans. His velvety baritone voice marked the songs in these albums which like his play demonstrated knowledge of Yoruba ethos.[13] The albums including but not limited to Ekun Oniwogbe (about conscience), Onimoto (about motor drivers) and then Adeshewa, (about the loss of his wife and co-star) who died in a tragic accident. The most popular of his albums is Yoruba Ronu, a soundtrack to the play with the same name.[13] He produced over 90 tracks of songs from the late 1950's to 1988. In fact, from the 1960's upwards he produced an album for each play!

Ogunde Estate and national troupeEdit

In 1986, he was invited by the Nigerian government to form a national drama troupe.[14] During this time, he represented Nigeria in the Commonwealth Festival of Arts choosing a play called Destiny, which was a re-arranged Ayanmo that he had released earlier in 1970.[14] Destiny was a production with thirty dancers. In the play, Ogunde incorporated one of his favorite dance steps, Ijo-Eleja (dance of the fishermen), Asan Ubo-Ikpa from Ibibio culture and the kwag-hir from Tivland.

Ogunde established an estate at Ososa his hometown. The venue served as the rehearsal center for the National Troupe before he passed away in 1990.

Personal life and legacyEdit

Ogunde married more than ten wives (BBC Television program 'World About Us') and many children. The Ogunde Theater was a largely family run business with all the wives and children involved at one time or the other. Some of the children were actors and actresses, drummers, singers, ticket sellers etc. The same went for all his wives without exception The manageress of the Ogunde Theater who was also one of his wives; former Miss Clementina Oguntimirin later became known as Adeshewa Clementina Ogunde or Mama Eko (Lagos Mama), as she was popularly known by her fans in the 1960s, after taking the leading part in the popular play of that name. Ogunde became the leading producer of Yoruba celluloid movies, with J'ayesinmi (Let the world rest) and Aiye (Life!) blazing the trail.

Ogunde was ill during the shooting of Mr. Johnson. He died on 4 April 1990 at London's Cromwell Hospital following a brief illness.[17] A portrait of Ogunde hangs in the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos.[18] Another of his wives, Ibisomi Ogunde is also an actress.



  • Garden of Eden and the Throne of God (1944)
  • Africa and God (1944)
  • Israel in egypt (1945)
  • Nebuchadnezzar's Reign and Belshazzar's Feast (1945)
  • King Solomon (1945)
  • Worse than Crime (1945)
  • Journey to Heaven (1945)
  • The Black Forest (Igbo Irunmale) (1945)
  • Strike and Hunger (1945)
  • Tiger's Empire (1946)
  • Darkness and Light (1946)
  • Mr. Devil's Money (Ayinde) (1946)
  • Herbert Macaulay (1946)
  • Human Parasites (1946)
  • Towards Liberty (1947)
  • Swing the Jazz (1947)
  • Yours Forever (Morenike) (1948)
  • Half and Half (1949)
  • Gold Coast Melodies (1949)
  • Bread and Bullet (1950)
  • My Darling Fatima (1951)
  • Portmanteau Woman (1952)
  • Beggar's Love (1952)
  • Highway Eagle (1953)
  • Princess Jaja (1953)
  • Village Hospital (Ile Iwosan) (1957)
  • Delicate Millionaire (Olowo Ojiji) (1958)
  • Songs of Unity (1960)
  • Yoruba Ronu (1964)
  • Aropin N'tenia (1964)
  • Otito Koro (1964)
  • Awo Mimo (1965)
  • Ire Olokun (1968)
  • Keep Nigeria One (1968)
  • Mama Eko (1968)
  • Oba nta (1969)
  • Ogun Pari (1969)
  • Oh, Ogunde (1969)
  • Ewe Nla (1970)
  • Iwa gbemi (1970)
  • Ayanmo (1970)
  • Onimoto (1971)
  • K'ehin Sokun (1971)
  • Aiye (1972)
  • Ekun Oniwogbe (1974)
  • Ewo Gbeja (1975)
  • Muritala Mohamed (1976)
  • Oree Niwon (1976)
  • Nigeria (1977)
  • Igba t' ode (1977)
  • Orisa N'la (1977)


  • Aiye (1980)
  • Jaiyesimi (1981)
  • Aropin (1982)
  • Ayanmo (1988)


  • Ogunde: Man of the Theatre - BBC (1983) [19]


  1. ^ a b c "Ogunde, Chief Hubert (1916–90)", in Martin Banham, Errol Hill, George Woodyard (eds), The Cambridge Guide to African and Caribbean Theatre, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 76.
  2. ^ a b Asobele 2003, p. 5.
  3. ^ a b c Balogun, Francoise (1987). The cinema in Nigeria. Enugu, Anambra State. pp. 80–82. 
  4. ^ Subair Mohammed, "Hubert Ogunde, father of Yoruba Theatre", Daily Newswatch.
  5. ^ a b Oduguwa, Adedara (16 July 2016). "Hubert Ogunde: Nationalism and Retrospect". Nigerian Tribune. Ibadan. 
  6. ^ Clark 1979, p. xvii.
  7. ^ Clark 1979, p. 12.
  8. ^ a b Asobele 2003, p. 6.
  9. ^ a b Clark 1979, p. 7.
  10. ^ a b Clark 1979, p. 4.
  11. ^ Clark 1979, p. 5.
  12. ^ a b c Asobele 2003, p. 7.
  13. ^ a b c d Oguntayo, Ademola (April 23, 1990). "One Drama of a Life". African Concord. Lagos. 
  15. ^ Clark 1979, p. 46.
  16. ^ Clark 1979, p. 47.
  17. ^ Bayo Adeyinka, "Hubert Ogunde: His Life, His Works, His Wives, A Prophecy And 10 Fascinating Things About Him", 29 March 2014.
  18. ^ "NATIONAL GALLERY OF MODERN ART (NGMA), LAGOS:". National Gallery of Art. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  19. ^ , "Ogunde: Man of the Theatre", 23 May 2016.


  • Clark, Ebun (1979). Hubert Ogunde: the making of Nigerian theatre. Oxford UNiversity Press. 
  • Asobele, Timothy (2003). Yoruba cinema of Nigeria. Lagos: Upper Standard Publications. 

External linksEdit