Nigeria: Author, playwright and filmmaker Biyi Bandele dies at 54

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Wednesday, 10 August 2022 14:22, updated on Thursday, 11 August 2022 10:03

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tina Norris/Shutterstock (690880b) Playwright and novelist Biyi Bandele International Book Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain - 29 Aug 2007

Nigerian author, playwright and filmmaker, Biyi Bandele, passed away suddenly on Sunday 7 August in Lagos, at 54. Director of the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and the upcoming September 2022 movie based on Wole Soyinka’s ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ titled ‘Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman’, Bandele was a frontline name in the Nigerian film industry.

Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman, produced by Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Films for Netflix, is set to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, making it the first Yoruba-language feature to do so.

According to a Facebook post from his daughter, Temi Bandele, his death was “sudden and unexpected”. The cause is not known at this time.

His daughter writes: “He told stories which made a profound impact and inspired many all over the world. His legacy will live on through his work.”

His life

Bandele grew up in the small town of Kafanchan, in northwestern Kaduna State. He said in an interview with CNN in 2014: “I knew I wanted to be a writer from when I was six. My dad took me to the local library. I was five or six, and I just fell in love with the books.”

The acclaimed writer studied drama at Obafemi Awolowo University, in Ile-Ife, Osun State, and his play Rain won him a scholarship to London, where he moved at 22.

Three years later, he wrote a screenplay Not Even God Is Wise Enough that was picked up by the BBC, who chose a young and up-and-coming Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) to direct. He then went on to write the 1996 BBC 2 Bad Boys starring Clive Owen. He is also credited with writing and directing two seasons of the MTV series ‘Shuga’.

Bandele’s plays have been shown at the Royal Court Theatre in London, and have been performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. From 2000-2002, he was a Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge and a Royal Literary Fund Resident Playwright at Bush Theatre, London from 2002-3.

His novels include The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond, The Sympathetic Undertaker and Other Dreams and the 2007 Burma Boy, which has been translated into several languages.

Most recently, Bandele directed and co-produced a BBC feature documentary on popular music activist Fela, and co-directed Netflix’s first Nigerian original Blood Sisters.

The streaming service said via Twitter: “Biyi Bandele’s passing is a monumental loss to Nigeria’s film and creative industry. He will be remembered as a powerhouse who made some of the finest films out of Africa … we commiserate with his family, friends and colleagues.”

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