Who was Nigerian icon Ola Rotimi? Ola Rotimi was a Nigerian scholar, writer, and director who was born on April 13, 1938, in Sapele, Nigeria. He died on August 18, 2000, in Ile-Ife.
Rotimi was born to an Ijaw mother and a Yoruba father, and his work frequently featured cultural diversity. He was born in Nigeria and had his education in Port Harcourt and Lagos before moving to the United States in 1959 to study at Boston University. Ola received a B.A. in visual arts in 1963. He went on to Yale School of Drama for his M.A. in 1966, focusing on playwrighting. Rotimi taught at the Universities of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Port Harcourt when he returned to Nigeria in the 1960s. Ola Rotimi spent much of the 1990s in the Caribbean and the United States, where he taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, partly due to political situations in Nigeria. In 2000 he returned to Ile-Ife, joining the faculty of Obafemi Awolowo University.
Rotimi’s writings frequently focused on Nigeria’s history and ethnic traditions. To Stir the God of Iron (performed 1963) and Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again (produced 1966; published 1977) were his debut plays. Both plays were staged at Boston University and Yale Drama Schools, respectively. His later dramas include The Gods Are Not to Blame (produced 1968; published 1971), an imagistic blank verse retelling of the Oedipus myth; Kurunmi and the Prodigal (produced 1969; published as Kurunmi, 1971); Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (produced 1971; published 1974), about the last ruler of the Benin empire; and Holding Talks (produced 1971; published 1974). (1979). Later plays include If: A Tragedy of the Ruled (1983) and Hopes of the Living Dead (1988). In 1987, the radio play Everyone’s Problem was broadcast. In 1991, he released African Dramatic Literature: To Be or to Become?