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A Tribute to Biyi Bandele: A Nigerian Writer and Film-Maker

Biyi Bandele was born in Kafanchan, Kaduna, Nigeria in October 1967. He was a Nigerian novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. He was the author of several novels, beginning with The Man Who Came in From the Back of Beyond (1991), as well as writing stage plays, before turning his focus to filmmaking. His directorial debut was in 2013 with Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

He was a student of Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, when he won the BBC Playwriting Competition, and thereafter, he relocated to England where he had a successful writing career.

In a 2013 interview with This Day, Bandele talked about his ambition to become a writer: “When I was a child, I remembered war was something that sprang up a lot in conversations on the part of my dad. That was probably one of the things that turned me into a writer.”

At 14 years old, Bandele won a short-story competition. So most of his writing encompassed fiction, theatre, journalism, television, film, and radio.

Throughout his career, he has worked with the Royal Court Theatre, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as writing radio drama and screenplays for television. His plays include Rain; Marching for Fausa (1993) Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought (1994); Two Horsemen (1994), which was selected as Best New Play at the 1994 London New Plays Festival.

He was a director of the most famous Television Series, SHUGA: What’s Your Reality. He directed FELA – Father of Afrobeat (2018), a TV special documentary for the BBC; and his self-produced TV-Movie documentary, Africa States of Independence (2010).

As a novelist, Bandele’s publications include The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond (1991) and The Street (1999), which all have been described as “rewarding reading, capable of wild surrealism and wit as well as political engagement”.

However, his 2007 novel, Burma Boy, reviewed in The Independent by Tony Gould, was called “a fine achievement” and lauded for providing a voice for previously unheard Africans.

He had also co-directed Blood Sisters for EbonyLife Films, a 4-part Netflix-original television drama series.

His daughter, Temi Bandele, released a statement on 7th August 2022 through her social media handles, announcing his death. She described him as “a prodigiously talented writer and film-maker, as well as a loyal friend and beloved father.”

She added that “He was a storyteller to his bones, with an unblinking perspective, singular voice and wisdom which spoke boldly through all of his art, in poetry, novels, plays and on screen. He told stories that made a profound impact and inspired many all over the world. His legacy will live on through his work.”

The daughter expressed her grief as the legend was taken from them too soon. She believes that he has already said so much so beautifully, and had so much more to say through his art.

Bandele who died in Lagos at the age of 54, had been working on a new novel, entitled Yorùbá Boy Running, to be published in 2023.

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