Tue. May 28th, 2024

Professor of English and renowned writer, Bankole Ajibabi Omotoso, popularly known as Kole Omotoso, has died at 80 in Cape Town, South Africa.

He had lived in Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa for many years.

The family, in a short message announcing the demise of the highly revered intellectual, said “Our beloved father and husband moved on from this plane on Wednesday 19th late afternoon. We are sharing this with his close and much-loved community and will share more as we gather ourselves.

“Thank you for your care and love and support.”

In South Africa, he was best known for his works of fiction and as the “Yebo Gogo man” in adverts for the telecommunications company, Vodacom.

The renowned intellectual was born on April 21, 1943, in Akure, Ondo State, South West, Nigeria.

Omotoso attended the King’s College, Lagos, and the University of Ibadan and later undertook a doctoral thesis on the modern Arabic writer Ahmad Ba Kathir at the University of Edinburgh.

He returned to his alma mater, the University of Ibadan to teach Arabic studies between 1972 and 1976 from where he moved to the University of Ife to work in drama from 1976 to 1988.

Prof. Omotoso started writing for various magazines (including West Africa) in the 1970s.

He was regarded as a member of Nigeria’s literate elites.

According to Wikipedia, Omotoso’s 1988 historical novel about Nigeria, Just Before Dawn (Spectrum Books), was controversial and led him to leave Nigeria.

After visiting professorships in English at the University of Stirling and the National University of Lesotho and a spell at the Talawa Theatre Company, London, he became a professor of English at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa (1991–2000).

He was a professor in the Drama Department at Stellenbosch University between 2001 and 2003.

He also wrote a number of columns in African newspapers, most notably the “Trouble Travels” column in Nigeria’s Sunday Guardian from 2013 to 2016.

He was a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature.

In the mid-1990s and 2010s, he appeared as the “Yebo Gogo man” in several television advertisements for Vodacom mobile phones.

His fictional works include The Edifice (1971); The Combat (1972; Penguin Classics, 2008, ISBN 978-0143185536)
Miracles (short stories) (1973); Fela’s Choice (1974); Sacrifice (1974, 1978); The Scales (1976); To Borrow a Wandering Leaf (1978); Memories of Our Recent Boom (1982), and Just Before Dawn (Spectrum Books, 1988, ISBN 9789782460073).

His non-fictional books include The Form of the African Novel (1979 etc.); The Theatrical Into Theatre: a study of the Drama and Theatre of the English-speaking Caribbean (1982); Season of Migration to the South: Africa’s crises reconsidered (1994); Achebe or Soyinka? A Study in Contrasts (1995), and Woza Africa (1997).

His works in drama are The Curse (1976) and Shadows in the Horizon (1977).

Prof. Omotoso’s contributions to literary art remain iconic.

He is survived by his wife and children including filmmaker Akin Omotoso and writer Yewande Omotoso.

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