Biographical Note on Chief Wale Ogunyemi
(J.P., M.O.N, CNT)
Ezekiel Olawale Adisa was born on 12 August in 1939 to Samuel and Mary Ogunyemi in Igbajo, Osun State. He completed his secondary school in 1954, when he graduated from Commercial Academy, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, Oyo State. His first encounter with the drama came when he was employed as a typist for Nigerian Television Service (NTS) in Lagos
By the time he was 21 he had fully established himself as a talented artiste, dramatist, producer and actor. He continued his education at Leeds University (UK) and returned home to continue his career in the theatre. He worked in the Institute of African Studies, as a research fellow, from where he retired on August 29, 1999. Throughout his life he worked and traveled with the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.
He won many awards for his plays at home and abroad. Among these are Sign of the Rainbow, a BBC African Theatre Award. The Vow, African Arts Special Award of the University of California, Los Angeles. His Langbodo(an adaptation of D.O. Fagunwa/Soyinka’s The Forest of a Thousand Daemons), was Nigeria’s entry at the World Black Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 (FESTAC ’77). He has numerous plays to his credit out of which 16 are published, his latest being Queen Amina of Zauzau.
Some of his great works include The Scheme (1967); Are Akogun (a Yoruba adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, 1969); Esu Elegbara (1970), Ijaiye War (1970), Obaluaye ( bi-lingual music drama (1972), The Divorce, (a domestic drama, 1977);
In recognition of his artistic and creative contribution to Nigeria, he was honoured with the award of member of the Order of Niger (M.O.N) by President Shehu Shagari in 1982; the same year the Olokuku of Okuku conferred on him a chieftaincy title of Majeobaje of Okuku.
His last major appearance on stage was between august and October 2001 when he was involved in Wole Soyinka’s King Baabu, which travelled around the world, including his own native country, Nigeria.
He died in Ibadan on the 17th of December 2001 after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Margaret Modupe Folashade Ogunyemi, his five children and many grandchildren.