The governor of Ogun state, Dapo Abiodun has described the death of renowned African culture ambassador, Olujimi Solanke as a colossal loss to the theatre community and Ogun State.
The governor also condoled with the family of the veteran poet dramatist and the people of Ipara-Remo in Remo North Local Government Area of the State.
The legendary poet and playwright mostly remembered by many for his television programme ‘Story land’, on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Solanke reportedly died on Monday morning after a brief illness.
He was aged 81 (4 July 1942) and is survived by his wife, Toyin, children and grandchildren.
Solanke was said to have died while being taken from his country home in Ipara Remo in the Remo North Local Government Area of Ogun State to the Babcock University Teaching Hospital, Ilisan when he passed on.
He said to had been in and out of the hospital since December.
In a statement, Abiodun said the late Solanke had “consistently put the name of the state in the limelight for very good reasons, especially in the arts right from his days at the University of Ibadan School of Drama.”
The governor urged relatives and other loved ones of the late poet to celebrate his life and ensure that the many legacies he left behind are preserved even for generations yet unborn.
“Renowned for his tireless dedication to the arts, Baba Agba as he was widely known by his numerous fans across the country was a great ambassador of our dear state. He promoted the culture and tradition of the Yoruba race on the global stage with his drama, music, poetry and other works of art.
“In 1961, he emerged as one of the pioneer members of the Orisun Theatre Group, founded by Professor Wole Soyinka. He went on to put in several decades of diverse exposures and experiences into the global entertainment industry across several broadcast stations, countries and festivals, impacting on the sector greatly.
“Many of his admirers still recall with nostalgia, his epic performances at the Western Nigeria Television, WNTV, Ibadan in the 1960s, his unforgettable stagecraft at the World Festival of Negro Arts in Senegal and the amazing skills he exhibited at the Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algeria, all in the 1970s.
“Also to his credit are brilliant performances in epics like Death and the King’s Horseman, Kurunmi, Kongi’s Harvest, The Divorce and Ovaramwen Nogbaisi. These performances and his numerous talents turned him into a global icon of the arts.
“He was at different times described by the Oxford Times and the New York Times as a ‘Skilled Nigerian Actor’ and an ‘Excellent Troupe’ respectively, owing to his performance of Wole Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest, during a tour of Europe.
“He sang with Highlife music Legends like Roy Chicago, Eddy Okonta and Chris Ajilo. He also worked with many global musicians, including Chubby Checker of Twist fame and Millicent Small of Rock Steady. He was with Ralph MacDonald, the lead voice in the chartbuster, Ona La, The Path,” the statement said.
Recalling Solanke’s sonorous voice, impressive gesticulations, near perfect mimicry and electrifying dances while reeling out folklores with ease, the statement added that the late poet will be greatly missed by all and sundry.