Jimi Solanke,1942–2024

by Duke Magazine

Jimi Solanke, born in 1942 in Lagos, Nigeria, wasn’t just an actor, playwright, or poet; he was a multifaceted artist who breathed life into stories, preserving and promoting Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage through captivating performances. His journey spanned seven decades, leaving an indelible mark on various platforms, from the stages of Western Nigeria Television in the 1960s to international festivals across the globe.

Solanke’s artistic inclination was evident early on. He joined the renowned Orisun Theatre Group, founded by the legendary Wole Soyinka, in 1961. This marked the beginning of a lifelong exploration of storytelling through various mediums. After graduating with a drama diploma, he ventured to the United States, establishing the “Africa Review” drama group, showcasing African culture through performances and captivating audiences with his masterful storytelling skills. CNN even dubbed him a “master storyteller.”

In 1986, he returned to Nigeria, where his reputation earned him lead roles in most of Ola Balogun’s films. He was also part of the team that brought Wole Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest to life on the screen. His talent wasn’t limited to the silver screen, though. He penned and directed plays like Olokun” and Mami Wata, mesmerizing audiences with his blend of traditional Yoruba storytelling and contemporary themes.

Solanke’s artistry transcended performance. His poems, like “Echoes from the Lagoon,” resonated with deep emotions and cultural insights. He also wrote novels, including “Tomorrow is Too Late,” exploring social issues and the human condition. His legacy extends beyond individual works, as he actively participated in workshops and cultural events, sharing his knowledge and passion with younger generations.

Sadly, on February 5, 2024, the cultural world mourned the passing of this artistic giant. However, his contributions remain etched in the hearts and minds of those he touched. He leaves behind a rich tapestry of stories, poems, plays, and films, each a testament to his dedication to his craft and his love for his culture.

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