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Tribute to Biyi Bandele the Writer and director for film, television and theatre dies age 54

Tribute to Biyi Bandele the Writer and director for film, television and theatre dies age 54

Biyi Bandele-Thomas (generally known as Biyi Bandele) the award-winning Nigerian novelist, poet and playwright known for his depictions of African and African immigrant experiences has died. At the time of this death, he was working on a number of highly-anticipated projects: a new novel titled YORUBA BOY RUNNING and had just finished his film adaptation of Soyinka’s play Death & the King’s Horseman

The Blood Sisters and Half of a Yellow Son director’s death was announced by his daughter Temi on his Facebook page.

Still: Half of a Yellow Sun

She said “As Biyi’s daughter, I am heartbroken to share the sudden and unexpected death on Sunday 7th of August in Lagos of my father Biyi Bandele”.

Biyi adapted this for the stage…

Biyi was a prodigiously talented writer and film-maker, as well as a loyal friend and beloved father. 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 which made a profound impact and inspired many all over the world. His legacy will live on through his work.

He was taken from us much too soon. He had already said so much so beautifully, and had so much more to say.

We ask everyone to please respect the privacy of his family and friends as we grieve his loss.” Temi Bandele

Biyi Bandele’s Friend shared a conversation they had with Biyi reflecting on his work:

“The past few years have been incredibly busy for me: aside from working on Faraday Okoro’s directorial debut “Nigerian Prince” as an executive producer alongside Spike Lee I am currently writing and directing a feature documentary on Fela Kuti for the BBC and the Toronto International documentary festival Hot Docs. I’ve also just finished writing my first novel since Burma Boy. It’s called “Gregory Conga, Lagos Area Boy,” and it took three years. To keep body and soul together during that time (since my kind of fiction has never attracted big advance fees from publishers; they have always been written on spec), I have in that time been a resident artist at NYU and —currently — an arts by-fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge. I’ve also just been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to spend the 2019-20 academic year carrying out research at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. These are all prestigious awards and I count myself fortunate...” Biyi Bandele

Worth Reading on Brittle Paper: 100 African Writers Celebrate Biyi Bandele’s Life and Work

Actor Nicholas Monu said on Instagram

“It will forever serve as a source of pride for me that I played Oroonoko in my brothers play in that season.
We made history in London that year. The first all black ensemble at the Royal Shakespeare company and we “Ripped it up”
The house was always Full, the audience never left without audible tears being shed and we received standing ovations everywhere we played.
Thank you , my Dearest Brother for the memory. Thank you for all you taught me.”

Mo Abudu who was working with him recently said.

It is with deep sadness that we commiserate with the family of Biyi Bandele who died on Sunday, 7th August 2022 in Lagos.

Biyi worked with us at EbonyLife Media, directing several of our projects, including ‘Fifty’ (2015), ‘Blood Sisters’, episodes 1 & 2 (2022) and the forthcoming film Elesin Oba, The King’s Horseman, for which he wrote the screenplay. Elesin Oba will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Biyi had an eye for a story, was always passionate about his work, and had a great love for Yoruba culture. We will miss his dedication, cheerful spirit and collaborative nature. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Mo Abudu

His biography reads but he was so much more.

See Also

Biyi Bandele was the director of feature film Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and starring Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and John Boyega for which he also wrote the screenplay. The project, which had a $8 million budget, earned him an impressive reputation as the first ever Nigerian director to make a movie with the biggest budget in Nigerian history..

Bandele’s first foray into screenwriting was the anthology drama series “Screenplay,” which ran from 1986-1993 on the BBC. The series was directed by a young Danny Boyle. His television work includes Not Even God is Wise Enough, a BBC2 drama directed by Danny Boyle in 1994, and Bad Boys (BBC 2, 1996) starring Clive Owen. He wrote and directed two seasons of the MTV series Shuga

Born in 1967 to Yoruba parents in Kafanchan, northern Nigeria. Biyi Bandele left his parents’ house at age 14 to earn his living doing odd jobs, while also going to school and writing his first novel. From 1987-1990 he studied Drama at the University of Ile-Ife, where his play Rain won him a scholarship that brought him to the UK, which he has called home ever since. His plays have been staged at the Royal Court Theatre and have been performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1997, he adapted Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for the stage, to international critical acclaim, and in 1999 wrote a new adaptation of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. He was Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge from 2000-2002, and Royal Literary Fund Resident Playwright at Bush Theatre from 2002-2003. Bandele’s first and second novels, The Man Who Came In From The Back of Beyond and The Sympathetic Undertaker and Other Dreams, were published in 1991 and were followed in 1999 by The Street and, in 2007, by Burma Boy, which has been translated into several languages. 


Netflix Nigeria released a statement on Twitter that said: “Biyi Bandele’s passing is a monumental loss to Nigeria’s film and creative industry. He will be remembered as a powerhouse who made some of the finest films out of Africa. As we mourn him, we commiserate with his family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in power.”

His second feature Fifty, had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in 2015. More recently he was director of the highly successful 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). he directed and co-produced BBC feature documentary Fela.

Writer-director Biyi Bandele (Half of a Yellow Sun) was set to return to TIFF in 2022 with a cinematic adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s acclaimed anti-colonial stage play, Death and the King’s Horseman.

Bandele’s awards include the London New Play Festival Award (1994); a University of Aberdeen Wingate Scholarship Award (1995); the Peggy Ramsay Award (1998); and the BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award for Best Play (2000). In 2006, he was named by the Independent one of Africa’s fifty most important artists. He is a member of PEN, the Society of Authors and the Writers Guild of Great Britain.

Rest in power Biyi Bandele for you the angels will sing. #BiyiBandele