Two important things happened in the Ososa, Ogun State, home of legendary dramatist, Chief Hubert Ogunde, on Thursday. First, his family unveiled a competition on the translation of his songs. According to them, there is the need for children, youths and non-Yoruba-speaking people to also savour the beauty and messages of the songs. Hence, it unveiled the contest that will reward the winner with N500,000 while the first and second runners-up will get N200,000 and N100,000, respectively.
It was also a cool time for the family to showcase the Hubert Ogunde Living Memory Museum, which is what the Ososa house has become. It is arguably one of the richest museums in the country and beyond. From the entrance to the very last room, it beams with largely exotic documents and objects and spectacles that define the life and times of the artist who died in 1990.
The fact is that December 26 t0 30 is a very important period for his wives, children and grandchildren. This is when they gather at Ogunde’s expansive home, have a reunion feast to cement the bond among them, despite the fact it is a polygamous setting where the great daddy had ‘just’ 17 wives and 24 children. They host visitors, including bishops, while they also dine, wine and dance together.
In the house on Thursday were two of his surviving wives, Mrs. Ibidun and Iyabo Ogunde; his children, Chief Richard Ogunde, Mrs. Victoria Ogunde- Olorunjegbe, Mrs. Sumbo Ogunde -Bademosi, Folabi Kikilowo and Dayo Akinboye. There were also his grandchildren, Adeleke Ogunde (curator of the museum), Mrs. Toyin and Funlola Ogunde. Also present was his younger sister, Mrs. Ebun Oluwo. They were later joined by the traditional ruler of Ososa, Oba Toye Alatishe, who noted that Ogunde gave the town a name that is globally respected. The unveiling of the museum and competition, however, made the 2017 edition of the reunion unique.
Head of Nigerian Languages at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Associate Prof. Olufadekemi Adagbada, was on hand to give details of the competition. She is the head of the five-man panel overseeing the project, with others being Prof. Duro Adeleke, Prof. L. A. Bamidele and a representative each from the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners and the Theatre Arts and movie Practitioners Association of Nigeria.
According to Adagbada, the project will cover the operas that Ogunde produced between the 1940s and 1950s. She explained that the rationale behind translating the songs was to give a wider audience an opportunity to appreciate them and further immortalise Ogunde.
“The person we are talking about is a legend. He made indelible marks in the industry and beyond. But many youths do not really know who Ogunde was. Many of them have not listened to or watched his works. Yet, there are many things to learn from the songs. So, we should get these operas translated into English so that they can travel across ages, tribes and continents.”
She added that the competition was open to people from different parts of the country, as long as the person could understand Yoruba and translate it.
“What Ogunde started and propagated is not just for the Yoruba. You can’t box him into a corner,” Adagbada added.
In spite of government’s failure to assist in developing the Ogunde museum and the abandoned Ogunde Film Village, the family has been able to preserve their father’s legacy for posterity and tourism. The museum opens from Tuesdays to Sundays, with the curator describing the gate fee as modest – a thousand naira for an adult and N500 for a child. The facility is capable of giving any visitor a memorable experience.
In front of it is the burial site of the dramatist, built in the form of an opon ifa – the divination tray. Standing on it is his giant statue. At the entrance are his bust and a masterly carving, made from mahogany. That mahogany is Ogunde’s choice wood is evident in its presence in other sections or objects in the museum.
Being a man of taste, his sitting room is modestly but inspiringly furnished. On the walls are photographs of his wives, especially when they were young and exuded beauty like the morning rose. In his various photographs too, including those he took when he was initially a police officer, one can also not ignore the good looks of the maverick polygamist who inspired virtually every member of the family to be part of his troupe.
Also in the sitting room are Ilu Agba – drum for those who can be described as the initiated – accompanied with ‘junior ones’ such as Ilu Akiri and Ilu Apere. While a Kollington Ayinla would sing that he is the one who introduced bata drum into fuji music, it was Ogunde who introduced the sacred Ilu Agba into theatre.
The curator of the museum, Adeleke Ogunde, said, “In the past, the elders warned that Ilu Agba belonged to the Osugbo. So, it was so revered that no one was even allowed to dance to its beat. It was Baba Ogunde who broke the norm.”
Also, there are the Gbeu gbeu costume that Ogunde featured in Yoruba Ronu; the Omolokun mask used in Jaiyesinmi and the dramatist’s beaded foot wear.
The dining room is now a place for food for the eyes and the mind. Among other objects, it houses photographs of the then young Yoruba actors, such as Kola Ogunmola, Duro Ladipo, Moses Adejumo (Baba Sala), Adebayo Faleti, Lere Paimo (Eda Onileola), Kareem Adepoju (Baba Wande), Charles Olumo (Agbako) and Ade Afolayan (Ade Love), which they took with Ogunde at various events or during different productions.
The visitor will also come to terms with more realities about Ogunde when they get into his meditation room, prayer room, toilet and heavily-loaded costume room which, according to the curator, is just one of the three rooms in the compound, all full of costumes. Mrs. Victoria Ogunde said her father could use his last kobo to acquire costumes.
While another room beams with Ogunde’s equipment and other related materials, including his collection of celluloid films, another one is dedicated to the artistic representation of a scene each from Aiye and Jaiyesinmi.
It is in this room that the visitor will come face to face with the ‘witches and wizards’ as well as the giant vulture that rattles everyone in Aiye, which are nothing but artistic manipulations by the man believed to be the doyen of theatre in Nigeria.