Dr. Abiola Olubunmi Adumati-Oluba, an actor and artistic director, is a Theatre Arts
lecturer. TUNDE ADELEKE spoke to her about her life journey, so far.
Why are you in Theatre Arts? Any inspiration from any individual?
I was introduced to the art of the theatre when I was eight years old. It was in 1985 when I was in Primary III at St. Peter’s F. A. C. Primary School, Ondo, when I first participated in a theatre performance. I acted the character of the ‘Poor little Sailor’ (a boy’s role) in I’m A Little Sailor’s performance. The boys in my class were shy and couldn’t play the role because they were asked to embrace a girl. So, my teacher cast me for the role which I played so well, wearing my younger brother’s shirt, trousers and shoes. After that performance, I continued to participate in drama productions in our church and my secondary school. However, I didn’t think I would study Performing Arts. I chose Law but was denied admission. I was offered Performing Arts, instead, as a course of study. I wanted to change the course; I had even obtained a change of course form, but was attending Theatre Arts lectures while waiting for the implementation of my application. But I fell in love with Theatre Arts two weeks after receiving lectures and I quickly cancelled the application. That was it!
Can you let us into your family background?
I was born in Ondo town into the family of the Late Mr. and Mrs. Adebayo Adumati Ajadematanle. I was the second child of a family of eight. My father was a building contractor while my mom was a trader. My parents were among the most hardworking people in the world. I loved my father so much because he was a caring man. When I was in primary school, a boy used to bully my younger brother and me; we would cry every day and report to our father. He told us to report the bully to our headmistress. We did, but she did nothing about it. So, my father told us to beat the boy if he ever beats us again. It looked like a very difficult task as I didn’t dare to beat a big boy like him. One day, the boy hit me as usual and I ran to our house to report to my mom, but I was surprised to meet my dad at home, and instead of placating me, he spanked me and asked me to return to school and beat the boy. He followed me to school and when I sighted the bully, I ran towards him in anger, lifted him, and threw him down. I was so surprised to discover that the boy was so light like paper. I pounced on him heavily and he was too ashamed to stand up. After that incident, he never hit us again.
What are the lessons from him?
My father was a kind-hearted man, but he hated cheating. He would give his last penny to anyone seriously in need. I learn the act of kindness from my parents. Growing up with them was interesting. My father loved education and he wanted all his children to be educated. He insisted that our uncle, Hon. Bode Agbeleye, should come and live with us after his secondary school education so that he could be our role model. I remember my father once said he wouldn’t mind selling his properties to send us anywhere in the world for our education if need be. He wanted me to be a lawyer or a university professor. Unfortunately, he died when I was only 16. His dying wish was for us to become university graduates. My mother did exactly what he wished, but neither of them waited for the fruits of their labour as my mother died 20 years after my dad’s demise.
I have never felt so sad in my life until I lost my parents and elder sister. I was so devastated when my mother died. She was the epitome of love and embodiment of good character to family, friends, neighbours, and everyone. She was a caring mother and a virtuous wife to her husband. She laboured so hard and suffered to ensure we had a good life. I automatically became the eldest in the family with the death of my parents and sister. It has not been easy, but I thank God for the grace to carry on.
How was growing up?
When my mother was pregnant with me, my father wanted a boy because the first child was a girl. But as the saying goes ‘man proposes, God disposes,’ a man can only reap what he sows. When he was told by the nurses that his wife had delivered a baby girl, he got angry and left without seeing the baby. However, my mother was not bothered. Even though she was angry, it was not enough to break their marriage. She knew he would come around and bond with his baby. He did come around later in the afternoon and apologised for his action. Thenceforth, he treated my mother and me well, but that did not change the fact that he preferred male children. Although my father never marginalised my sisters and me, the fact that he preferred me to be a boy instead of a girl changed my thinking about gender roles. I did every work believed to be for the male gender and that made my father proud of me. My story would have discouraged me from seeing myself as important and relevant in life, but my father’s damage-control strategy saved the situation. He ensured his girls were treated just like the boys. He gave us the same assignments and told us we could do exactly what any man can do. Hence, psychologically, I became confident in myself. Other things that happened to me in my formative years positively affected me in no small measure; to be strong and determined and to confront and resist challenges posing threats to my progress in life.
What about your schooling?
I attended St. Peter’s F. A. C. Primary School, Okelisa, Ondo, between 1982 and 1988 and had my secondary school education at St. Monica’s Girls’ Grammar School, Ondo between 1989 and 1994. I obtained a Diploma Certificate in Local Government Studies from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, in the year 2000 and proceeded to the University of Ilorin, Nigeria where I bagged my Bachelor of Arts, Master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in Performing Arts in 2006, 2012 and 2021 respectively. I won the University’s Senate award as the best overall student of the Department of Performing Arts, at the University of Ilorin in 2006.
Can you take us through your career history?
I worked as a financial planner at UBA Metropolitan Life Assurance between 2009 and 2010. I also worked briefly as a newscaster/reporter at the Kwara State Television Authority in 2010 from where I moved to Kwara State University, Malete where I worked as a lecturer between 2012 and 2018. I am currently lecturing at the Department of Performing Arts, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.
As an academic, my area of research interest is in play directing, acting, play/dance script writing, performance criticism, and costume design. As a play director, I have directed many African and non-African plays including, but not limited to ‘Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Micere Mithae Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi; Shakespeare’s Macbeth; J. P Clark’s Wives’ Revolt; Femi Osofisan’s Once Upon Four Robbers, A Restless Run of Locusts, Many Colours Make The Thunder-king; Adebayo Faleti’s Basorun Gaa; Ahmed Yerima’s The Sisters and Pari, in no particular order. I have also written a couple of plays, all of which I have directed for different occasions; these plays range from ‘Igbhauyoru” to ‘Aare Ajagungbade’, an adaptation of Williams Shakespeare’s Macbeth; ‘Not in this Land I’, a play based on the 2014 Ebola Virus; and a calabash of Destiny’. I also wrote and directed ‘Lakaaye Meets Abiku’; ‘And not in this Land II’, a play based on the Covid-19 pandemic, among many others.
Do you have any collaboration with state governments?
I have been commissioned by state governments to devise and direct community theatre projects; also by universities to devise and direct community theatre projects and convocation plays, and by donor agencies/NGOs to devise and direct media/theatre development projects. On 12th June, 2021, I staged a `Palmwine Drinkard at Adegbemile Cultural Centre, Akure, Ondo State for Governor Rotimi Akerodolu, the governor of Ondo State on the occasion of Democracy Day. The performance was staged in honour of the Late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, I was commissioned to perform at the Palace of Ooni of Ife, Ile-Ife, Osun State during the annual Olojo Festival.
Some of the community development projects I facilitated include the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project organised for the women of Malete Village, Kwara State, held on the 28th February, 2017 at the Malete Primary School in conjunction with LEAH Foundation and the KWASU School Clinic under the supervision of the KWASU Community Development; Family Planning Awareness and Sensitization in Akungba community, organised for the women of Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria, on 8th February 2019. I also facilitated and convened a self-sponsored community development project on the outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014, organized to sensitise members of the Kwara State University community, i. e. Malete community, and some selected secondary schools in Ilorin. I convened another community development project on the theme: ‘Vulnerability of Women in the Nigerian Society, a symposium organised for the protection and security of women in Nigerian society’ at the Ministry of Women Affairs, Kwara State Secretariat, Ilorin, Kwara State, among others.
How about your love life?
I had many failed relationships back in the day, due to my passion for education and theatre. I had to wait for the right man, who would love and accept me the way I am, especially the person, who will love my energy and passion for my job. I got it wrong the first time, but God has, however, fixed it. Today, I am happily married.
Can you recall some of your peers, classmates, and the pranks you played in your youth?
Ajakaye Roseline (now Mrs. Roseline Babatunde) has been my friend since my secondary school days and we are still friends till date. We were like twins and our friendship was eventful. At Ife, I met Biola Oyejola (now Arowolo) and Bimbo Oyewole (now Famojuro). Folake Ogundipe Akintimehin is also my very good friend from OAU and we are still friends today; we even work in the same place. I remember Rachel Akintunde and my very good friend, Esther Adeyemo from the University of Ilorin. Every one of them has a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, I cannot find any of my friends from primary school, except Abiodun Akinniranye and Omolafe. I tried to plan a reunion to no avail.
How would you rate yourself as a family person?
I am doing my best to be a very good wife and mother showing love and care to my family members and relatives. I leave the rest to God Almighty, who is the head of the family.
What’s your favorite food?
Amala and any draw soup with very cold Coca Cola will make my day anytime.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I like hardworking people. I detest lies, laziness, and cheating.
What do you do for leisure?
I love travelling, visiting nature, and watching movies.
ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE