Lead City University to confer honorary doctorate degree on Tunde Kelani

Lead City University, Ibadan, a leading private tertiary institution in the country, has served notice that the ace cinematographer, director and producer would be formally conferred with the academic award of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) on December 12, 2022 as part of the institution’s 15th convocation ceremony.

A letter of nomination for the prestigious award dated September 14, 2022 and signed by the Registrar and Secretary General of Council to the university, Dr. (Mrs) Oyebola Ayeni, on behalf of the Chancellor, states: “This award is in consideration of your immense contributions to the arts, cultural documentation and the theatrical traditions of the Yoruba and African culture. It is also in recognition of your professional accomplishments as a photographer, media personnel, journalist, film maker and producer and cinematographer of no mean repute.”

According to a statement by Media Officer, CAC. Segun Oludotun, the letter states further that its honourary degrees “are awarded to people of exceptional merit and character.”

Formal conferment of the award on Kelani and other eminent professionals appointed for the award this year will be held at 11 am on Monday, December 12 at the Adeline Hall of the university. Kelani has also been granted a room to stage a reception for his guests on the occasion.

From that much-anticipated ceremony, Tunde Kelani, whose professional signature has graced such famous film projects as Tí Olúwa Nile,  Ko s’egbe, O Leku, Thunderbolt, Saworoide, AgogoEewo, Narrow Path, Abeni, The Campus Queen, Maami, Arugba, Dazzling Mirage, Ayinla and Cordelia (recently completed and ready for release) would emerge as DR TUNDE KELANI (Honoris Causa).

In a pre-award statement, 74-year old Kelani, said, “I associated with writers and academics from the beginning of my career which gave my work a greater depth.  I therefore, appreciate the award from a reputable Institution, Lead City University. I shall continue to do my best to justify this honour and the support of my colleagues, family, friends, benefactors and our audiences everywhere”.

Born in Lagos on February 26, 1948, Tunde Kelani popularly known as TK, at the age of five, was sent to live with his grandparents at Abeokuta in Ogun State. He attended the Oke-Ona Primary School in Ikija, Abeokuta, and had his secondary school education at Abeokuta Grammar School. During this time, his grandfather was a chief (the Balogun of Ijaiye Kukudi) and he was privileged to have witnessed at close quarters most aspects of Yoruba ways of life – religion, literature, philosophy, environments and general worldview in arts.

The rich Yoruba culture and tradition he experienced in his early years, coupled with his exposure to the strong travelling theatre tradition of the Yoruba at that time laid the foundation for his career in storytelling. While he was in secondary school, he had the privilege to see most of the great Yoruba theatre classics, including The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Oba Koso, Kurunmi, Ogunde plays and more.

He became interested in photography from primary school days, and throughout his secondary-school education, he was actively investing money and taking to time to learn photography. So, inevitably, he became an apprentice photographer after he finished secondary school.

Later, he trained at the then Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) and went on to attend the London Film School. He garnered further experiences  at the London Film School where he studied the art and technique of filmmaking.

In his career of over five decades, Kelani has specialised in producing movies that promote Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and have a root in documentation, archiving, education, entertainment and promotion of the culture.

He is also known for his love of adaptation of literary material into movies. Most of his works have followed that style of filmmaking. These include Koseegbe, O le ku, Thunderbolt, The Narrow Path, White Handkerchief, Maami, Dazzling Mirage and Cordelia.

TK developed a soft spot for reading at a very young age and this later developed into his favourite pastime. Starting with the five works of D. O. Fagunwa, which include Igbo Olodumare, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale, Aditu Olodumare, Irinkerindo Ninu Igbo Elegbeje and Ireke Onibudo, he immersed himself in any literary work he could get his hands on in both Yoruba and English language. 

Once he discovered the relationship between literature and drama, he adopted literary adaptations as a working model for his filmmaking. Not only does he love the books, but he also loves the authors too as he’s always found hanging among them. His favourite writers include Kola Akinlade, Amos Tutuola, Cyprian Ekwensi, Akinwunmi Isola, Adebayo Faleti, Wale Ogunyemi, Bayo Adebowale, Yinka Egbokare and Wole Soyinka.

In the 90s, he worked on contract basis with reputable newsrooms like the BBC World Service, Reuters and other foreign independent producers who came to Nigeria.  During his stint at Nigerian Television Authority [ N.T.A.] as an active Newsreel and Documentary Cameraman, he deepened his knowledge of research, storytelling, and documentation. He participated in the coverage of important international stories such as the Zimbabwean independence, the Ethiopian drought in the 70s and interviews with some world leaders like Ian Smith in apartheid South Africa and many others, in the company of the Head of News, John Chiahemen.

Upon conclusion of his studies at the London Film School, he returned to Nigeria and co-produced his first film with Adebayo Faleti, called The Dilemma of Rev. Father Michael (Idaamu Paadi Minkailu).  As a cinematographer, he also worked on most feature films produced in the celluloid era of the Nigerian film. Some of the 16mm feature films he worked are: Anikura; Ogun Ajaye; Iya Ni Wura; Taxi Driver; Iwa and Fopomoyo.

In 1990, Kelani was an assistant director and an actor in the 1990 film Mister Johnson, the first American film shot on location in Nigeria, which was based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary,, and which starred Pierce Brosnan and Maynard Eziashi.

Some of his most successful films are literary adaptations and they include: Koseegbe, Oleku, Thunderbolt (Magun), The White Handkerchief, The Narrow Path, Maami and recently Dazzling Mirage. He has decided to maintain this model for his future films.

In 1991, Tunde Kelani started his own production company, Mainframe Films and Television Productions – Opomulero, so he could produce films and not just lend technical support. Having emerged from the world of theatre and literature, adaptations of books and plays for cinema are the core of Kelani’s filmmaking practice and through them he celebrates writers and their work to what he sees as a public that reads less and less.

His previous work, Dazzling Mirage, an adaptation from a novel by Olayinka Egbokhare, is a love story about how a sickle-cell sufferer overcomes social stigma, prejudice and her own low self-esteem, to achieve success, marriage and motherhood. Through the movie, he hopes to bring much needed awareness and attention to the sickle-cell condition and help people make better informed decisions.








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