BY TUNDE THOMAS
ALMOST shielded from public glare by the imposing sprawling Faculty of Arts building which occupies most of the space within that landscape, the Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Lagos bubbles with an unrestrained academic aura. The place stirs with life.
There are writers, lecturers, students, poets and a blend of others, mostly arts oriented people thronging every comer of the vast expanse. Locating the office of the presiding personage here is quite easy. The man has charismatic personality that radiates warmth and affection to all.
In his moderately furnished office, Dr. Bode Osanyin is submerged in an ocean of arts. The influence of arts is all pervasive.
The talented playwright is encompassed by exotic carvings of various sizes, some fixed to the wall with others well positioned in various parts of the room.
Most of the space on Dr. Osanyi’s table is inundated with files and several literature books. An avalanche of posters of his plays cover the wall. There are also pictures of Osanyin taken with members of his club – the Writers. A particular one taken with Professor Wole Soyinka is riveting.
A man of strong physique, Dr. Osanyin’s visage radiates life. He is effervescent as he discusses at length the themes and sources of inspiration of his works. During the discussions, visitors stream in at intervals, all desiring an audience with the theatre guru. Among the guests this morning is Mr. Olusola Idowu who paints Dr. Osanyin’s magazine works. The list of visitors also includes Mr. Theophilus Alfreds, the president of West African Young Writers.
Born 51 years ago in Simpson Street, Ebute Metta, Lagos, Dr. Bode Osanyin has been writing and acting since the early stage of his educational career.
As a secondary school student at Ijebu-Jesa Grammar School in Osun State, he wrote and partook in several state plays for his school. It was therefore not surprising that he opted for Drama when he gained admission to the University of Ibadan. Dr. Osanyin was among the first set of students to take an honours degree from the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan in 1973.
Since then Dr. Osanyin has never wavered. He has been displaying such commitments to the teaching, writing and directing of plays that his achievement has shone far beyond the nation’s frontiers. And for this he had been much honoured.
For instance, between 1984 and 1985, he was a writer-in-residence in the West Berlin Artists programme in Germany. Dr. Bode Osanyin discloses that the programme was a rich one which afforded him the opportunity of widening his knowledge about Theatre Operation.
A bilingual writer, Dr. Bode Osanyin has written and directed several plays in English and Yoruba – his mother tongue. Some of his plays and novels include Orogun Ore, Ayitale (1979), The New Status (1978), The Shattered Bridge (1979), Rich Girl, Poor Boy (1984) and The Flying Elephant and other plays.
A literary prodigy, Dr. Osanyin derives his inspiration from what he terms “the maddening crowd.” These are the masses, the down-trodden of the earth whose innumerable woes he finds difficult to erase from his mind. Thus, in all his plays and books, Dr. Osanyin has always been championing the cause of the wretched of the earth with paternalistic fervour. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy and other ills afflicting the common man are lucidly highlighted in his books.
For Dr. Bode Osanyin, a typical day starts at 8.00 a.m. He then takes his bath after which he eates his breakfast made up of eggs and tea. This is his main food for the day. His tight schedule which sees him shuttling between the lecture rooms and the theatre makes his chance of having lunch remote.
From morning till evening, he is busy imparting immeasurable knowledge and skills in the art of writing, acting and directing to a generation of budding playwrights and theatre directors.
Back at home, Dr. Bode Osanyin takes his dinner at 8.00 p.m. He later listens to the network news at 9.00 p.m. Afterwards, he sets out for a walk around the campus. This exercise which he regards as his leisure hours lasts for an hour or more. Thereafter, Dr. Osanyin returns to the warmth of the inner recesses of his room, switches off the light and eventually retires for the day.
First published Saturday, February 6, 1993.