The Nigerian Poet, Singer and storyteller, Jimi Solanke has died at the age of 81 after going in and out of the hospital due to his ailing health in the past few months.
His son, Taiwo Solanke confirmed the unfortunate news to Emdee David via phone today.
The veteran playwright had graced the theatrical stage and screen since the 1960s, beginning with his participation with the moving theatre group known as ORISUN Theatre Group in 1961. The group was founded by renowned playwright and Nigeria’s only Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, AKA, Kongi. He is known for Kongi’s Harvest, Sango, Shadow Parties, and many more.
Uncle Jimi as he was fondly called, was born on July 4, 1942, in Ipara Remo, in Ogun State. His artistic prowess and storytelling abilities as he had distinguished himself both on live stage, at festivals, TV Drama, movies, etc. He worked with Western Nigeria Television (WNT) in the 1960s and was prominent in several international festivals in Senegal and Algeria in the 1970s.
Uncle Jimi moved to the US after obtaining a diploma in drama at the University of Ibadan. While in the States, he founded a drama group called The Africa Review, which focused on promoting African culture at home and in the diaspora. On his return, he and three others joined the staff of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in 1986.
Later, he hosted an NTA TV Show for kids where he used is thespian expertise to tell breathtaking African stories with his captivating voice and life lessons that benefitted both children and adults. The show was popularly called Tales By Moonlight, which was the favourite of many Nigerian families in the 90s. ‘Shadow Parties,’ released in 2020, was his most recent work
His legacies are numerous and will forever be in the hearts of theatre practitioners and Nigerians. He was indeed an African Culture Ambassador, and CNN described him as the “Master Story Teller”
May his soul rest in peace.