Wole Duro-Ladipo is arguably the carbon copy of his late Theatre doyen father, Duro Ladipo. Heavily built with dark skin, which brings out his Africaness, the University of Ibadan graduate of Political science is also into cultural
renaissance. In his United States of America base, his Yoruba Cultural Exchange Festival has given Yoruba in the Diaspora hope that all is not lost. In an interview with TUNDE BUSARI, the young Duro-Ladipo speaks about his late father, his legacy and his own culture agenda. Excerpts:
Between 1978 and now that you don’t have your father, how do you feel after 38 years?
I was very young when he died. But to God be the glory now that we are atill appreciating his legacy. My father died March 11, 1978. Before he died, there was this idea he impacted in all of us, his children. It is the value of education. There used to be a Yoruba popular poem among pupils. It was entitled Ise logun ise. The poem emphasised strongly on the virtue of education as well as hard work. The poem has a very comprehensive depth on how to raise a child. He would ensure that we recite it every morning before we go to school. I can tell you that that value helped all of us in our life journey. That is what has distinct us among other children. We have graduates and masters degree holders among us. This means his idea really worked. Again, to God be the glory for seeing all of us through to become whom we are today.
Given the fact of your resemblance with your late father, Do you see yourself putting on costume and do the replica of his Oba Koso either on stage or in movie?
It is not impossible after all drama presentation is genetic to all of us, his children. You remind me when we were shooting Moremi Ajasoro. I acted the Oluorogbo as a little boy. The director of the play was Wole Oyebamiji. When it got to where I needed to cry to give the scene a semblance of reality, the director was doubtful of having me done it. Then my father told him that ‘look, he is my son, it is in his blood. When he gets there, he will deliver it’. As young as I was, I think, the director was still skeptical. But when the tape rolled and it got to the scene, I cried naturally to his amazement. What this tells you is that I am capable of doing anything on stage. But I must clarify certain thing. My father was more spiritual than human being to the extent that it is going to be a waste of time to attempt to replicate his exploits. As a matter of fact, some Sango worshippers attest to the fact that he was another Sango of his generation. I have no reason to doubt these people because, apart from their depth in tradition, what my father used to display on stage could frighten anyone.
Can you recall any of these?
Thank You. I can recall vividly the day I saw my father on stage spitting fire. It was at a show at the Glover Hall, Lagos. When I saw him, I ran out of the hall because I could not just believe what I was seeing. I shivered! He looked entirely different from whom I know. His eyes were red as if he was possessed with a spiritual power. That day remains fresh in my memory and is instructive on the reason he was referred to as Sango of his generation. He was a teacher. As a matter of fact, he started out as a school teacher before he became a professional theatre practitioner. Towards the end of his life, he was gradually returning to academic. He was with the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan as artist in residence. He hung out with the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Femi Osofisan, Professor Adelugba and others.
How many of your father’s works are available for reproduction for the benefit of young generation who have no access to the works?
It is unfortunate that most of his works were affected by a fire accident. I don’t like to talk about this because it always disturbs me. I am not happy that those historic works went with the fire. But I am happy that some white still preserve some as my attention was recently drawn to a piece on Youtube. So, on Google, his works are there.
How is mama Moremi doing and why is she not featuring in movies?
Mama is in good condition. She is okay. We thank God for her life 38 years after death separated her from her husband. She is not regular on the movies because of her background as a true professional who had acted in Europe and Brazil. She was at Berlin Festival of Arts. She therefore, knows quality production. But when what we see are far from standard, she keeps to herself and moves on with her life. But she does feature in select films, which meet up with standard. That is saying that she is still available if the script and quality are okay.
I read where your name prominently features in a story of Yoruba Cultural Exchange Festival in the US. How connected are you with festival?
Without sounding immodest, Yoruba Cultural Exchange Festival is my little effort in preserving the legacy left behind by my father. I grew up to appreciate the value of Yoruba culture among other cultures I have read about and even seen. And coming from a father who spent his whole life in propagating the same culture, makes it more imperative for me to go further. The festival is the product of my attachment to his ideals. In the US, where I reside, I realised that our children out there have interest in asking questions about home; about their root. They are interested in our culture. But their parents unfortunately don’t share their passion. They don’t encourage them enough to see the value of our culture. The danger is that these vulnerable kids form opinion that if their parents’ culture is better, they would explain to them and even showcase it. What they do next is to fully integrate into American culture and forget anything about their parents’ home. When the parents are old, they take them to home care to expect them to die and bury them and forget everything about home. They don’t want to come because there is no connection with home. They are, therefore, denied opportunity to come and use their skills to develop their fathers’ land. This is sad. I am not happy with the development but that is what happens, hence my coming up with the festival. We bring different artistes together to showcase to the world the content of Yoruba culture.
Can you speak more on the relevance of the festival and your staying power?
I am happy to tell you that we have the support of Dallas Cultural Affairs Office. Back home in Nigeria, we also have support from some corporate bodies. We are holding the fourth edition between September 9 and 10 in Dallas Texas. Some royal fathers will attend the festival. As regards our staying power, my personal saving is also dedicated to it to show my total commitment to it. I am not comfortable when people from other cultures see ours as inferior. It is the height of insult. How can we have this rich culture and allow others to insult us? This is our mission and we are happy that we are changing that now.
Can you name some of the traditional rulers expected at the 2016 edition of the festival?
Why not? We have the Elegushi, the Oluwo, the Olugbo, Owamiran, the Olowu Kuta, the Olutori, the Onu of Igalla too will witness it. It is all inclusive because Yoruba culture is the face of African culture. Do you know the number of foreigners that attend the annual Osun Osogbo festival in my home town? Do you know what Nigerian government stands to gain in developing tourism? With my exposure in this field as a professional, I am not happy watching all those tourist sites mismanaged by our government. This is a sector that has so much potentials to drive the economy and reduce tension being generated by our overdependence on oil, which, of course, is on a low side now.