Soyinka@90: Ebrohimie Road Documentary Film Premieres in Lagos 

Yinka Olatunbosun 

Ebrohimie Road: A Museum of Memory, a documentary based on the little building on the University of Ibadan campus, where the poet, playwright, memoirist, essayist and polemicist, Wole Soyinka lived while he was a teacher at the premier tertiary institution, is set to screen in Lagos in July. 

The movie itself alludes to bungalow, located a few metres from the bustling main gate of the university campus, where Soyinka was arrested in 1967 on “espionage” charges for daring to cross to the Biafra Republic to dissuade then Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, leader of the secessionist group from going to war with  the government of Nigeria. This story follows his 29-month incarceration by the Nigerian government led by the Lt. General Yakubu Gowon. He was only released in October 1969, a few weeks before the war ended in 1970. Although he returned to the house, he did not return to his job at the Department of Theatre Arts, but instead proceeded on exile in 1971. He would later take on a role at the University of Ifẹ̀ in 1976, where he retired in 1985, a year before winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Slated as part of activities commemorating the 90th birthday (July 13) anniversary of the Nobel laureate, the 110-minute documentary written and directed by the writer, culture researcher Kola Tubosun with the ace cinematographer, Tunde Kelani behind the camera, will first be screened on July 11, 2024 at the University of Lagos, where it will feature as the third item in a full-day scholarly event jointly organised by the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) and the Nigeria Academy of Letter (NAL). The theme of the event is ENI-OGUN: An Enduring Legacy, and it will, aside the screening, feature a symposium, a dance performance and a reception.

Produced by Olongo Africa, Ebrohimie Road… which featured revealing interviews with immediate families, relatives, associates as well as comrades of Soyinka, will also be screened on July 20 at the WS90 celebration in London, jointly organised by the WSICE and The Africa Centre. It will thereafter move around other cultural and historical centres in Nigeria, parts of Europe, North and South America, as well as festivals across continents.

Other global premieres include WSICE2024/WS90 celebration, Africa Centre, London on July 20, Africa Centre, New York, Centro Cultural Africano, Mexico on July 13 Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA), Freedom Park, Lagos  on July 14; Senior Staff Club, University of Ìbàdàn; Institute of African Studies, University of Ìbàdàn; Hutchinson Center, Harvard University, USA in September, University of Leeds, UK in October; Lagos International Poetry Festival Lagos, Nigeria from October 24th to 27th and of course at the Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF/CORA), Freedom Park, Lagos in November.

This house played host to many friends, family and associates over the years while he was in solitary confinement, and features in his years of employment with the Ibadan University. And it was in that house where, in October 1969, after his release, he granted a famous interview to a journalist from Daily Times to express himself about the war and the events that got him locked up. The portrait from that encounter made it to the cover of Ìbàdàn: The Penkelemes Years (1994).

In Ebrohimie Road: A Museum of Memory, we examine how the personal became the national, through the recollection of central and peripheral characters; how a small campus residence became witness to some of the most significant issues in Nigerian social, political and literary history, many of which remain unresolved. And how ecological changes contribute to the erosion of history and a sense of place. Through stories, visuals, and historical records, we unearth what makes Ebrohimie Road more than just a campus street or physical location, but a place of history and a museum of memory.

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