He founded the first contemporary professional theatrical company in Nigeria, the African Music Research Party, in 1945. He came, saw and conquered the Theatre World like the literary giant that he was. Little wonder he earned the appellation “Doyen of Theatre. In the late 1970s, Ogunde was spurred by the success of Ija Ominira and Ajani Ogun, two pioneering Yoruba feature-length films, to co-produce his first celluloid film, Aiye, in 1979. He released Jaiyesimi, Aropin N’tenia and Ayanmo, feature-length films influenced by Yoruba mysticism, thereafter.
Hubert Ogunde changed the name to Ogunde Theater Party in 1947 and Ogunde Concert Party in 1950. Finally, in 1960, he changed it to Ogunde Theater, a name that remained until his death in 1990. He has been described as “the father of Nigerian theatre, or the father of contemporary Yoruba theatre”.
In his career on stage, he wrote more than 50 plays, most of which incorporate dramatic action, dance, and music, with a story reflecting the political and social realities of the period. His first production was a church-financed play called The Garden of Eden. It premiered at Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos, in 1944. Its success encouraged Ogunde to produce more plays, and he soon left his job with the police force for a career in the theatre.
In the 1940s, he released some plays with political commentaries: The Tiger’s Empire, Strike and Hunger and Bread and Bullet. During the 1950s, he toured various Nigerian cities with his travelling troupe. In 1964, he released Yoruba Ronu, a play that generated controversy and earned him the wrath of Chief Akintola, premier of the Western Region.
The Ogunde Theater was banned in the Western Region of Nigeria for two years as a result. This ban was only revoked by the new military government of Lt. Col. F. A. Fajuyi on the 4th of February, 1966.
In the late 1970s, Ogunde was spurred by the success of Ija Ominira and Ajani Ogun, two pioneering Yoruba feature-length films, to co-produce his first celluloid film, Aiye, in 1979. He released Jaiyesimi, Aropin N’tenia, and Ayanmo, feature-length films influenced by Yoruba mysticism, thereafter.
Ogunde starred in Mister Johnson, the 1990 motion picture that also featured Pierce Brosnan. The movie was shot on location in Toro, near Bauchi, Nigeria.
Ogunde died on the 4th of April, 1990, at the age of 73 at London’s Cromwell Hospital following a brief illness. Years after his demise, Ogunde’s legacies live on and many cannot but fail to mention his numerous contributions to the Theatre World.