Chief Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, D.Lit. (10 July 1916 – 4 April 1990) was a Yoruba actor, dramatist, theater manager, and musician who created the African Music Research Party, Nigeria’s first current professional theatrical group, in 1945.
In 1947, Hubert Ogunde altered the name to Ogunde Theater Party, and in 1950, it became Ogunde Concert Party. Finally, in 1960, he changed the name to Ogunde Theater, which he kept until his death in 1990. He has been dubbed “the father of Nigerian theater” or “the founder of contemporary Yoruba theater.”
Ogunde was born in Ososa, near Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria, to Jeremiah Deinbo and Eunice Owotusan Ogunde. His father was a Baptist minister, while his maternal grandfather was an Ifa priest, a Yoruba traditional spiritual practice. Ogunde temporarily resided inside the confines of his grandfather’s compound, where he was exposed to Ifá, Ogun, and a variety of other traditional religious rituals. His childhood was impacted by both Christian and Yoruba traditional religion. Between 1925 and 1932, he attended St John School in Ososa (1925–28), St Peter’s School in Faaji, Lagos (1928–30), and Wasimi African School (1931–32).
During his stage career, he authored more than 50 plays, the majority of which had dramatic action, dance, and music, as well as a tale that reflected the political and social realities of the day. His first performance was The Garden of Eden, a church-funded drama. It first aired in 1944 at Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos. Its popularity prompted Ogunde to produce other plays, and he soon resigned his job as a police officer to pursue a career in the theater.
In the 1940s, he published several plays with political undertones, including The Tiger’s Empire, Strike and Hunger, and Bread and Bullet. He toured many Nigerian cities with his traveling group throughout the 1950s. In 1964, he published Yoruba Ronu, a controversial drama that garnered him the wrath of Chief Akintola, Premier of the Western Region.
As a result, the Ogunde Theater was prohibited in Nigeria’s Western Region for two years. This prohibition was only lifted on February 4, 1966, by the new military administration of Lt. Col. F. A. Fajuyi.
Ogunde was inspired by the success of two pioneering Yoruba feature-length films, Ija Ominira and Ajani Ogun, in the late 1970s to co-produce his first celluloid film, Aiye, in 1979. Following that, he released three feature-length films influenced by Yoruba mysticism: Jaiyesimi, Aropin N’tenia, and Ayanmo.
Ogunde appeared in Mister Johnson, a 1990 film co-starring Pierce Brosnan. The film was shot on location in Toro, Nigeria, near Bauchi.