The Yoruba movie industry, a genre of Nollywood has come a long way. The Yoruba-language cinema began as actors of various Yoruba traveling theatre groups began to take their works beyond the stage to delve into movie production using the Celluloid format, as far back as the mid-1960s.
The industry has continued to grow and soared, producing great actors that had made it worthwhile. While there are other actors like Hubert Ogunde in early years, more actors have played their roles in solidifying the Yoruba movie industry. Thirteen actors and many more have contributed immensely for this greatness.
1. Lere Paimo
Paimo was born on 19 November, 1939 in Ogbomoso, Oyo State. He is a Nigerian film actor, film maker, producer and director.
He began acting in 1960 after he joined the Oyin Adejobi theatre group, a theatre group founded by Pa Oyinade Adejobi before he later joined Duro Ladipo’s Theatre Group where he featured in a stage play titled Obamoro with the role of “Chief Basa”.
He became popular following a lead role as Soun Ogunola played in an epic yoruba film titled Ogbori Elemosho which brought him into limelight.
He had featured, produced and directed several Nigerian films since he began acting in 1963. In 2005, in recognition of his immense contributions to the Nigerian film industry, he was bestowed a National award of Member of the Federal Republic alongside Zeb Ejiro by Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In May 2013, it was reported that he had a partial stroke, an attack he survived. In April 2014, he won N1m cash prize in a Nigerian game show, ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.’
2. Peter Fatomilola
Fatomilola was born on 16 January, 1946 in the town of Ifisin-Ekiti in Ido-Osi Local Government area of Ekiti State, Nigeria, to Chief Abraham Ojo Fatomilola and Mrs. Elizabeth Fatomilola. He is a son of Chief Ifa Priest, known as the Oluwo (Olu-awo, meaning Lord of the oracle), which was believed to have influenced his herbalist role 9.in Nigerian film.
In 1967, he joined the Olokun Theatre group under the tutelage of the late Professor Ola Rotimi, a renowned dramatist and prolific playwright at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. He is also a member of the academic staff of Obafemi Awolowo University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts in 1978. He was the first Papa Ajasco, a lead role in a comedy film produced by Wale Adenuga.
He had featured in several notable Nigerian films such as Sango, an epic African film produced by Obafemi Lasode and scripted by Wale Ogunyemi in 1997. He has acted the role of the priest in several Yoruba films.
He is married with several wives, including one who sells local concoctions and herbs (Iya Fat) at a market at the Obafemi Awolowo University. He has 11 children. In addition, he has several chieftaincy titles around Yorubaland, including Oluwo (Chief Ifa Priest) in his hometown of Ifisin-Ekiti and Amuludun in Ile-Ife.
3. Kareem Adepoju
Adepoju, popularly known as “Baba Wande” is a Nigerian film actor, writer and producer who shot to limelight in 1993 after he starred as “Oloye Otun” in the movie titled Ti Oluwa Ni Ileu.
Adepoju has acted in movies such as Oluweri Magboojo, Ti Oluwa Ni Ile, Ayọ Ni Mọ Fẹ, Abeni, Arugba, Igbekun, Òbúko Dúdú, Ika lomo ejo, Enu Eye (2010) and Anikulapo (2022)’.
4. Ebun Oloyede
Lukmon Ebun Oloyede popularly, known as Igwe Olaiya, is a popular Yoruba actor.Born in Kenta, Oke-Ejigbo Abeokuta, Ogun state, Olaiya is well known for his comical roles in Yoruba movies.
Oloyede started his education at St. Jude’s primary school, Abeokuta, and had his secondary school education at Premier Grammar School in the same city. Olaiya attended Premier Grammar School in Abeokuta before proceeding to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, where he studied mass communication.
He started his acting career as a T.V personality at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), where he acted on stage plays with the Musbau Shodimu Theatre Organisation in the 1970s. He was so right on stage plays; he was able to advance into acting home videos. Since then, Olaiya has featured in over one hundred Nollywood movies, making him one of the industry’s top actors.
5. Kayode Olaiya
Kayode Olaiya is a veteran Nigerian actor. He came into limelight and rose to prominence in Yoruba indigenous language films.
He was Born on 12th of April,1949 in Oyo State.
He Started his Acting Profession in the 1960s. He was Once a Member of a Threatre Group Called “Ajimajason”.
The Veteran Actor Rose to Fame in the 1990s and He has Worked with Alot of Television Stations Including Lagos State Television.
He is known for ”Saworoide” (1999), ”Agogo Eewo” (2002), ”Ago Kan Oru” (2003), ”Jenifa” (2008), ”The Figurine” (2009), ”Ilu Gangan” (2009), ”Apaadi” (2009), ”Jenifa 2” (2009), ”The Return of Jenifa” (2011), ”October 1” (2014), ”Jenifa’s Diary” (2015-present), ”93 Days” (2016), ”Ojukokoro: Greed” (2017), and ”Bipolar: Amodi” (2018).
6. Adebayo Salami
Adebayo Salami, popularly known by his stage name Oga Bello was born on 9 May, 1952). He is a veteran Nigerian actor, filmmaker, film producer, and director.
He began his acting career in 1964, with a group called Young Concert Party, under the leadership of Ojo Ladipo, popularly known as Baba Mero.
After a few years, the group changed its name to Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group, and later metamorphosed into Awada Kerikeri Theatre Group. Following the demise of Ojo Ladipo in 1978, Salami took the mantle of leadership of the group, which brought him into the limelight.
He featured in the first Yoruba film, Ajani Ogun, in which the late Adeyemi Afolayan, the father of Kunle Afolayan and Gabriel Afolayan, plays the lead role.
He also featured in a movie titled Kadara by Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade love). He later featured in the popular Nigerian comedy series Comedy half hour with the stage name Oga Bello.
He produced his first movie, Ogun Ajaye, in 1985, from the stable of Awada Kerikeri. Since 1985, he has produced, directed and featured in several Yoruba movies.
He was a pioneer member of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, and also served as president of the association
7. Yinka Quadri
Quadri was born on 6 September, 1959. He is a Nigerian actor, film maker, producer and director, born and raised on Lagos Island, Lagos State, but a native of Oro, Kwara State. He recently starred in a new movie titled Apaadi. He is installed as the Agba Akin of Oro Kingdom. He is the President & Co-Founder of a Theatre Art Group called (Odunfa Caucus) whose office is Situated in Ebute-Meta, Lagos State.
Quadri’s acting career started in 1976 when he and Taiwo Olayinka along with a group of friends formed a drama group called Afopina Theatre Group after dropping out of school. He has starred in over 90 Yoruba films since his debut television series titled Agbodorogun.
On April 27, 2014, Yinka launched his biography Yinka Quadri: Scent of a Legend and simultaneously celebrated his 36 years in the Nigerian film industry.
He has starred in movies such as Olaniyonu, Kutupu, Kura, Ekun, Agbodorogun, Ojiji, Egbinrin Ote, Araba, Ilari, Odun Baku, Bolode O’ku, Èebúdolá Tèmi, Abeni, Apaadi, Ojo Idajo, Abulesowo, Niwoyi Ola, Ilekun Olorun, Okinni, Owo Blow, Shola Arikusa, among others.
8. Jide Kosoko
Prince Jide Kosoko was born in Lagos on the 12th of January 1954, to the Kosoko royal family of Lagos Island.
Kosoko studied business administration at the Yaba College of Technology. He began his acting career as a child actor in 1964 in a television production named Makanjuola. He has featured in several Nollywood movies in both English and Yoruba languages.
The young Kosoko grew up in Ebute Metta and was inspired by the huge success of Hubert Ogunde to go into acting, when an acquaintance who was working with the Ifelodun travelling theatre troupe invited him to an audition for a role in Makanjuola, a tele-movie. Kosoko accepted the invitation; he later went for the audition and was chosen for the role, playing a character called Alabi.
Kosoko continued with acting, he then performed with the Awada Kerikeri group consisting of Sunday Omobolanle, Lanre Hassan and Oga Bello, and had guest appearances on the T.V. show, New Masquerade. In 1972, he formed his own theatre troupe.
Kosoko has written and also produced his own films and stage plays including Ogun Ahoyaya. Kosoko became visible during the Video film era, producing his own film, Asiri n la in 1992, starring in Asewo to re Mecca and Tunde Kelani’s Ti Oluwa Ni’Le part 2.
He has also acted in hundreds of Yoruba and English movies.
9. Taiwo Hassan
Taiwo Hassan was born on 31 October, 1959. He is popularly known as Ogogo, and is a Nigerian film actor, producer and director.
Ogogo completed primary education at Christ Church School in Ilaro. He attended Gaskia College in Lagos for his secondary education but was unable to finish it due to a financial problem. He then studied at a technical college and worked as an automobile mechanic at the water corporation for about 13 years.
Ogogo began his acting career in 1981, shortly after starting work as a mechanic. In 1994 he left his job at the water corporation to concentrate on acting.
He was brought to the spotlight for his notable roles in movies like Omin, Bolode o’ku, Obinrin Sowanu, among others.
Ogogo has featured in more than 100 movies and has won awards, and has been nominated for numerous others. He is a proud recipient of the City People Movie Lifetime Achievement Award.
Some other movies he featured are: Baba Ibeji, Suspect, Ashabi Iya Eko, Heartless, Plastic Girls, Aiye Alabata, Ote, Ore Ojokan, Aye K-ooto, Idakeji Aye, Owara October, Erelu, Owara 2, Terror, Tomorrow, Ipalemo Odu, Sunday Igboho, Enikeji, Aworawo, Eji Owuro,Eji Owuro 2, Eji Owuro 3, Isun Ayomi, Emi Lomo Baba Olowo, Iyawo Alalubarika, Ayekaye, Eyan ni mi, Tolani Igara, Mio Le Gba, Alaafin Oronpoto, Alaso Duduin, Mahuru The Tempest, Opo, Atunse, Ogiri Alapa, Omo Ologo Ni, Ogo Mi, Airat, Igba Aje, Oba Adegboyega, Iruju and Alanu Mi.
Sunday Omobolanle aka Papi Luwe, born October 1, 1954 at Ilora, Oyo State, is a Nigerian comic actor, playwright, film director, and producer.
11. Charles Olumo
Abdulsalam Sanyaolu, whose is called Charles Olumo, is a Nigerian actor from Abeokuta, Ogun State. He mainly acts in Yoruba-language films in “Nollywood”.
He began acting in 1953 at a church in Lagos.
He’s famous for the stereotypical ‘bad man’ role he plays in Yoruba movies. In deed, not many people know him by his real name, Abdulsalam Ishola Sanyaolu or Charles Olumo, but mention Agbako in a crowd and all heads will turn.
The 98-year-old actor recently cried out for help as he battles a serious ailments.
12. Kola Oyewo
Kola Oyewo, born 27 March, 1946, in Osun State, is a Nigerian veteran actor, dramatist, and scholar.
He attended Obafemi Awolowo University where he obtained a certificate in dramatic arts, and a certificate in Yoruba oral literature before he later received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Theatre art from the same university in 1995. He proceeded to the University of Ibadan where he received a Master of Arts (M.A.) and doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in drama.
He began acting as a professional in 1964 after he joined the “Oyin Adejobi theatre group” and the first role he played was Adejare in Orogun Adedigba, which was Oyin Adejobi’s autobiography. After he spent nine years with Oyin Adejobi, he joined the University of Ife theatre, where he worked with the late veteran dramatist and scholar, chief Ola Rotimi. Kola Oyewo was known for the role he played as “Odewale” in The Gods Are Not To Blame, a drama by Ola Rotimi.
In 1996, Oyewo joined the services of Obafemi Awolowo University, where he rose to the rank of senior lecturer before retiring in September 2011. After his retirement from Obafemi Awolowo University, he joined the services of Redeemer’s University, where he currently serves as head of the department of dramatic art. He is currently working at Elizade University Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State as a performing arts lecturer.
Some of the movies he took part in are: Sango (1997), Super Story (episode 1), The Gods Are Not To Blame, Saworoide and Koseegbe (1995)
13. Yemi Elebuibon
Ifáyẹmi Ọ̀ṣundàgbónu Elebuibon was born on 1947. He is a Yoruba and Nigerian writer, poet, author, linguist, and a world-famous Ifa priest. His plays and films have received worldwide acclamation for his pursuit of the preservation of Yoruba culture and heritage.
He also serves as a traveling lecturer in several institutions including at the department of African language and literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University and Black Studies at the San Francisco State University and at the Wajumbe Cultural Institution in California.
Elebuibon began training as an Ifa priest by his father in 1951 when he was 4 years old. He continued this rigorous training in the traditional arts until his father died when he was only 10 in 1957. He was then put under the guidance of Chief Faniyi Ajani (the Agbongbon-Awo of Osogbo), another well trained Ifa priest who most likely was a contemporary of Elebuibon’s father and grandfather. After training for another 10 years, he became an official Babalawo in 1967.
He did not attend formal schooling but self-educated himself. He then became an actor for Duro Ladipo’s famous plays including Ọba kò so. He then became associated with the National Black Theatre, in which he currently serves a cultural advisor. He then began to publish several books and papers in both Yoruba and English. He also wrote many traditional Yoruba plays based on Yoruba figures (known as èwí in Yoruba). His traditions morality drama “IFA OLOKUN ASORODAYO.”
Through his efforts, the Osun-Osogbo Grove was named a UNESCO World heritage site and in 2005, UNESCO declared in its third proclamation of World Masterpieces that the Ifa Divination System in Nigeria was one of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity to be preserved and protected. He continues to go on lecture tours in addition to practicing his traditional religion.