Biyi Bandele

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Biyi Bandele
Biye Bandele 01.JPG
Bandele in 2010
Biyi Bandele-Thomas

(1967-10-13)13 October 1967
Died7 August 2022(2022-08-07) (aged 54)
Lagos, Nigeria
Alma materObafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
  • Filmmaker
  • novelist
  • playwright
Years active1998–2022
Notable workHalf of a Yellow Sun

Biyi Bandele (born Biyi Bandele-Thomas; 13 October 1967 – 7 August 2022)[1] was a Nigerian novelist, playwright and filmmaker.[1] He was the author of several novels, beginning with The Man Who Came in From the Back of Beyond (1991), as well as writing stage plays, before turning his focus to filmmaking. His directorial debut was in 2013 with Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Early life[edit]

Bandele was born to Yoruba parents in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Nigeria, in 1967. His father Solomon Bandele-Thomas was a veteran of the Burma Campaign in World War II,[1] while Nigeria was still part of the British Empire. In a 2013 interview with This Day, Bandele said of his ambitions to become a writer: "When I was a child, I remembered war was something that sprang up a lot in conversations on the part of my dad. ... That was probably one of the things that turned me into a writer."[2] When he was 14 years old he won a short-story competition.[3]

Bandele spent the first 18 years of his life in the north-central part of the country, later moving to Lagos, then in 1987 he studied drama at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife,[1][4] having already begun work on his first novel.[5] He won the International Student Playscript competition of 1989 with an unpublished play, Rain,[6] before claiming the 1990 British Council Lagos Award for a collection of poems.[1][7]

He moved to London in 1990, at the age of 22, armed with the manuscripts of two novels.[4] His books were published, and he was given a commission by the Royal Court Theatre.[4] In 1992, he was awarded an Arts Council of Great Britain writers bursary to continue his writing.[8][9]



Bandele's writing encompassed fiction, theatre, journalism, television, film and radio.

He worked with the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as writing radio drama and screenplays for television.[10] His plays include: Rain;[11] Marching for Fausa (1993);[12] Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought (1994);[13] Two Horsemen (1994),[14] selected as Best New Play at the 1994 London New Plays Festival; Death Catches the Hunter and Me and the Boys[15] (published in one volume, 1995); and Oroonoko, an adaptation of Aphra Behn's 17th-century novel of the same name.[16] In 1997, Bandele did a successful dramatisation of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.[3] Brixton Stories, Bandele's stage adaptation of his own novel The Street (1999), premiered in 2001[17] and was published in one volume with his play Happy Birthday Mister Deka, which premiered in 1999.[18][19] He also adapted Lorca's Yerma in 2001.[3]

Bandele was writer-in-residence with Talawa Theatre Company from 1994 to 1995,[20] resident dramatist with the Royal National Theatre Studio (1996),[21] the Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in 2000–01.[22] He also acted as Royal Literary Fund Resident Playwright at the Bush Theatre from 2002 to 2003.[1][23]

Bandele has written of the impact on him of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, which he saw on a hire-purchase television set in a railway town in northern Nigeria:[24]

And so although I had yet to set foot outside Kafanchan, although I knew nothing about postwar British society, or the Angry Young Men, or anything about Osborne when I met Jimmy Porter on the screen... there was no need for introductions: I had known Jimmy all my life.

Biyi Bandele at the 2014 Zanzibar International Film Festival.

Bandele's novels, which include The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond (1991) and The Street (1999), have been described as "rewarding reading, capable of wild surrealism and wit as well as political engagement".[25] His 2007 novel, Burma Boy, reviewed in The Independent by Tony Gould, was called "a fine achievement" and lauded for providing a voice for previously unheard Africans.[26][27]


His directorial debut film, Half of a Yellow Sun – based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – was screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF),[28] and received a "rapturous reception".[29] The film received a wide range of critical attention.[30][31][32][33]

He also directed the third season of the popular MTV drama series, Shuga, which aired in 2013.

His 2015 film, entitled Fifty, was included in the London Film Festival.[34]

In 2022, he directed the first Netflix Nigerian Original series Blood Sisters.

Bandele directed the Netflix and Ebonylife TV co-production Elesin Oba, The King's Horseman, the screen adaptation of Wole Soyinka's stage play Death and the King's Horseman, which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022.[35][36] It was described as "the first-ever Yoruba-language film to premiere at TIFF in the Special Presentation category, and then onto Netflix".[37]

Other work[edit]

There were plans by galleries in London and New York to exhibit his photographs of street life in Lagos.[37]


Bandele died in Lagos on 7 August 2022 at the age of 54.[38][39][40][41] The cause of death has not been confirmed.


  • The Man Who Came in From the Back of Beyond, Bellew, 1991
  • The Sympathetic Undertaker: and Other Dreams, Bellew, 1991
  • Marching for Fausa, Amber Lane Press, 1993
  • Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought, Amber Lane Press, 1994
  • Two Horsemen, Amber Lane Press, 1994
  • Death Catches the Hunter/Me and the Boys, Amber Lane Press, 1995
  • Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (adaptation), 1999
  • Aphra Behn's Oroonoko (adaptation), Amber Lane Press, 1999
  • The Street, Picador, 1999
  • Brixton Stories/Happy Birthday, Mister Deka, Methuen, 2001
  • Burma Boy, London: Jonathan Cape, 2007. Published as The King's Rifle in the US and Canada (Harper, 2009).



  • 1989 – International Student Playscript Competition – Rain[42]
  • 1994 – London New Play Festival – Two Horsemen[43]
  • 1995 – Wingate Scholarship Award[44]
  • 2000 – EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award) for Best Play – Oroonoko[45]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Micah L. Issitt, "Bandele, Biyi", Contemporary Black Biography, 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  2. ^ Obioha, Vanessa (9 August 2022). "Prolific Filmmaker Biyi Bandele Dies at 54". This Day. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c James Gibbs, "Bandele, Biyi (1967–)", in Eugene Benson and L. W. Conolly (eds), Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Routledge, 2004, p. 96.
  4. ^ a b c Isa Soares and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, "Biyi Bandele: Making movies to tell Africa's real stories", CNN, 4 March 2014.
  5. ^ Atoke (27 September 2013). "BN Trailblazers & Tastemakers: Nigerian Playwright, Novelist & Film Director Biyi Bandele – From Growing Up in Kafanchan to Directing 'Half of A Yellow Sun' & 'Shuga'!". BellaNaija. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  6. ^ "Telling African Stories: Bandele and Mengestu". Global Black History. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  7. ^ " // Ace Photo, Video and Media studios based in Lagos Nigeria". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  8. ^ Uzoatu, Uzor Maxim (17 August 2022). "Biyi Bandele Who Came In From The Back Of Beyond". Global Upfront Newspapers. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  9. ^ International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004. London: Europa Publications. 2003. p. 22.
  10. ^ "Biyi Bandele". The MacMillan Center Council on African Studies. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Biyi Bandele's Rain set on stage in Lagos". The Guardian. 18 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Marching for Fausa". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre.
  13. ^ "Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre.
  14. ^ "Two Horsemen". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre.
  15. ^ "Death Catches the Hunter". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre.
  16. ^ "Oroonoko By Biyi Bandele". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  17. ^ "Brixton Stories (Or the Short and Happy Life of Ossie Jones)". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre.
  18. ^ "Cooperation: German Premiere "Half of a Yellow Sun" – AfricAvenir International". (in French). Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Happy Birthday Mister Deka D". Black Plays Archive. National Theatre.
  20. ^ "Bandele; Biyi | BPA". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  21. ^ "Leigh, Mike, (born 20 Feb. 1943), dramatist; theatre and film director", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.24231
  22. ^ "Curtis Brown". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  23. ^ "Craig Literary". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Biyi Bandele". Edinburgh Festival. 22 August 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Biyi Bandele (Nigeria)" Archived 26 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Centre For Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2011.
  26. ^ "Burma Boy (The King's Rifle) by Biyi Bandele", The Complete review.
  27. ^ Tony Gould, Burma Boy, by Biyi Bandele – Reviews, Books Archived 23 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 29 June 2007.
  28. ^ "Half of a Yellow Sun". TIFF. Archived from the original on 8 August 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  29. ^ Paul MacInnes, "Biyi Bandele: 'And then we all got typhoid …'", The Guardian, 19 September 2013.
  30. ^ Guy Lodge, "Toronto Film Review: Half of a Yellow Sun", Variety. 17 September 2013.
  31. ^ Karl Quinn, "Director Biyi Bandele cuts the cliches in Half of a Yellow Sun", Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 2014.
  32. ^ Clayton Dillard, "Half of a Yellow Sun" (review), Slant, 12 May 2014.
  33. ^ "Biyi Bandele's Adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun", Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
  34. ^ Davina Hamilton, "'Not Every Nigerian Film Is A Nollywood Movie'", The Voice, 10 October 2015.
  35. ^ Nwogu, Precious 'Mamazeus' (26 October 2021). "Biyi Bandele to direct Ebonylife & Netflix's 'Death and the King's Horseman'". Pulse Nigeria. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  36. ^ "Nigeria's Biyi Bandele: A storyteller to his bones". BBC News. 25 September 2022. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  37. ^ a b Craig, Jessica (18 August 2022). "Obituary: Biyi Bandele". The Bookseller. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  38. ^ Lenbang, Jerry (8 August 2022). "Biyi Bandele, director of 'Half of a Yellow Sun', dies at 54". TheCable Lifestyle. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  39. ^ Busari, Stephanie (9 August 2022). "'A monumental loss to Nigeria's film industry,' director Biyi Bandele passes away at 54". CNN. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  40. ^ Premium Times (8 August 2022). "Nigerian novelist Biyi Bandele is dead". Premium Times Nigeria. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  41. ^ "Biyi Bandele, Director Of 'Half Of A Yellow Sun', Is Dead". Channels Television. 8 August 2022. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  42. ^ "Biyi Bandele's Rain set for the stage in Lagos". The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. 18 August 2019. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  43. ^ "Get To Know The Director Of 'Half Of A Yellow Sun' – Acclaimed Author, Playwright Biyi Bandele". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  44. ^ "10 Young African authors making Africa proud". News Central – Latest in Politics, Business, Sports and stories across Africa. 4 November 2019. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  45. ^ "World Book Day 2020". Breaking Barriers. 1 March 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2020.

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