Biyi Bandele

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Biyi Bandele
Biye Bandele 01.JPG
Biyi Bandele-Thomas

(1967-10-13) 13 October 1967 (age 53)
Alma materObafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
OccupationFilmmaker, Novelist
Years active1998–present

Biyi Bandele (born Biyi Bandele-Thomas; 13 October 1967)[1] is a Nigerian novelist, playwright and filmmaker. Bandele is a UK-based Nigerian writer for fiction, theatre, journalism, television, film and radio. He moved to London in 1990.[1]

Nigeria to London[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. Bandele spent the first 18 years of his life in the north-central part of the country. Bandele had ambitions to be a writer and when he was 14 years old he won a short-story competition.[2] Later on, he moved to Lagos, then in 1987 studied drama at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.[1][3] He won the International Student Playscript competition of 1989 with an unpublished play, Rain,[4] before claiming the 1990 British Council Lagos Award for a collection of poems.[1][5] He moved to London in 1990 at the age of 22 armed with the manuscripts of two novels.[3] His books were published and he was given a commission by the Royal Court Theatre.[3]


Bandele worked with the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as writing radio drama and screenplays for television.[6] His plays include: Rain; Marching for Fausa (1993); Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought (1994); Two Horsemen (1994), selected as Best New Play at the 1994 London New Plays Festival; Death Catches the Hunter and Me and the Boys (published in one volume, 1995); and Oroonoko, an adaptation of Aphra Behn's 17th-century novel of the same name.[7] In 1997 he did a successful dramatization of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.[2] Brixton Stories, Bandele's stage adaptation of his own novel The Street (1999), premiered in 2001 and was published in one volume with his play Happy Birthday Mister Deka, which premiered in 1999.[8] He also adapted Lorca's Yerma in 2001.[2]

He was writer-in-residence with Talawa Theatre Company from 1994 to 1995,[9] resident dramatist with the Royal National Theatre Studio (1996),[10] the Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in 2000–01.[11] He also acted as Royal Literary Fund Resident Playwright at the Bush Theatre from 2002 to 2003.[1][12]

Bandele has written of the impact of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, which he saw on a hire-purchase television set in a railway town in northern Nigeria:[13]

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.

Biyi 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."[14] 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.[15][16]

Film director[edit]

His directorial debut film Half of a Yellow Sun was screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival,[17] and received a "rapturous reception".[18] The film received a wide range of critical attention.[19][20][21][22] His new film, entitled Fifty, was included in the 2015 London Film Festival.[23] He also directed the third season of the popular MTV drama series, Shuga.



  • 1989 – International Student Playscript Competition – Rain[24]
  • 1994 – London New Play Festival – Two Horsemen[25]
  • 1995 – Wingate Scholarship Award[26]
  • 2000 – EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award) for Best Play – Oroonoko[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Micah L. Issitt, "Bandele, Biyi", Contemporary Black Biography, 2009., retrieved 12 October 2015.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b c Isa Soares and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, "Biyi Bandele: Making movies to tell Africa's real stories", CNN, 4 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Telling African Stories: Bandele and Mengestu". Global Black History. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  5. ^ " // Ace Photo, Video and Media studios based in Lagos Nigeria". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Biyi Bandele | The MacMillan Center Council on African Studies". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Africanist & Global Authors | Borders Literature Online". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Cooperation: German Premiere "Half of a Yellow Sun" - AfricAvenir International". (in French). Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  9. ^ "Bandele; Biyi | BPA". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  10. ^ "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
  11. ^ "Curtis Brown". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Craig Literary". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Biyi Bandele". Edinburgh Festival. 22 August 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Biyi Bandele (Nigeria)" Archived 26 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Centre For Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2011.
  15. ^ "Burma Boy (The King's Rifle) by Biyi Bandele", The Complete review.
  16. ^ Tony Gould, Burma Boy, by Biyi Bandele – Reviews, Books Archived 23 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 29 June 2007.
  17. ^ "Half of a Yellow Sun". TIFF. Archived from the original on 8 August 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Paul MacInnes, "Biyi Bandele: 'And then we all got typhoid …'", The Guardian, 19 September 2013.
  19. ^ Guy Lodge, "Toronto Film Review: ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’", Variety. 17 September 2013.
  20. ^ Karl Quinn, "Director Biyi Bandele cuts the cliches in Half of a Yellow Sun", Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 2014.
  21. ^ Clayton Dillard, "Half of a Yellow Sun" (review), Slant, 12 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Biyi Bandele’s Adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun", Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
  23. ^ Davina Hamilton, "'Not Every Nigerian Film Is A Nollywood Movie'", The Voice, 10 October 2015.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ "Get To Know The Director Of 'Half Of A Yellow Sun' - Acclaimed Author, Playwright Biyi Bandele". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  26. ^ "10 Young African authors making Africa proud9 minutes read". News Central - Latest in Politics, Business, Sports and stories across Africa. 4 November 2019. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  27. ^ "World Book Day 2020". Breaking Barriers. 1 March 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2020.

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