Duro Ladipọ (1931–1978) was one of the best known and critically acclaimed Yoruba dramatists who emerged from postcolonial Africa. Writing solely in the Yoruba language, he captivated the symbolic spirit of Yoruba mythologies in his plays, which were later adapted to other media such as photography, television and cinema. His most famous play, Ọba kò so (The King did not Hang), a dramatization of the traditional Yoruba story of how Ṣango became the Orisha of Thunder, received international acclaim at the first Commonwealth Arts Festival in 1965 and on a European tour, where a Berlin critic, Ulli Beier, compared Ladipọ to Karajan. Ladipo usually acted in his own plays.
Duro Ladipo was raised in a Christian family. His father was a minister at an Anglican church in Oṣogbo. However, Ladipo may have been influenced by his grandfather, who migrated to Oṣogbo after the Jalumi war. His grandfather was well versed in Yoruba mythology, especially those emanating from Old Ọyọ, and was known to have worshipped Ṣango and Ọya.
Ladipọ tried hard and succeeded in exposing himself to traditional and Yoruba cultural elements, especially when living under the veil of a Christian home. At a young age, he would sneak out of the vicarage to watch Yoruba festivals. This fascination with his culture goaded him into researching and experimenting with theatrical drama and writing. After leaving Oṣogbo, he went to Ibadan, where he became a teacher. While in Ibadan he became one of the founding members of an artist club called Mbari Mbayo and became influenced by Beier. He later replicated the club in Oṣogbo, and it became the premier group for promoting budding artists and dramatists in Oṣogbo. Throughout his career, Duro Ladipọ wrote ten Yoruba folk operas combining dance, music, mime, proverbs, drumming and praise songs.
Ladipo started his personal theatre group in 1961, but he became fully established with the founding of the Mbari Mbayo Club in Oṣogbo. His popularity as the leader of a folk opera group rests on his three plays: Ọbamoro in 1962, Ọba ko so and Ọba Waja in 1964. (Ọba Waja - "The King is Dead" - is based on the same historical event that inspired fellow Nigerian playwright Wọle Ṣoyinka's Death and the King's Horseman.) He also promoted Mọremi, a play about the Yoruba ancestress of the same name. He later transformed Mbari Mbayo into a cultural center, an arts gallery and a meeting point for young artists seeking to develop their talents. Duro Ladipọ wrote quite a number of plays, such as Suru Baba Iwa" and "Tanimowo Iku." Some of his plays were also produced for television. In fact, he created Bode Wasinimi for the Nigerian Television Authority, Ibadan.
In 1977, Duro Ladipo participated in FESTAC '77, the Second World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture, in Lagos, Nigeria.
- Ladipọ, Duro (1972). Ọba kò so (The king did not hang) — Opera by Duro Ladipọ. (Transcribed and translated by R. G. Armstrong, Robert L. Awujọọla and Val Ọlayẹmi from a tape recording by R. Curt Wittig). Ibadan: Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.