Tunde Kelani: Cinema With a Social Vision

The venerable Nigerian cineaste Tundé Kélani in a one hour conversation with Afrobeatradio’s Wuyi Jacobs over an international call. He recounts with some relish his long relationship with the camera. It was unusual at the time for a nine-year-old to count a camera among his possessions. His father wanted him to be a pharmacist but by the time he finished high school in Abeokuta, it had become clear to him without doubt that his life’s vocation lay in photography.

TK as he is fondly called by friends and associates became an apprentice photographer in the Lagos studios of Dotun Okubajo from 1969 to 1970. Shortly after, he joined the newly established Western Nigerian Television as a trainee cameramen and started on a career path that would lead him to being one of Africa’s most prolific filmmakers.

TK has played a central if not pivotal role in Nigerian Cinema. He has contributed to most of the the feature films on celluloid that have been made since the 1970s. His credits as cinematographer include such films as Anikura, Ogun Ajaye, Iya Ni Wura, Taxi Driver, Fopomoyo, and Iwa. His own feature film credits include, Ti Oluwa Nile, Ayo Ni Mo Fe, Koseegbe, Oleku, Saworoide, Thunderbolt, Agogo Eewo.

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Born in Lagos in 1948, Mr. Kelani was raised in Abeokuta at this paternal lineage compound, at the insistence of his father who wanted him fully immersed in traditions and culture of his Yoruba people. He would spent his vacation from school in Lagos and later Ibadan where his parents worked and lived. This combination of access to traditional life and culture, and to the urban life of Lagos and Ibadan will later in life give him access to a great cultural store of visual imagery, literature, theatre and festivals that inspire his work as a filmmaker.

Tunde Kelani does newsreel, shorts and documentary work for BBC world service and other international news organizations in Nigeria and Africa, including, the M-Net New Directions initiative as cinematographer, director and producer.

by Wuyi Jacobs
Akenataa Hammagaadji contributed to this article and broadcast the interview on his WVKR radio program FirstWorldMusic on Sunday August 22, 2010.
Photographic Slide Show Edgardo Parada & Wuyi Jacobs
All Pictures were provided by Tunde Kelani and Mainframe Film and Television Productions.