One of the most difficult tasks of a publisher is to announce the passing of one its authors. Believe me, it’s even hard to just simply process. Biola Olatunde, a prolific and much loved author, has died of a sudden illness, aged 70 years.
To add to this tragedy, she passed in July 2021 and I, and everyone I know on social media, were totally unaware of this tragic event until today. This morning I followed up on some administrative matters, including an unanswered set of email sent to Biola. My intuition kicked in and I searched the Internet for any news about her. This resulted in many Nigerian online news sites that announced her death. It was a total shock to me.
Biola was one of IFWG’s earliest authors, who wrote in a wonderful English form that beautifully reflected the way English was spoken in her homeland, Nigeria, and she consistently and effectively critiqued her society: the magic as well as the darker side.
Her first novel with us was Blood Contract, a non-speculative adventure set in the Niger Delta, where a successful man returns to his village and is torn by the contrast of cultures and also his personal, haunted history. Her next three books, comprising the Numen Yeye series, were special to us, as they again looked inward to Nigerian society, but through the eyes of a reincarnated goddess. We also published Biola’s poems and short fiction. Not an insubstantial body of work, and we are very aware that she had spent many years in the broadcasting business as a scriptwriter.
While gaining regional success, we feel that Biola Olatunde did not gain the recognition she deserved abroad. Many reasons contributed to this, but certainly the tyranny of distance played the largest part.
I really wish I could have met her face to face, as I often referred to her as ‘my African sister’. She loved that phrase. She was a delight to work with.
This isn’t just an obituary by Biola’s publisher. It is also a way for us to show the world, one final time, that we published a significant writer and poet, and we should all rejoice in her accomplishments, and grieve that she left us all too soon.
The following is her biography, taken and modified from our records:
With more than 30 years experience as a scriptwriter and producer, Biola had written more than 200 stories for both radio and television, as well as poetry anthologies, an adventure novel, Blood Contract, a contemporary African fantasy novel series Numen Yeye (Numen Yeye, Rose of Numen, and Numen!), and an e-chapbook collection of haunting short stories, Sunset Tales.
She was an alumnus of the Dramatic Arts department Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
A professionally trained newscaster, she went independent nearly thirty years ago. She was involved in intervention drama to help change attitudes within society and so created a series for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on teenage reproductive health, “I NEED TO KNOW”. It was so successful that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) became involved and had it adapted into radio, in two of the major Nigerian languages. It was shown on national, state and private television and radio in the country as well as on satellite television.
Biola was always interested in bringing social issues to public attention using drama and fiction, including writing for USAID on maternal health, Democracy and Governance, Women’s issues, and HIV/AIDS.
She was given a distinguished alumni award from the Dramatic Arts Department of her alma mater O.A.U Ife, in recognition of her contributions to the growth of the legacy of Dramatic Art.
Vale, Biola Olatunde.