Yoruba films are renowned for featuring a wide variety of native characters, one of which is the “babalawo” (herbalist, Ifa, or priest of voodoo). Even while they may not really represent these personas in real life, some actors have developed into masters at bringing the part to life on screen.
Saturday Beats features a few performers who have gained notoriety in Nollywood for portraying “babalawo” roles.
Ganiu Nafiu, aka Alapini Osa Alapini Osa is a veteran Yoruba actor who has been in the industry for over five decades.
He began his acting career in 1977 and became popular for the many roles of ‘babalawo’ he played.
He trained under the late filmmaker, Akin Ogungbe, and eventually under the late Ray Eyiwunmi.
In an earlier interview with Saturday PUNCH, Alapini revealed that he usually acts as an herbalist in many movies because he kept getting calls for such roles due to his proficiency in the roles.
My paternal grandmother is a practitioner of traditional medicine and my dad is also a traditionalist. Though I didn’t make a career out of it, I like the traditional aspects of my movies,” he stated.
Olayinka Quadri Olayinka Quadri is another actor who is well known for his skilful interpretation of ‘babalawo’ roles. He started his career in 1976 when he formed a drama group called the Afopina Theatre Group. Born on Lagos Island, he had his primary school and secondary education in Lagos. He is known for his roles in ‘Kadara Mi’, ‘Ticket to Life’, and ‘Obinrin Sowanu’, among others.
Tajudeen Oyewole, aka Abija Tajudeen Oyewole, aka Abija, is known for the remarkable roles he plays as a ‘babalawo’. Some of the movies he has featured in include ‘Omo Abore’, ‘Eyin Ogongo’ and ‘Iyá ojú àgún.’ He came into limelight featuring in traditional movies produced by the late Alhaji Yekini Ajileye such as ‘Koto Aye’, ‘Koto Orun’ and ‘Eran iya Osogbo’, among others. Born in Osun State, he started his acting career in the early 1980s. He is also a talented dancer and singer. In most of the movies, he plays the role of the community’s saviour with extraordinary powers over evil forces.
Fatai Adetayo, aka Lalude Fatai Adetayo,
popularly called Lalude, is an actor who is well-grounded in Yoruba culture and tradition. He is known for his talented execution of ‘babalawo’ roles. Despite how well he plays the role, Lalude recently revealed that he did not possess any mysterious power. Lalude began his acting career at a young age.
He joined drama groups while he was still in primary school and is known for his roles in ‘Mayegun’, ‘Ibinu Balogun’, and ‘Arikuyeri’, among others.
Ibrahim Chatta In 2012, Chatta rose to the limelight when he acted alongside popular actors such as Muyiwa Ademola, Femi Adebayo, Jide Kosoko, Wale Akorede, Dele Odule and Bisi Komolafe in a movie titled ‘Aiyekooto.’
He was born on October 13, 1970, in Bachita, Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State. Though he acts in other roles, he has acted as ‘babalawo’ in several movies.
Taofeeq Adewale, aka Digboluja Adewale, aka Digboluja, actor and movie producer, is reputed for playing the role of herbalist in Yoruba movies.
In an interview with Gbajumo TV, Adewale revealed that he does not have charms in real life as he displays in most movies he features in. Digboluja started acting at secondary school when he used to act in drama and stage plays.
Upon leaving secondary school, he joined the Yoruba movie industry and was featured in minor roles until he eventually started getting bigger roles.
Olasunkanmi Akanni, aka Olohuniyo Akanni, popularly known as Olohuniyo, is no doubt a versatile actor. However, his embodiment of ‘babalawo’ roles in movies is flawless. He has produced several movies, including, ‘Herbalist Rank’, ‘Ajakuta’, and ‘Yahoo Babalawo’, among others. He had always loved acting since primary school but started professionally in 2008.
Idowu Adenekan, aka Oluwo Adenekan, popularly called Oluwo, is known for his roles in ‘Olokiki Oru: The Midnight Sensation’, ‘Evil Deeds’ and ‘Aye O’, among others. He is another talented actor who is good at interpreting the role of ‘babalawo’ in movies. It was the role that shot him into the limelight many years ago. He is also very good at reciting incantations.
Adewale Alebiosu Alebiosu is popularly known for playing ‘babalawo’ or Ifa priest in movies.
He is also a scriptwriter and a movie producer. In an interview with BBC, he spoke on how powerful the role he acts is, and what actors should do after playing such roles. He said, “There are times when we (actors) utter (recite) incantations without knowing that there are hidden meanings and powers behind those words. Actors who want to play traditional priests and native doctors should pray fervently.”