By Eva Irewole
‘…what is most beautiful about the movie is how it is not only a representation of Ayinla’s life but also the way it reflects the lives of several other characters, which can be reviewed independently or seen as fragmented pieces of Ayinla’s life. In the Nigerian movie industry, Ayinla has set new standards in quality, details, directing, casting, and production for historical and biographical adaptations’
THE Supervisory Board and Distinguished Jury for the Isaac Oluwole Delano Prize for Yoruba Studies 2022 have announced winners in the two categories for the Prize this year.
The winning entries are Akin Ogundiran’s The Yoruba: A New History (Indiana University Press, 2020), in the book category, and Tunde Kelani’s Ayinla (Mainframe, 2021) in the creative and performance category.
In a statement made available to TCN by the organisers, the prize includes a citation, a certificate, $1,000 to be shared equally among both awardees, and public acknowledgment at the annual Convocation Ceremony at Babcock University.
On Kelani 2021 biopic film, Ayinla, the organisers said:
“Making a blockbuster movie is no mean feat. The arduous production process, the continuous refining of creative representations to ensure they project the finest of details, and the place of good storytelling, continuity, and the ability to connect with and sustain the audience’s attention cannot be overstated. Thus, when we consider Ayinla, the latest of Tunde Kelani’s movies, as a blockbuster, we should not only consider it as one of the top five highest-grossing movies in the Nollywood industry but also as a masterpiece that has registered its place as the defining point for biographical adaptations in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
“Another factor that lends awe to Ayinla’s widespread success is that it is dominantly presented in the Yoruba language. Despite this, the movie found widespread acceptance among viewers. It was a hit in cinemas and has been among the top 10 trending movies on Netflix for weeks, further testifying to the strength of the movie’s broad appeal and how quickly it gained popularity among Africans and other lovers of good productions. The things that make Ayinla deserving of praise pale compared to the movie’s awesomeness as a work of art. The movie demonstrates the artistic and creative ingenuity of the cast and crew, especially the producer and the writer, for an apt summation of the life of Ayinla, the musician, in such a eulogizing way, and the director, for the intricate selection of the cast. This has to be lauded because Ayinla is a beautifully arranged masterpiece. Since the movie premiere, not only has the director and the producer been receiving laurels, but the actors and actresses have also received their own warm and large share of the accolades, particularly Lateef Adedimeji, who did not just take on the role of Ayinla but rebirthed himself as the protagonist of the movie. Àyìnlá is the winner of the 2022 Programmer’s Best African Narrative Award in Los Angeles, California, USA.
“Literature is the mirror of life, and the Ayinla movie is another wonderful product of literature that mirrors different aspects of society during Ayinla’s existence and several circumstances that could have contributed to his untimely death. The portrayal of Ayinla in the movie is such that one cannot but love the protagonist’s character, regardless of his whimsical nature. Great commendation must be given to the director and producers for the attention paid to the movie’s setting. When one considers the financial resources pumped into creating a setting that suits the story, the intellectual capabilities forged together to birth the masterpiece, and the human resources pulled together to make the movie a success, one would realize that they must be priceless and invaluable.
“Research must have been conducted to learn about Ayinla’s hometown and his life. We see Ayinla, a musician and band leader subject to the whims and caprices popular among musicians — reneging on promises, devising dubious means to slip out of performing engagements, womanizing unashamedly, downtown brawls, one of which eventually led to his death, and general controversies. Watching Ayinla, the average person, no matter how old, can easily relate the struggles of Ayinla as a thespian to the struggles of artists across all ages, from the new-generation artists to the much older ones, and across genres of music, from hip-hop to Apala, to afrobeat, to highlife, and the likes. During Ayinla’s time, the indigenous religion was still widely accepted. Thus, self-protection, war-enhancing charms, prophecies, and destiny-unearthing ritual prayers were popular and not frowned upon. The viewers are made to see that Ayinla’s life starts to take a turn for the better when he consults the gods of his ancestors and accelerates the manifestation of his glorious destiny.
“Ayinla, the short-tempered, lovable, room-sparking musician, had at his fingertips the deft and rare skills of eulogizing to win people’s hearts and money. If viewers across countries and continents easily love the Ayinla character in the movie — so much so that the love has extended to Lateef Adedimeji for the excellent way he portrayed the character — one can only imagine how much people loved Ayinla during his lifetime. He was the typical Yoruba man who never shied away from saying what was on his mind — whether it was a profession of love, flirtatious words, abusive jabs for his enemies and sparse spenders, or huge words of praise for the big spenders. Ayinla was loved for this same reason. People did not just love Ayinla, the musician; they loved the full embodiment of Ayinla, the talented yet troubled virtuoso many easily misunderstood and the whimsical trouper whose fame was equally his downfall.
“Being only human, Ayinla was prone to infallibility. He surrounded himself with people he could not fully trust, resulting in an abrupt and painful end to his life at a time when he was supposed to grow in popularity astronomically. He was not all saint — but then, is anyone? He snatched his manager’s girlfriend and stepped on some other toes.
“Perhaps, what is most beautiful about the movie is how it is not only a representation of Ayinla’s life but also the way it reflects the lives of several other characters, which can be reviewed independently or seen as fragmented pieces of Ayinla’s life. In the Nigerian movie industry, Ayinla has set new standards in quality, details, directing, casting, and production for historical and biographical adaptations.”
The supervisory board of the initiative consists of the following:
Chair: Professor Bola Dauda; Chief Akinwande Delano, Prof. Bola Sotunsa, Prof. Michael O. Afolayan, Prof. Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso.
The Jury, between 2020 and 2022 had as its Chairman, Prof. Toyin Falola, while members included Prof. Tunde Babawale, University of Lagos; Prof. Pamela Smith, Emeritus Professor, University of Nebraska, Omaha; Prof. Akin Akinlabi, Rutgers University, while the Secretary was Mr. Damilola Osunlakin, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.