Tunde Kelani


Tunde Kelani (born 26 February 1948), popularly known as TK, is a Nigerian filmmaker. In a career spanning more than four decades, TK specialises in producing movies that promote Nigeria's rich cultural heritage and have a root in documentation, archiving, education, entertainment and promotion of the culture.[1]

Tunde Kelani
Born (1948-02-26) 26 February 1948 (age 74)
Lagos, Nigeria
Alma materLondon Film School

He is also known for his love of adaptation of literary material into movies as most of his works have followed that style of filmmaking including Ko se Gbe, Oleku, Thunder Bolt, The Narrow Path, White Handkerchief, Maami and Dazzling Mirage.[2][3]

At an early age, he was sent to Abeokuta, to live with his grandparents. The rich Yoruba culture and tradition he experienced in his early years, coupled with the experience he garnered at the London Film School where he studied the art of filmmaking, prepared him for what he is doing today.[4][5][6][7]

Early lifeEdit

Tunde Kelani, TK was born in Lagos but at age of five, he was sent to live with his grandparents at Abeokuta in Ogun. He attended the Oke-Ona Primary School in Ikija, Abeokuta and had his secondary school education at Abeokuta grammar school. During this time, his grandfather was a chief (the Balogun of Ijaiye Kukudi) and he was privileged to have witnessed most aspects of Yoruba ways of life, the Yoruba religion, Yoruba literature, Yoruba philosophy, Yoruba environments and Yoruba world view in arts at close quarters.[8]

He was introduced to Yoruba literature from an early stage in his life and was also greatly influenced by theatre as the Yorubas had a very strong travelling theatre tradition at that time. When he was in secondary school, he had the privilege to see most of the great Yoruba theatre classics including the Palmwine Drinkard, Oba Koso, Kurunmi, Ogunde plays and more.[9]

He got interested in photography from primary school. Throughout his secondary school education, he was actively investing money and taking to time to learn photography. So, inevitably, he became an apprentice photographer after he finished secondary school. Later, he trained at the then Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) and went further to attend the London Film School.[10]

Early careerEdit

In the 1970s, Kelani worked as a BBC TV and Reuters correspondent, and in Nigerian TV. For Reuters he travelled to Ethiopia to cover the drought and to Zimbabwe three times to cover independence there.[10] Once he finished from the London Film School, he returned to Nigeria and co-produced his first film with Adebayo Faleti called The Dilema of Rev. Father Michael. (Idaamu Paadi Minkailu). Other co-producers include Alhaji Lasisi Oriekun, Wale Fanubi – his partner from Cinekraft, Yemi Farounbi and screenplay by Lola Fani-Kayode.[11] Tunde Kelani has also worked on most feature films produced in Nigeria in his capacity as a cinematographer. Some of the 16mm feature films he worked on include: Anikura; Ogun Ajaye; Iya Ni Wura; Taxi Driver; Iwa and Fopomoyo.[12] In 1990, Kelani was an assistant director and an actor in the 1990 film Mister Johnson, the first American film shot on location in Nigeria.[13] Starring Pierce Brosnan and Maynard Eziashi, the film was based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary.[14][15][16][17]

Literary adaptationsEdit

TK developed a soft spot for reading at a very young age and this later developed into his favourite pastime. Starting with the five works of D. O. Fagunwa, which include Igbo Olodumare, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale, Aditu Olodumare, Irinkerindo Ninu Igbo Elegbeje and Ireke Onibudo, he immersed himself in any literal work he could get his hands on in both Yoruba and English language.[11] Once he discovered the relationship between literature and drama, he adopted literary adaptations as a working model for his filmmaking. Not only does he love the books, he loves the authors too as he's always found hanging among them. His favourite writers include Kola Akinlade, Pa Amos Tutuola, Cyprian Ekwensi, Akinwunmi Ishola, Adebayo Faleti, Wale Ogunyemi and Wole Soyinka.[18]

Some of his most successful films are literary adaptations and they include: Koseegbe, Oleku, Thunderbolt (Magun), The White Handkerchief, The Narrow Path, Maami and recently Dazzling Mirage. He has decided to maintain this model for his future films.[19]

Production companyEdit

In 1991, Tunde Kelani started his own production company, Mainframe Films and Television Productions – Opomulero, so he could produce films and not just lend technical support. Having emerged from the world of theatre and literature, adaptations of books and plays for cinema are the core of Kelani's filmmaking practice and through them he celebrates writers and their work to what he sees as a public that reads less and less.[20]

At Mainframe, he has produced movies such as Ti Oluwa Nile, Ayo Ni Mo Fe, Koseegbe, Oleku, Thunderbolt (Magun), Saworoide, Agogo Eewo, The Campus Queen, Abeni, Narrow Path, Arugba and Maami.[21][22]

His Latest work, Dazzling Mirage, an adaptation from a novel by Olayinka Egbokhare, is a love story of how a sickle-cell sufferer overcomes social stigma, prejudice and her own low self-esteem, to achieve success, marriage and motherhood. Through the movie, he hopes to bring much needed awareness and attention to the sickle-cell condition and help people make better informed decisions.[23]


Year Film Notes
1982 Orun Mooru as a cinematographer
1993 Ti Oluwa Nile 1
Ti Oluwa Nile 2
Ti Oluwa Nile 3
1994 Ayo Ni Mofe
Ayo Ni Mofe 2
1995 Koseegbe
1997 O Le Ku
1999 Saworoide
2000 White Handkerchief
2001 Thunderbolt: Magun
2002 Agogo Eewo
2004 The Campus Queen
2006 Abeni
The Narrow Path
2008 Life in Slow Motion
2010 Arugba
2011 Maami
2015 Dazzling Mirage
2021 Ayinla

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Help, Our culture, language dying – Tunde Kelani". Tayo Salami. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  2. ^ "Interview with Tunde Kelani". MasterClass on Nollywood, British Film Institute.
  3. ^ "Tunde Kelani". Africa Movie Academy Awards.
  4. ^ "Juries Announced for Dubai International Film Festival's Prestigious Muhr Competition". Dubai International Film Festival. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Tunde Kelani, Cinematographer per excellence". Saturday Newswatch.
  6. ^ "Zooming in on Kelani's World". This Day Live. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  7. ^ "Tunde Kelani Exclusive – I relax by working". Nigerian Entertainment Today.
  8. ^ "We'll redefine African Cinema – Tunde Kelani". Nollywood Magazine. Retrieved 10 April 2004.
  9. ^ "Tunde Kelani, Cinematographer per excellence". Sunday News Watch.
  10. ^ a b Moorman, Marissa. "Not Nollywood: An Interview with Nigerian Filmmaker Tunde Kelani". Africa is a Country. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  11. ^ a b Obenson, Tambay A. "Get To Know Veteran Nigerian Director Tunde Kelani in New Life/Career Profile w/ The Filmmaker". IndieWire. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Tunde Kelani Biography". IMDb.
  13. ^ "Mister Johnson: Off the Beaten Track | Current | The Criterion Collection".
  14. ^ Bada, Gbenga. "'I once acted as Piers Brosnan houseboy,' Tunde Kelani". Movie Moments.
  15. ^ "Mister Johnson (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  16. ^ Olakitan, Yemi (29 August 2013). "Rare Interview with Tunde Kelani". Yoruba Acting and Movies. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  17. ^ "Mister Johnson". IMDb.
  18. ^ "Filmmaker Tunde Kelani Brings Nigerian Literature to Life". Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries.
  19. ^ Ofeimun, Odia. "In Defense of the Films We Have Made". Chronic Chimurenga. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  20. ^ "About the Director, Tunde Kelani". AFF Inc. Films Archive.
  21. ^ BONETTI Mahen and REDDY Prerana, ed. (2003). Through African Eyes | Vol.1 – Dialogues with the Directors. African Film Festival, Inc. and Printinfo JV LLC. p. 106.
  22. ^ "Tunde Kelani Receives Award at Dubai International". Nollywood by Mindspace. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  23. ^ Okonkwo, Oge (5 December 2013). "The trailer is here! Tunde Kelani presents new movie, 'Dazzling Mirage'". YNaija. Retrieved 5 December 2013.

External linksEdit

  • Tunde Kelani Official website
  • Dazzling Mirage Official website
  • Academic analysis of Tunde Kelani's writings
  • Tunde Kelani at IMDb
  • Tunde Kelani at Rotten Tomatoes