•Reveals How He Started His Career In IFE
Chief Peter Fatomilola is a dramatist, film actor, poet and prolific playwright. The 74 old thespian is one of the veteran actors Nigeria has produced. For over 50 years, he is still much relevant in the movie industry. He plays big in the entertainment industry as many producers always use him in their movies. Even if you don’t know him by name, his signature remains his all-white full hair and all-white beards which makes him different from others. Highly revered and very popular, it will interest you to know that Chief Peter Fatomilola is also a lecturer. He was a Theatre Art lecturer at the prestigious University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, until he retired years ago. He was one of the pioneer founders of the Theatre Arts department in Ife. Known for his priest roles in movies which he interprets very well, this has endeared him to many producers and anything that has to do with arts that they feature him back to back in many projects. His family and upbringing have affected his life positively and he has also groomed his children to be sound and hardworking, He is also still very sound mentally and still acts movies even at close to 80.
Chief Peter Fatomilola has been living all his life in Ife though he is from Ekiti State. He has been living in Ife for over 40 years. His determination and doggedness to what he knows how best to do, acting, has earned him different awards and titles from Ekiti and Osun State. He was born on 16 January 1946 in the town of Ifisin-Ekiti in Ido-Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State to Chief Abraham Ojo Fatomilola and Mrs. Elizabeth Fatomilola. He is a son of Chief Ifa Priest, known as the Oluwo which was believed to have influenced his herbalist role in movies.
The story of Ile-Ife or Obafemi Awolowo University will not be complete without mentioning his name because he has contributed in no small measure in helping the university produce many sound graduates from the theatre department. In a recent TV documentary on Africa Magic done on Ile Ife as the cradle of Yoruba kind, he was one of the foremost influential elders who was interviewed to contribute and talk on the history of Ile ife. He revealed how he started his acting career in Ile ife, having belonging to a theatre group, “Ori Olokun” where he does stage play and tutor students before they moved inside the campus and became the pioneer founders of university’s theatre art department while Prof Wole Soyinka was the dean of the faculty amongst other things.
“ Ife is a great town. I started my acting career in Ife performing stage plays and tutoring students as well. I belong to a theatre group called Ori Olokun. We used to gather at a place in town called Arobidi in Ife. That was where ori olokun thetre group was situated, the Ife university leased the place from one baba Pedro so we were there because there was no department of dramatic arts at that time in the university. What we had that time was African studies. When Ori Olokun now developed, then African studies was then divided into many departments such as department of dramatic arts, department of linguistics known today as Yoruba and other African languages, department of fine arts and music as well. Then we as Ori Olokun group were now recognized and we were taken out of town into the school premises where we were now provided with a department in the school. We were the pioneer founders of the department of dramatic arts in the University of Ife when prof Wole Soyinka was the head of the department. Then later the school of drama was now created, we were the first set of students of that school as well. If I mention those we started together, there were many of us who were prominent at that time., part of them was Chief Kola Oyewo, Dr Larinde Akinleye, Prof Akinwunmi Ishola, Baba Debiyi Faleye, Ola Rotimi and so on. Prof Ola Rotimi gave me many stage roles in different movies and he was prominent for authoring many books. Prof Wole Soyinka was then the head of department under whom I trained for 10 years”.
It will interest you to know that Chief Peter Fatomilola started acting stage plays at a very young age after learning to be a ‘herbalist’ from his father. His mother was from the town of Isare-Oge in Kwara State. His life history will never be complete without these two great men. Prof Ola Rotimi and Prof Wole Soyinka. In 1967, he joined the Olokun Theatre group under the tutelage of the late Professor Ola Rotimi, a renowned dramatist and prolific playwright at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. He is also a member of the academic staff of Obafemi Awolowo University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts in 1978. He was the first “Papa Ajasco”, a lead role in a comedy film produced by Wale Adenuga and had featured in several notable Nigerian films such as Sango, an epic African film produced by Obafemi Lasode and scripted by Wale Ogunyemi in 1997. He is known to have been acting the role of the priest in several Yoruba films.
In addition, he has several chieftaincy titles around Yorubaland, including Oluwo (Chief Ifa Priest) in his hometown of Ifisin-Ekiti and he was also installed as Amuludun in Ile-Ife by the late Oba Okunade Sijuwade.
In one of his interviews, he also revealed “We teach the students the practical aspect of theatre arts. You must have been hearing of the Obafemi Awolowo University Theatre, which serves as a laboratory for the Department of Dramatic Arts. The university’s theatre department has been in existence since 1967, but the department for Dramatic Arts came in 1977, ten years after. As a theatre practitioner, I have been working in the university for almost ten years before the department of dramatic arts came.I started as a stage actor with people like Ola Rotimi and initially, they did not call me an actor, they called me a free-lance artiste/performer in training. After a few years, they called me a performer before I got a permanent appointment with the University of Ife. Before then, I worked with the late Ola Rotimi before Professor Wole Soyinka took over and he also trained me for another ten years. So, my experience under the two masters has contributed to my success today.
At the age of 18, I had mastered ‘Ifa’ and herbs, and today, I am the ‘Olu Awo’ (Chief Priest) of my town in Ifisin-Ekiti. I inherited this from my father. I came to Ile-Ife, Osun State to study. I had my secondary school education and after that, I joined the late Prof. Ola Rotimi in the year 1967, the very year he came from America and we discovered each other. He advised me to join him doing drama. That led me to go and study drama and I was one of the first set in the School of Drama during the time of Wole Soyinka. That was where people knew that I had the knowledge of ‘Ifa’ and herbs. When they discovered that I could do it very well in movies, either in Yoruba or English, they gave me such part and I performed it very well. When the Yoruba group of artists started filmmaking, they too realised that I was very versatile. When they wrote scripts, they might not know the correct ‘Odu’, “words” to use, and they knew that if they could get in touch with me, I knew the correct ‘odu’. That one projected me to the world”.
Chief Peter Fatomilola practices the 3 religions according to him, he was the only child of his mother, Mrs Elizabeth Fatomilola, though his father had several other children. He had his primary education at The Apostolic Primary School, Iwaro-Oke; he went to the modern school at Ilesa and then Ife City Commercial College in 1968 for his secondary education.
Acting, for him, began when he was in primary school. He used to write short plays and direct his friends who were co-actors with him. When he was at the City College, he collaborated with his housemaster and established a drama group named Ife City Dramatic Society, and In the course of these tours, in 1970, Peter came in contact with late Professor Ola Rotimi during a festival at Oranmiyan Local Government where he had won the medal as best actor. Peter Fatomilola is a proud father of over two dozens of children who he has successfully trained in their academic endeavours and are prominent in the country today.
-TAYO FAJORIN OYEDIJI