Listen to a Londoner: Professor Femi Osofisan

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere.
If you want to be interviewed, email


This interview was conducted by Efemena Agadama for Little London Observationist. Efemena is a poet and playwright, originally from Nigeria, who is working on his first novel. He normally contributes articles to his Amnesty International blog.


Professor Femi Osofisan

Oh! See how the stage drums are welcoming Professor Femi Osofisan.  He is a renowned playwright, poet and novelist with the pen name “Okinba Launko,” who has won the Folon-Nichols Award, ANA prize(s) for literature and poetry, regional Commonwealth poetry award, City of Pennsylvania Bell Award for Artistic Performance and several other awards and appointments spanning several continents.  He has published over 50 literary works, and has also been part of the revered literary story of London.

LLO: What interests you most in or about London?
I am generally excited about big cities, about the environment they offer for creativity, experimentation, and adventure—as well as for their opposite, death, destruction and atrophy. You are constantly challenged, as an artist in a big city, by this threat of death and/or rejuvenation. London to me is like that.

LLO: You have published over fifty respected plays.  How does your inspiration come?
From politics, that is, from history as daily experienced. The aim is to make the present and the future better for all of us.

LLO: Tell us some of the countries where you have performed your plays.
The UK, Germany, the USA, Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada, plus different African countries.

Taken while Professor Osofisan was directing JP Clark’s OZIDI at the Arts Theatre at the University of Ibadan.

LLO: Over the years, Nigerian and African writers have identified with London.  Do you find London as an interesting environment for Nigerian and African writers?
It should be, given the large population of African and African Caribbean people in London. The city also has a long history of creative activism in the arts.

LLO: Do you find that literature from a different culture, such as English or Greek, tends to influence the themes and styles in the work of African writers?
FO: Yes of course, just as the reverse is also true. The best works anywhere always transcend their geographical and temporal frontiers, to speak to humanity all over the world and in all ages. Artists drink from all sources. That is how all cultures thrive, from the cross-pollination with other cultures.

LLO: What advantages can theatre professionals derive by performing their plays and organizing literary activities in London? 
FO: The usual advantages: well-mounted productions with skilled directors and actors; a good publicity; plus a fairly good pay.

LLO: Which London library interests you most?
FO: I have been using the same library for years—and this is the SOAS library, by Russell Square. Its collections on my area of interest are simply breath-taking!

LLO: What is your advice to inspire the new voices in African literature living in London to succeed as writers?
The same as I give to all aspiring writers everywhere, whether African or not—namely, that the best way to write is by writing, and reading. Read as much as you can; and never stop writing.

LLO: Do you have upcoming events being planned for London to keep our readers timely informed?
Not in the immediate coming months, I am afraid. But I shall probably be delivering this year’s Pinter Lectures at Goldsmiths in October. 

LLO: And kindly tell us how to purchase your literary works (poems, plays and novels).
Most of them are published and sold in Nigeria, and can be purchased from The Booksellers bookstore run by Mosuro in Ibadan. They have a website, I believe. But in the UK, the best contact for my works is the African Books Collective, in Oxford.

Thanks Professor Osofisan and Efemena!

If you are interested in reading more about Professor Osofisan, visit his website:

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

20 comments on “Listen to a Londoner: Professor Femi Osofisan

  1. An excerpt of one of the songs in the “Women of Owu” by Femi Osofisan:

    My son, Aderogun!
    You become my father today
    When you get home, give them my greetings:
    Aderogun, brave one
    Farewell, till we meet again!
    Son of the warrior Jagunmolu
    offspring of Owu’s ancestors…

  2. It was a privilege to interview an elephant of theatre who has toured through diverse forests of theatres for his performances. A professor without a name on his door. His office has become a museum of awards and books for reviews. Thanks for this rare interview.

  3. I have heard about this Professor though I have not read any of his works. I particularly like the part of the interview, on his advice to aspiring writers. …”the best way to write is by writing, and reading. Read as much as you can; and never stop writing”. It is also important for people to learn how to draw from their inner voice, and not always getting engrossed with the works of others. Each of us has something to offer humanity. My dear friend, keep up the good work!

  4. It will be nice to watch the OZIDI with people lying on the stage floor. Osofisan has paid his dues a household name in world theatre.

  5. “The best way to write is by writing and reading. Read as much as you can and never stop” This is an inspiring statement from a Prof. We(Africans) are really shining and doing ourselves proud. Good work!!!!!!

  6. A poem I wrote when I was 19 years old. (I’m now 22)

    My favorite five senses

    Smelling a delicate, velvet rose in a garden of thorns.
    Tasting a ripe piece of fruit, letting the sweet, tangy juices excite my mouth.
    Feeling a sharp needle pierce my skin and cold surgical steel going through the fresh new hole.
    Seeing a bright orange sun at the beginning of a new day.
    Hearing the roar of an ocean wave crashing on the shore, on a warm, calm summer morning.

  7. I am so glad to see that people still use past civilizations as a canvas for their art. I gives us something to fall back on as a society to see how we have grown. I am also pleased to see that play writing isnt dead!!

  8. Good interview Efemena. I respect Osofisan a lot but I think dramatists are having a time coming up and this leaves Osofisan with the role of mentorship.

  9. @Akpos: Kudos – but you should have a better idea of him because of your vast travellings and also service within his domain.
    @Chukwuma: Thank you – you who holds the facebook page to ransom. I’m waiting to see you receive your prize someday.
    @Eagle: The sky has been your abode for centuries ….carry on.
    @Victor: Thanks.
    @Donna Gates: Thank you. I think all the way from USA. I’m lost of words with your poem and intellect. Your poem invokes Soyinka’s “Lion and the Jewel” before me here.
    @Femi: Your words tell of you as a writer…I will be glad to read your works.
    @Eric Powell: Your words remind me of Chinua Achebe writing sentences in “Things Fall Apart” first published in 1958
    ………………………..To all, thanks.

  10. An adept interview… Giving a snip insight into the life of an Icon. I’ve always thought of the man as a literary theorist, and better still proud to be African because of people like him
    @ Efe: Great job, nice precision and choice of questions.

  11. Anyone can write. But not everyone can do so with their hearts and minds and touch the lives of so many. Professor Femi Osofisan is clearly, without a doubt, gifted on the latter. His works magnify God’s greatest gift to mankind.

    Oh how I wish I could visit London! I am on the same page as him. I find big cities to be very interesting. There are so many things happening all at once, you discover both the kindest and cruelest of men. It’s indeed an adventure. And we all know environment plays a huge role in writing.

    I love how he said he draws his inspiration from Politics. Politics in itself is quite a challenge. I usually draw mine from my own personal experiences, people and issues that I personally feel compelled to write about or speak of. When he said, “the aim is to make the present and future better for all of us” his being remarkable has just been validated once again. To write is one thing, to write with purpose is a whole another level. A force driven by both love and a sense of responsibility and accountability. What an admirable man he is!

    Thank you Professor Femi for sharing your talent and grace to the world. You are most definitely a rare jewel. A treasure to be cherished til the end of time. Your words shall echo for generations to come.

    I shall follow your advice. I will keep writing and keep reading. I could only hope to be half the artist you are!

    More power and God bless all your endeavors in life!

    Efe, my friend, I cannot thank you enough for introducing me to such amazing artist. I am forever in your debt.

  12. @Daniel Orija: Thanks but “Stephanie” is the university of drafting interview questions. I’m learning from her fountain of wisdom.
    @Chioma: I feel amazed going though your blog now. Great! I still have to learn from you.
    @BeautiesEdge: Thanks.
    @Jeni: Great stuff from US. In fact, you are a school of thought. Let me copy your words into my archive for subsequent reading.

  13. The system of introduction that was present him was so good, because many of people did not know him .
    1- the first question was beautiful , but way you do not discuss him opinion about London ,and you just champ to the second question .
    2- You ask him , how does your inspiration come?
    And he answered you ,but so way you did not take the point of (The aim is to make the present and the future better for all of us).
    This point is very important to discuss it ,because here you will know the motivation that can big up him pen to write .
    3- In the question (What advantages can….literary activities in London?)
    In him answer ,why you do not ask him to give you example .
    lastly the inter view was very good,but when you ask writers be careful to them answers ,because the writers talk from deep,and many things you can see it not important ,but to them the key of successful .

  14. Dear Asia, I like your comments and I sincerely respect you. However, the interview was a little bit wider than this. Let me go over the entire interview before concluding on my response but I might need to re-contact Femi Osofisan if there are unanswered questions. He is a very nice professor; and certainly, he will be willing to provide additional answers. Thank you.

  15. Efemena -that was a nice lines of questioning, it really give an insightful details of what our expectations should be when we want to go into full writing/publishing abroad.

    Professor Femi Osofisan, truly a fatherly touch. I pick something from the answer u gave to this question: Do you find that literature from a different culture, such as English or Greek, tends to influence the themes and styles in the work of African writers? U said Artists drink from all sources…
    Thank you very much Sir. I was say that Africa and the world over recognise you Sir.

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