Johannesburg, July 19, 2023 – The passing of Prof. Bankole “Kole” Omotoso, a beloved father, husband, and grandfather, has left a void in the hearts of many. He breathed his last in Johannesburg after a prolonged illness, leaving behind a legacy of literary achievements and profound contributions to academia.
Born in Akure, Nigeria, in 1943, Prof. Omotoso’s educational journey took him from King’s College in Lagos to the University of Ibadan, where he graduated in 1969. He further pursued his passion for Arabic Literature and obtained his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1972.
Returning to Nigeria with his late wife, Marguerita Rice, he joined the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Ibadan, followed by a teaching position at the Drama Department of the University of Ife. During this period, the couple welcomed their three children – Akin, Pelayo, and Yewande – into the world.
His notable work, including the publication of the novel “Just Before Dawn” in 1988, led him to face challenges from political authorities, prompting him to work predominantly outside Nigeria from 1989 onwards.
Driven by a desire to reunite his family, the Omotosos relocated to Cape Town, where Prof. Omotoso held esteemed professorial roles at the English Department of the University of the Western Cape and the Drama Department of the University of Stellenbosch.
Throughout his life, Prof. Omotoso’s Yoruba heritage profoundly influenced his perspectives and creative endeavors. He fulfilled a lifelong dream by building a homestead in his hometown of Akure, where he resided with his wife Bukky and her children from 2016 until returning to South Africa in 2019 for medical treatment.
Despite his health challenges, Prof. Omotoso continued to share his insights through his weekly column in the Sunday Guardian until 2021.
Beyond his role as a socio-political critic, he was a believer in humanity and sought knowledge on diverse subjects. His influence extended beyond his acclaimed literary works to various spheres, including his memorable appearance in the Vodacom “Yebo Gogo” advert.
As we bid farewell to this multi-talented individual, we take solace in the fact that his profound legacy will endure through his written works, his children – Akin, Pelayo, and Yewande, his wife Bukky, her children – Taiwo and Olamiposi, and his grandchildren – Alula, Itai, Paida, Kehinde, and Taiye.
Prof. Kole Omotoso’s life was a tapestry of wisdom, knowledge, and compassion, and his memory will forever be cherished by those whose lives he touched as an author, playwright, teacher, critic, academic, mentor, and friend.