Yoruba films have earned a reputation for showcasing a diverse range of indigenous characters, among them the “babalawo” (herbalist, Ifa priest, or voodoo practitioner).
While these actors may not necessarily embody these roles in real life, some have become adept at bringing these characters to life on the screen.
Saturday Beats highlights several performers in Nollywood who have gained recognition for their portrayals of “babalawo” roles.
Ganiu Nafiu –
also known as Alapini Osa, is a seasoned Yoruba actor with a career spanning over five decades. He embarked on his acting journey in 1977 and gained recognition for his numerous portrayals of ‘babalawo’ characters. His training was under the guidance of the late filmmaker Akin Ogungbe and, subsequently, the late Ray Eyiwunmi.
Olayinka Quadri –
another accomplished actor, is renowned for his skillful interpretation of ‘babalawo’ roles. He initiated his career in 1976 by founding the Afopina Theatre Group. Born on Lagos Island, he received his primary and secondary education in Lagos. Some of his notable works include ‘Kadara Mi,’ ‘Ticket to Life,’ and ‘Obinrin Sowanu,’ among others.
Tajudeen Oyewole –
also known as Abija, is celebrated for his remarkable performances as a ‘babalawo.’ He has appeared in movies such as ‘Omo Abore,’ ‘Eyin Ogongo,’ and ‘Iyá ojú àgún.’ His acting career began in the early 1980s, and he hails from Osun State. Additionally, he possesses talents as a dancer and singer, often playing the role of a community savior with extraordinary powers against malevolent forces in his films.
Fatai Adetayo –
popularly known as Lalude, is an actor deeply rooted in Yoruba culture and tradition. His skillful execution of ‘babalawo’ roles is well-regarded. Despite the authenticity of his portrayals, Lalude has revealed that he does not possess any supernatural powers. He initiated his acting career at a young age, participating in drama groups during primary school. Some of his notable works include ‘Mayegun,’ ‘Ibinu Balogun,’ and ‘Arikuyeri.’
Ibrahim Chatta –
rose to prominence in 2012 when he featured alongside renowned actors in the movie ‘Aiyekooto.’ While he takes on various roles, he has also portrayed ‘babalawo’ characters in several films.
Adewale Alebiosu –
is recognized for his ‘babalawo’ and Ifa priest roles in movies. He is also a scriptwriter and movie producer, emphasizing the power and significance of the roles he plays.
is a versatile dramatist, actor, poet, and playwright with a career spanning over three decades. Unlike some other actors in this genre, he often portrays a priest seeking solutions to problems caused by evil forces in his roles.
Rasak Olayiwola –
also known as Ojopagogo, has built a reputation for his portrayal of ‘babalawo’ characters in films. He commenced his theater career in 1983, subsequently founding his own theater group.
Taofeeq Adewale –
popularly known as Digboluja, is an actor and movie producer renowned for his ‘babalawo’ roles in Yoruba movies. He clarified that his on-screen portrayal of charms and rituals does not reflect his real-life beliefs.
Akanni, known as Olohuniyo, is a versatile actor with flawless interpretations of ‘babalawo’ roles. He has also ventured into movie production.
also called Oluwo, is another talented actor well-versed in interpreting the role of ‘babalawo’ in movies. He achieved recognition through these roles and is skilled at reciting incantations.