“All my admirers, including colleagues and family members, have agreed to postpone whatever plan they have to celebrate my 90th birthday because we must obey the NCDC’s COVID-19 prevention rules,” veteran actress, Mama Grace Owoola Oyin-Adejobi said matter of fact while featuring on a radio programme in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Popularly known as Iya Osogbo, the actress and widow of the late Pa Oyin Adejobi (1926-2000), clocks 90 today, Sunday, August 23. Mama’s brief response to the program’s anchor, Olayinka Agboola, reflected two of her traits: precision and pragmatism. Iya Osogbo, in movies and real life, doesn’t do sentiments. She says it as it is, in a few words and not minding whose ox is gored.
How many people would agree to the postponement of such a landmark celebration? But that’s the pragmatic artist. Like her much-beloved husband, the Amazon who began acting in 1953 has a secured place in what theatre scholars have since framed as ‘The Yoruba popular travelling theatre of Nigeria’.
Born to a contractor father and trader mother in Osogbo, present-day Osun State, Mama loved acting from childhood but never thought she would make a living from it. After studying up to Standard Four in All Saints School, Osogbo where she was an active member of the Drama Society, she learnt tailoring. She opened her tailoring shop after her apprenticeship and ran it for some years before she married Pa Adejobi.
Interestingly, she and the late theatre guru had known themselves for a long time before they got married. Apart from attending the same school, Pa Adejobi was also choirmaster at the Anglican Church she attended in Osogbo. She didn’t hesitate to answer in the affirmative when he proposed, and from then on, acting became her life.
Though some people assume that she got her stage name, Iya Osogbo from the movie, ‘Eran Iya Osogbo’, the name predates the film by decades. She disclosed the name’s source in a 2016 interview with The Punch: “my husband ran a television series called Kootu Asipa (Ashipa’s Court). The nickname came from there. Some persons started calling us the names we used in some plays which many of us did not like. We complained to my husband, and he used an episode in the series to stage a play in which punishment is meted out to anybody who calls another a name he or she does not like. He later asked us the name we wanted to bear in plays, and I said Lagbenjo Iya Osogbo. Kareem Adepoju said Baba Wande and Alabi Yellow chose Alabi Yellow.”
Mama was an active member of her husband’s Oyin Adejobi Theatre Company which also had the likes of Lere Paimo (Eda Onileola) and Kareem Adepoju (Baba Wande) at some points. Others were Tafa Oloyede (Adewunmi Adewoye), Kola Oyewo, and the late Alabi Yellow (Dayo Akinpelu who all went on to become stars.
Her first appearance in the Company’s production, she said, “was in 1953 at the Billiard Room in Osogbo when we acted Paradise Lost. On that day, my husband lit the corners of the room with local lamps for illumination. The audience was huge that day.”
But apart from acting, she was also a ticket seller for the Company’s productions. The Oyin Adejobi Theatre Company produced several stage plays, TV series and movies including the unforgettable ‘Kootu Ashipa’, ‘Ile Iwosan’, ‘Aye Nlo’, ‘Orogun Adedigba’, ‘Omo Ole’, ‘Iyekan Soja’, ‘Karunwi’, ‘Oju Olore’ and ‘Ekuro Oloja’ before Pa Adejobi’s passing in 2000.
After her husband’s demise, Mama continued acting until some years ago when she stopped entirely because of her advanced age. Before that, she had restricted her appearances to evangelical films, explaining that: “when my husband was alive, we mostly used the bible in our plays. Our theatre group didn’t know how to use incantation in plays.”
The gospel film Nigeria also celebrates this veteran Actress on her birthday today.
"Happy #90th birthday to the Ex-Nollywood actress, Mama Grace Owoola Oyin-Adejobi, popularly known as #Iya_Osogbo.... Mama is the mother of the gospel veteran actor, Evang. Sola Oyin Adejobi".
We pray that you will continue to grow in God's Grace ma.
From all of us at gospelfilmsng.
Though there won’t be any loud celebration for this revered actress, mother, grandmother and matriarch of the Oyin Adejobi clan today, please raise a glass to her health wherever you are. She deserves all the accolades.
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