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Daniel Orowole Olorunf?mi Fagunwa

Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Oke-Igbo, Nigeria

Chief Daniel Orowole Olorunf?mi Fagunwa MBE (1903 – 7 December 1963), popularly known as D. O. Fagunwa, was a Nigerian Yoruba author who pioneered the Yoruba-language novel.

He was born in Oke-Igbo, Ondo State, to Joshua Akíntúndé Fágúnwà and Rachel Ò?uny?mí Fágúnwà in 1903. His paternal grandfather was Asungaga Bèyíokú, an Ifa priest.

His parents were originally adherents of the traditional Yoruba religion until they converted to Christianity in the late 1910s to early 1920s. He was born with the name Oròw?lé, referring to the Yoruba bullroarer god, Orò. When his family converted to Christianity, he changed his name to ?l??runf??mi (God loves me).

An Oloye of the Yoruba people, Fagunwa studied at St. Luke's School, Oke-Igbo, and St. Andrew's College, Oyo, before becoming a teacher himself.

Career and work

In 1938, entering a literary contest of the Nigerian education ministry, Fagunwa wrote his Ògbójú ?d? nínú Igbó Irúnm?l??,]widely considered the first novel written in the Yoruba language and one of the first to be written in any African language. Wole Soyinka translated the book into English in 1968 as The Forest of A Thousand Demons, first published by Random House and again by City Lights in September 2013 (ISBN 9780872866300).

Fagunwa's later works include Igbo Olodumare (The Forest of God, 1949), Ireke Onibudo (1949), Irinkerindo ninu Igbo Elegbeje (Expedition to the Mount of Thought, 1954), and Adiitu Olodumare (1961).

Fagunwa's novels draw heavily on folktale traditions and idioms, including many supernatural elements. His heroes are usually Yoruba hunters, who interact with kings, sages, and even gods in their quests. Thematically, his novels also explore the divide between the Christian beliefs of Africa's colonizers and the continent's traditional religions.

Fagunwa remains the most widely read Yorùbá-language author, and a major influence on such contemporary writers as Amos Tutuola. He also used Greek myths and Shakespearean stories as themes in his books, such as in his book Igbo Olodumare, where the character Baba-onirugbon-yeuke tells a story similar to Romeo and Juliet. D. O. Fagunwa was the first Nigerian writer to employ folk philosophy in telling his stories.

Fagunwa was awarded the Margaret Wrong Prize in 1955 and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1959. He died in a river in 1963; the ground by the bank of the river apparently gave way under his feet and he fell into the river. He tried to swim out of the water but sank because the canoe by the river also fell and collapsed on him.

Fagunwa Memorial High School and Fagunwa Grammar School in Oke-Igbo, Nigeria, are named for Fagunwa. His daughter, Yejide Ogundipe, serves as a council chairperson for Ile Oluji/Okeigbo. Fagunwa day (formerly known as Fagunwa night) is an annual event aimed at reading and promoting his five books. Fagunwa day was initiated in his honour by the Society of Young Nigerian Writers in conjunction with Fagunwa Literary Society and Egbe Odo Onkowe Ede Yoruba.

Academic works about Fagunwa's writings

Olaleru, Olanike. "Oral Performance Techniques in the Works of D. O. Fágúnwà." Ibadan Journal of English Studies 7 (2018): 361-374.