• Monday, February 26, 2024
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BusinessDay

Dejumo Lewis: Kabiyesi has left the village

Mr-Dejumo-Lewis-2

Dejumo Lewis, the actor who for decades embodied the wise and dignified king in Nigeria’s longest-running soap opera “Village Headmaster,” died early Saturday morning at 80.

His death, announced by fellow actor Said Balogun on Instagram, brought grief to the  Nigerian entertainment industry.

Born in 1943 in Ekiti, southwestern Nigeria, Lewis’s path to acting was far from conventional. He began his career not in the limelight but behind the scenes, first as a programmer and later as a producer/director, where he honed his skills in Nigeria and abroad.

Yet, the allure of storytelling proved irresistible. In 1964, Lewis was drawn to the nascent world of Nigerian television.

Initially, Dejumo Lewis joined the “Village Headmaster” cast as a freelance actor. But his talent and charisma were soon undeniable. In 1968, he was offered the role of Kabiyesi, the wise and benevolent king who presided over the show’s fictional village.

It was a role that would become Lewis’s signature, one he inhabited with such grace and authority that he transcended the screen, becoming a beloved figure in Nigerian households.

For  20 years (1968 to 1989), Lewis reigned as Kabiyesi, witnessing the evolution of Nigerian television alongside the changing tapestry of his nation.

“Village Headmaster,” which began as a black-and-white morality tale, blossomed into a complex exploration of social issues, family dynamics, and the ever-present hum of everyday life.

Through it all, Lewis’s Kabiyesi remained a constant, a pillar of wisdom and tradition offering guidance and gentle humour in a world grappling with the challenges of modernity.

He mentored countless aspiring actors, and his dedication to his craft earned him international acclaim, including recommendations for training in Europe.

Beyond “The Village Headmaster,” Lewis graced the screens with his captivating presence in numerous films, including “A Place in the Stars” (2014), “Crossroads” (2020), and “Power of 1” (2018).

But for Lewis, the greatest reward remained the connection he forged with his audience. In a 2018 interview, he spoke of the immense joy he derived from bringing laughter and solace to Nigerian homes. “When people stop me on the street and tell me how Kabiyesi has touched their lives,” he said, “that’s all the validation I need.”

Adejumo Lewis’s death leaves a void in the Nigerian entertainment landscape. He was more than just an actor; he was a storyteller, a teacher, and a national treasure. His legacy, like the reign of his beloved Kabiyesi, will continue to resonate for generations to come.