“Elesin Oba” is a reminder of the Yoruba culture but we can have more

Omoleye Omoruyi
The movie, is an adaptation of the popular play, “Death and the King’s Horseman”, by Wole Soyinka
Elesin Oba

It may be that we go into cinema spaces expecting the overtly spectacular from Nollywood producers and writers, or it is that the quality dished out is usually underwhelming.

Whichever way, we must say that Nollywood has come a long way in terms of amazing productions, but the tunnel end has no light yet. “Elesin Oba” gave us a glimpse of the picturesque but left us wanting more.

Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman“, the movie, is an adaptation of the popular play, “Death and the King’s Horseman”, by world-renowned writer Wole Soyinka, whose name is not shown on the crew list.

Directed and written by Biyi Bandele, it follows the cultural ritual practice where the king’s horseman has to commit suicide (the modern way of saying it) so as to continue his service to the king in the afterworld. But, he dismisses the warnings of deviating from the natural order. It is inspired by true events in the Oyo Empire in 1943 during World War II.

And, like old Nollywood…”did he achieve this?” You go need to watch am first. No spoilers here.

Lead cast in “Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman.”

Odunlade Adekola – Elesin
Shaffy Bello – Iyaloja
Olawale-Brymo Olofooro – Olohun-Iyo
Deyemi Okanlawon – Olunde
Omowunmi Dada – Bride
Jide Kosoko – Sergeant Amusa
Taiwo Ajai-Lycett – Madam Taiwo
Ajoke Silva – Madam Bola

Date of release: September 28, 2022
Runtime: 2 hours


From the beginning of the film, even when you have not read the book, you know the Elesin had one goal – to follow the king in death to the afterworld. But, the first scene tells us we are about to meet a womaniser who would pause his traditional obligation to pursue his sexual desires.

🎶A lover of all women.
A lover of life
And of beautiful things.

(In another scene)…Like Oyo enjoys its prominence
In today’s world, Elesin enjoy life

Elesin Oba
Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman

The king had died 30 days before, so Elesin was supposed to take his life the night of the beginning of “Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman”. If he fails, the king will wander about the earth.

When the time is right, you will see me dancing on the narrow path that was taken by my forefathers. Look, my mind is made up, and nothing will stop me,” Elesin said to the people who walked with him in the market. But he saw a virgin, a damsel he could not ignore.

“That beautiful lady suddenly entered the market, and she lit up everywhere,” Elesin says to Iya Loja. What the latter says to him as a warning flies over his head.

Characters in “Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman”

Elesin Oba – the overdramatic Nollywood actor who falls to sexual desires and teaches us all that ‘one thing will kill a man’. The way he falls is one relatable phenomenon many Africans will want to tell as a story – in light of their leaders.

Elesin Oba

Iyaloja – a character significant enough to try to prevent the disruption of the ‘natural’ or perhaps traditional order – but is ignored. She is quite the influential one.

Olohun-Iyo – The loyal servant ready to die alongside the Elesin, so the king’s spirit is not left in the cold, wandering the earth.

Olunde – Educated by the western world but will not trash his culture to soothe the taste of the white man.

Mr Pilkings – showcases the typical way colonisers desecrated the culture of the societies they colonised and sold their own way of life as superior and ‘not barbaric’.

Issues raised

Ritual sacrifice: Ritual sacrifice or suicide (in contemporary parlance) is a tradition, and the King’s Horseman knows this service culture and passes it on from generation to generation. But colonisation came, and with language change and differences, the significance of such a cultural tradition began to wane.

This is expressive of the way colonisers failed to understand that, as much as globalisation is a necessity, societies differ.

We will not ask for ritual sacrifices, though.

The mixture of cultures: Olunde went on academic tourism but did not return to trash the tradition his father was supposed to pass on to him. Not surprisingly (especially after he told Mrs Pilkings off in the ball), he kills himself when he senses his father is dragging his feet.

The Polygamous nature of Africans: African society has always been polygamous, but there seems to be some kind of greed in acquiring new brides. Elesin in “Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman” exemplifies this anomaly. You will wonder why he wants more at the end of his life.

What do we think?

We have seen “Anikulapo” and are excited that we can have movies in a local language, and they do not have to be subpar. In “Elesin Oba”, the camera movements are commendable, and the choice of location aptly connects with the story and the era – except when we see Olunde on his return from the UK because that fashion is quite contemporary.

For the dialogue, we expected more, especially with the presence of the older people and the proverbial magic of the Yoruba language. So, we will rate it underwhelming. We envision a time in a movie when we would pause and rewind when the Yoruba language is spoken.

The casting is great, and you may not imagine anyone else playing the different characters created for the film. However, we would want more with a character like Olunde, who died without escalating the conversation or developing into a Yoruba culture apologist.

On a general note, the Yoruba people have a rich culture, especially in the language, traditions, festivals, attires, and films like “Elesin Oba’ are an opportunity to showcase this to the world and highlight the evil of trying to use new religion to cast out the culture of a people.

Stream or skip?

We give it 6/10 because we think it is worth almost half your time. At least, we are reminded of the cultural elements of the Yoruba people and the significance of certain parts.

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