Biyi Bandele-Thomas (born 1967) is a Nigerian novelist and playwright
generally known as Biyi Bandele. Bandele is one of the most versatile
and prolific of the UK-based Nigerian writers, having turned his hand to
theatre, journalism, television, film, and radio, as well as the
fiction with which he made his name.
Acclaimed as both a prolific playwright and a versatile novelist, his 1997 adaptation of fellow Nigerian Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart for the British stage confirmed his place as an important voice on the post-colonial stage. He currently resides in London.
Biyi Bandele was born to Yoruba parents in Kafanchan, northern Nigeria, in 1967. His father was a veteran of the Burma Campaign while Nigeria was still part of the British Empire. Bandele spent the first eighteen years of his life in the northern part of the country being most at home in the Hausa cultural tradition.
Later on, he moved to Lagos then studied drama at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and finally left for London in 1990. A precocious and intuitive playwright, his talent was recognised early on and he won the International Student Playscript competition of 1989 with an unpublished play, before claiming the 1990 British Council Lagos Award for an unpublished collection of poems.
As a playwright, Bandele has worked with the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as writing radio drama and screenplays for television. His plays are: Rain; Marching for Fausa (1993); Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought (1994); Two Horsemen (1994), selected as Best New Play at the 1994 London New Plays Festival; Death Catches the Hunter and Me and the Boys (published in one volume, 1995); and Oroonoko, an adaptation of Aphra Behn's seventeenth-century novel of the same name. Brixton Stories, Bandele's stage adaptation of his own novel The Street (1999), premiered in 2001 and was published in one volume with his play, Happy Birthday Mister Deka, which premiered in 1999.
He was the Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in 2000–2001. He also acted as Royal Literary Fund Resident Playwright at the Bush Theatre from 2002 to 2003.
Biyi Bandele's novels, which include The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond (1991) and The Street (1999), are rewarding reading, capable of wild surrealism and wit as well as political engagement. His 2007 novel, Burma Boy, has been described as "a fine achievement" and is lauded for providing a voice for previously unheard Africans.
His directorial debut film Half of a Yellow Sun was selected to be screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and received a "rapturous reception".