Nigeria: Foremost Nigerian Professor Dies in America

Tejumola Olaniyan
1 December 2019

Tejumola Olaniyan, a professor of African Languages and Literature, died Saturday at his home in Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

He just turned 60 years last April.

TJ, as he was known to friends and colleagues, got his Bachelor and Master degrees from University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1982 and 1985 respectively. He got a second Master degree and his PhD from the University of Cornell in 1989 and 1991.

His teaching career spread through many universities from Ife through University of Virginia to University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was the Louise Durham Mead Professor of English & Wole Soyinka Professor of the Humanities.

A consummate scholar of African Literary and Cultural Studies, TJ's research interests spanned African American and Caribbean literatures, genre studies and popular culture including art, music and architecture.

His numerous publications attest to his extensive academic interests and his particular attention to transdisciplinary teaching and research. They include the Arrest the Music!: Fela and His Rebel Art and Music, the 2004 seminal book on the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti; and the 1995 Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African-American, and Caribbean Drama which focused on the drama of English-speaking African diaspora including Amiri Baraka, Nobel prize-winners Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott, and Ntozake Shange.

TJ's transdisciplinary interest is perhaps best exemplified by his latest book, Taking African Cartoons Seriously: Politics, Satire, and Culture which focused on how cartoonists make us laugh and think by caricaturing daily events and politics.

It is a direct co-joint of his online project, the Encyclopedia of African Political Cartooning whose website,, is designed to host entries on cartoonists from all African countries and show copious samples of their works.

He is survived by his wife, Mojisola Olaniyan, and children, Bolajoko and Olabimpe.

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