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OBITUARY: Joseph Christian Adewole John
By Chantal Benjamin-Badgie
Feb 23, 2011, 17:17
John Adewole was a Sierra Leonean actor, musician and performer known to his close friends and family as ĎWoleí.¬† His most recent dramatic incarnation was as the African genie on the Sky Aladdin Broadband adverts.
He was born Joseph Christian¬†Adewole John in 1948 in pre-independence Sierra Leone where he was educated at the prestigious Sierra Leone Grammar School and came to Britain in the late 1960s where he studied Theatre Arts at Dartington College.¬†
For the son of a middle class West African family where sons were expected to become lawyers, doctors, accountants or academics, this display of interest in the arts was in itself an act of rebellion against the prevailing status quo.¬†
He didnít stop there, going on to have a long-term affair in his twenties with his former economics teacher from the Sierra Leone Grammar School. This caused a huge scandal at the time as his teacher, Bianca Benjamin, was not only at least a decade older than he was, she was also British and white.
Bianca, who passed away last year, also happened to be my mother.
Their relationship really took off in North London in the 1970s. Wole was effectively a stepfather to me and my twin brothers for 5 years. He bought me a copy of War and Peace for my 13th birthday and introduced me in my early teens to the works of Andrť Gide and Jean Paul Sartre. He encouraged me to discover poetry and to read it aloud.¬† He and Bianca were also very active in Sierra Leonean post-independence political life, and both eventually became disullisoned with the prevailing Sierra Leone APC (All Peopleís Congress Party) government led by Dr Siaka Stevens.
In 1971, alongside other Sierra Leonean students, they took over the Sierra Leone High Commission in London (the same building at 33 Portland Place recently used for The Kingís Speech) for 48 hours.¬† I was with Wole when he bought the toy pistol in Muswell Hill, North London that was used to hold up the High Commission security guards. Wole, my mother and at least 5 other Sierra Leoneans went on trial at the Old Bailey and were successfully defended by Sir Dingle Foot QC and Desmond Da Silva (then a thrusting and extremely handsome young barrister).¬†¬†
Their counterparts in Freetown were however not so lucky and twelve of them were hanged for treason. Famously called ĎThe trial of Mohammed Forna and the 11 othersí, Fornaís daughter Aminatta, would go on to become the renowned mixed race Sierra Leonean author of ĎThe Devil Who Danced on the Waterí.
Sadly, Wole and Biancaís relationship did not survive the Old Bailey trial and they spilt up.¬†
Wole went on to specialise in acting and theatre development appearing¬† throughout the 80s and 90s in productions at the National Theatre, The Lyceum Edinburgh, The Almeida, The Belgrade, Coventry, The Old Vic, Birmingham Rep and The Gate.
Film and television appearances included Ultimate Force, Ali G, Escape from Kampala and the BBC3 comedy series Little Miss Jocelyn.
He established himself as a formidable storyteller, spinning African and Caribbean fables and epics as artistic director of the Zuriya Theatre Company - a collective of storytellers who performed in schools, youth clubs and community centres throughout the UK.¬† He was a fine musician who was a master of the congas, kabassa and djembe. John Adewole died suddenly on Friday 18 February.¬† He leaves behind a wife with whom he had five children.
He is survivied by his two brothers, Olufemi John and Dan Joko John.¬†
His funeral will take place in Croydon, South London, Friday 25th February.
John Adewole Filmography and Biography includes:
The Omid Djalili Show (2007)¬†¬†
Little Miss Jocelyn (2006)¬†¬†
Ultimate Force (2002)¬†¬†
Ali G Indahouse (2002)¬†¬†
Deep Freeze (1999)
The Ebb-Tide (1998)¬†¬†
Brothers and Sisters (1998)¬†¬†
Welcome II the Terrordome (1995)¬†¬†
After the War (1989)
The Play on One (1988)
The Bill (1984)
¬© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.