Esiaba Irobi

In 1983, Irobi's play, The Colour of Rusting Gold, received the National Gold Gong for Anambra State at the 1983 National Festival of Arts and Culture held in Maiduguri.


Early Life and Education

Esiaba Irobi was a distinguished playwright, poet, stage director, actor, literary theorist, and scholar. He was born on October 1, 1960, at 3:00 PM.

He attended Comprehensive Secondary School in Ogbor Hill, Aba, and later pursued his higher education at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

At UNN, Irobi specialized in Drama, Film, and Theatre Studies. He furthered his academic pursuits at the University of Sheffield and the University of Leeds in England, where he continued his focus on Drama, Film, and Theatre Studies.


Teaching Career

Irobi’s passion for education and the arts led him to various teaching positions around the world. He taught at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as well as the University of Leeds and Liverpool J. Moores University in England.

In the United States, he shared his knowledge and expertise at New York University, Townson University, and Ohio University, Athens.

Literary Achievements

During his time as a student in Nsukka, Irobi’s talent and creativity were recognized through several awards. He won first prize in short story and playwriting for three consecutive sessions in the annual English Departmental Literary Night Competition.

Esiaba Irobi in the movie, Relative Obscurity (2007)

In 1983, Irobi’s play, The Colour of Rusting Gold, received the National Gold Gong for Anambra State at the 1983 National Festival of Arts and Culture held in Maiduguri. The following year, he was honored with a plaque and certificate from the International-Youth-in-Achievement Biographical Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, and Cambridge, England.

Irobi also had an active acting career, taking on significant roles in various productions. He acted as Macbeth in Dr. Ossie Enekwe’s production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Styles in Dr. J. N. Amankulo’s production of Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Lekoja-Brown in the English Departmental production of Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again, and Elesin Oba in the sub-Departmental of Dramatic Arts’ production of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman.

Education and Academic Achievements

Esiaba Irobi completed his undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English/Drama. He further pursued his academic journey and obtained a Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Continuing his pursuit of knowledge, he then earned another Master of Arts degree in Film and Theatre from the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, UK.

In addition to his dual master’s degrees, Esiaba Irobi also achieved a significant milestone by attaining a PhD in Theatre Studies from the University of Leeds, UK.

Legacy and Passing

He passed away on May 3, 2010, in Berlin, leaving behind a significant body of works and a lasting impact on the literary and theatrical world.

Esiaba Irobi. Image Credit: Association of Nigerians.

Before his death, Esiaba Irobi held the position of associate professor of International Theatre and Film Studies at Ohio University in Athens, USA. He was also a fellow (2009/10) at International Research Center, Freie Universität Berlin.

In 2010, Esiaba Irobi posthumously received the NLNG Prize for Literature for his play, Cemetery Road. Esiaba Irobi beat LNG laureate, Ahmed Yerima and Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba to win the much conveted literary prize for drama to the tune of $50,000. He was the first and, to date, the only recipient to be honoured with the prize posthumously.


Throughout his career, Irobi produced notable works across various genres. Some of his works include:

  • Cotyledons (Poems) (1988)
  • The Colour of Rusting Gold (a play) (1989)
  • Inflorescence (Selected Poems 1977-1988) (1989)
  • Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (a play) (1989)
  • Hangmen Also Die (a play) (1989)
  • Nwokedi (a play) (1991) – NUTAF Award Winner
  • The Fronded Circle (a play) (1999)
  • The Other Side of the Mask (a play) (1999)
  • Why I Don’t Like Philip Larkin and Other Poems (2005)
  • Cemetery Road (a play) (2009) – Winner of the Nigeria LNG Award for Literature in 2010.

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