By Uche Amunike
After a long struggle with a protracted illness, Lari Williams, Nigerian actor and poet gave up the ghost, Sunday, in his country home in Ikom, Cross River State, Nigeria, at the age of 81.
According to a statement released by his family, Monday, the veteran had a two-year lecturing contract with the University of Calabar to teach Drama and Acting with special emphasis on speech and acting technique, before his demise.
During his life time, the late Lari Williams, Nigerian Actor and poet exemplified, was the first artist to be awarded with well deserved national honours by two successive Nigerian Presidents: ‘Member of the Order of the Federal Republic’, (MFR) from the late President Musa Yar’Adua in 2008 and ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ which was endorsed by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2013.
He was also the inaugural President of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria, having been in the acting terrain for over 50 years.
His alma mater was the popular CMS Grammar School in Lagos State, but further went ahead to study Journalism at the London School of Journalism.
His interest in drama not only grew, but was nurtured at Morley College, Mountview Theatre School in London, as well as the University of Iowa in America. He was also to set up a group named Calabash Artists, while he was still in England.
He finally returned to Nigeria in 1977 to be a part of the FESTAC ‘77 festival and thereafter, made the decision to remain in Nigeria with his family.
Discussing Lari Williams, Nigerian actor and poet will not appear complete if the popular Soap Operas he featured in, back in the days, are not mentioned. They are: The Village Headmaster, Ripples and Mirror in the Sun. He also taught Arts at the National Theatre, Iganmu-Lagos.
He will always be remembered as the first actor ever to perform on top of the popular Zuma Rock in Abuja FCT, 1,200 feet high, when he performed a poem written by his late friend, Maman Vatsa, titled ‘The Bird that Sings in the Rain’.
He was also one of the actors in the very first home video ever made in Nigeria, titled ‘The Witch Doctor’.
The late Williams loved native artistic forms which made people respect him for being the first actor to bring the dreaded Lagos Island masquerade known as ‘Egun Lapampa’ on stage as part of his play, ‘Awero’.
Surprisingly, he delved into politics in 1983 after the political party known as Movement of the People (MOP) was formed. He contested as Vice Presidential candidate and running mate to the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
This veteran and accomplished thespian has some published works to his name. These include Heartlines, Storm Baby, Black Current and Kolanut Junction.
Apart from the University of Calabar he also lectured Theatre Arts both at the University of Lagos and the Lagos State University.
His family has promised to announce burial arrangements soon.