Prof. Bole Butake Passes On

The famous playwright and drama producer died on Saturday, October 1, 2016, in the Yaounde University Teaching Hospital at the age of 69.


The Cameroon literary world is bereaved, following the death in Yaounde on Saturday, October 1, 2016, of Prof. Bole Butake. Aged 69, the retired lecturer, famous playwright and drama producer, passed on at 5 am at the Yaounde I University Teaching Hospital, Melen. Beginning in 1972 as secondary school teacher of English language to Francophone students of the University of Yaounde, Butake – who lost both his parents within a week when he was only four – later rose through all lecturer ranks. He became Professor of Performing Arts and African Literature in 2000. His most famous play is “Lake God,” an allegory of the deadly 1986 Lake Nyos gas leak.

According to the wife, Jane Bole Butake, he had challenges with his health of late. “His situation became serious on Thursday September 22, 2016. He was anaemic, received blood transfusion, but apparently this didn’t help as he continued losing more blood. He was eventually admitted in reanimation in the Yaounde I University Teaching Hospital, Melen,” Mrs Butake told Cameroon on October 1, 2016, in their Mbankolo, Yaounde home. She added that her husband was sick for some time, but aggravated as from March 2016. “Ever since, he was most of the time at home in bed, complaining of pain,” she pointed out.

Prof. Bole Butake retired from the University of Yaounde I in July 2012 as Vice Dean of the Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences. He later served for about a year with the Protestant University in Bali in the North West Region, but could not continue because of his failing health, the wife said. He leaves behind six children. “While on retirement, he continued supervising postgraduate students. He even signed a student’s thesis from his sick bed on Sunday, September 25, 2016,” Jane Bole Butake said.

“He was a wonderful person. We got married on September 29, 1980. He was a friend who was so supportive. He taught me many life values such as being strong, straight forward, honest, hardworking… I am so thankful to have known somebody like him. He was also like a father to me, but I saw him as my friend, brother and spouse. I hope the children will emulate the values he stood for. We are going to miss him. I am grateful to all those who stood by us during his ill health,” said the wife.    

Prof. Bongasu Tanla Kishani, a retired Philosophy lecturer and poet, described the passing on of Prof. Butake as, “a blow to the literary world.” He added that the late writer “inspired many students, which to me is more important than his works. Butake was probably the leading Cameroonian Theatre Arts personality. In the Kingdom of Letters, he was one of the rulers who distinguished himself by competing with colleagues from all over the world,” Prof. Kishani noted.

“Prof. Bole Butake was my teacher, academic adviser, mentor and sponsor of my marriage. He was a full-blown literary guru with write-ups in all genres, save perhaps the novel,” said Dr Donatus Fai Tangem, a Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Literature with the University of Yaounde I. He added that Butake was one of the few who started Theatre for Development in Cameroon, thereby helping many communities to develop their areas without looking up to government. “He decided not to be involved in mainstream politics because he didn’t want to compromise his integrity. He will be greatly missed for his critical analyses. Prof. Bole Butake’s legacy lives on because artistes never die. He supervised close to 25 PhDs, with some of the people today full-fledged Professors and Associate Professors,” Dr Tangem concluded.


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