A serious television trickster: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s political and artistic legacy in Basi and Company

James Hodapp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Ken Saro-Wiwa has attracted both popular and scholarly recognition as a significant Nigerian writer and activist. Despite this interest, the television programme Basi and Company that he wrote and directed from 1985 to 1990 has received scant attention, often being dismissed as a frivolous side project unworthy of inclusion in Saro-Wiwa’s oeuvre. This article challenges such neglect, arguing that the show is an essential part of the work of one of the 20th century’s most important public intellectuals. Basi and Company represents a complex re-imagining of the traditional West African trickster figures, such as Kuru the tortoise and the Yoruba mythological deity of Eshu, as a means of engaging with contemporary life under a brutal regime in the post-oil boom period in Nigeria. Its 150 episodes, watched routinely by over 30 million Nigerians, subtly critiqued modern Nigeria and its government, and it deserves a place alongside Saro-Wiwa’s other politically engaged works.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 4 2018



  • Africa
  • Basi and Company
  • Ken Saro-Wiwa
  • Nigeria
  • folk tale
  • television

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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