Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Everlasting Praise from 2 Voices


THE church hall of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Life Gate Assembly, Isheri Olofin, Lagos, was recently filled to its capacity with guests, which included church members and the media, converging for the launch/dedication of 2Voices gospel album, Everlasting Praise.
   The seven-tracker produced by Sammy Jayzee Studio, has songs such as Everlasting Praise, Dancing for My Lord, You Are My God, Glorious Is The Lord, O Lord! Send Me and two remixes.
    Thrilling guests, 2 Voices — a duet of Oluwafunmi and Oluwatosin Odujinrin — both sisters, showcased the stuff they are made off, drawing applauses from guests who danced and sang along with them. With their performances, the girls, impressed their observers that they are cut out for the top.
      Formerly now, Oluwafunmi (12) and Oluwatosin (9) both students of The Kings Kids School, Abaranje, loved hip-hop and other contemporary music, but through their mother, Victoria, changed to gospel music.
    “We were introduced to gospel music by our mother, Victoria. We used to love hip-hop and other contemporary music and would want to play them, but our mother told us to use our talents to sing and dance for God,” Oluwatosin said.
    “She loves Christian music and encourages us to play it as a way of spreading the gospel and uplifting souls.”
    On where they draw their inspirations from, Oluwafunmi said: “Apart from the Holy Spirit and the things around us, Destiny Kids, as a group inspires us. In fact, they motivate us to do most of our songs. We watched them and wished to be greater than they are.”
    With the songs jointly written by the girls and their mother, the sisters said, “each time the idea of a song comes up, we write it down and give it to our mother, who directs us on how to go about it. At times, after writing the songs in our own way, she directs us on the lyrics and the dance steps.”
   The group, which started as a child’s play, turning everything in their sitting room to musical instrument, has grown to be recognised as a band, performing in church events and other social gatherings.
    According to their elated father, Pastor Kayode Odujinrin, “I never took them serious. When they were turning almost everything in the house into musical instrument, hitting the table, singing and dancing, I took it as one of those things children do around the house. In fact, I was much particular about their academic pursuit, so, I left them with their mother, who likes music. But with what I have seen them do with the ‘noise’, I now believe, they are serious and deserve my support.”
   Would you not by tomorrow do secular music, as you are influenced by your mother to do gospel? “No, we are from a Christian home and there is no better way to appreciate God than to sing of His glory and gospel music remains a medium of doing that. In fact, it is one of the best ways to spread the good messages and as well express ones love for God,” Oluwafunmi stated.
   Oluwatosin retorted: “As Christians, we are not going to limit ourselves, we are going to use different genres of music — local songs, hip hop, R‘n’B and others — to reach out to the world.”
   With both parents as their managers, the girls informed that one of their challenges is satisfying everyone around them.
     “People now see us as stars and expect so much from us. They expect us to excel in all areas — academics, at home, in the church and even at play. It is, indeed, challenging, but God is seeing us through,” Oluwafunmi said.
     Mixing performance with school work, she added, “it’s challenging. Whenever there is any event, I have to face the hurdles of rehearsals, vigils and school work. There was a time we went for a show, it was within our school examinations period, I had to put in extra efforts to pass it. It was so tiring and since then, I pray never to have such experience.
    “It is as a result of such experiences that make us to fix most of our events during the holidays, especially the long vac,” she noted.
    On how he wishes to control them so that the glamour of stardom will not get the better part of them, Pastor Odujinrin, said, “outside prayers, I monitor them, see that they do their school works and guide them on the things of the God. Though they are stars, they are still children and need to be guided.”
    Advising parents, he noted, “parents should encourage their children to use their talents for the service of God and the betterment of the society. Allowing children to fully showcase and use their talents would not only make the children live a fulfilled life, but could also serve as an avenue of job creation for themselves and others.”  

Monday, 25 June 2012

Nkili, the new shirt maker on the block

A TRAINED architect, Tolani Nkili Onajide is set to take the Nigerian fashion scene and the global market by storm. The graduate of University of Dundee School of Architecture, Scotland, made a foray into fashion through the support of the Scottish government, which created a platform for the less-privileged young people in the city of Dundee to develop their business potentials.
    Braving the odds in a keenly contested competition, Nkili won awards and financial support from the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust and Cultural Enterprise, which offered her a grant of £25,000 and other benefits to launch her shirt line, Nkili, in February this year.
    Since then, she has not only looked back, but has gained wide support from the Scottish media with her new twist to shirt collections. Recently, Nkili launched her brand in Lagos at an exhibition titled, Seeing Beautiful Things. The designer spoke with NIKE SOTADE about her collections and entrepreneurship.

The beginning of Nkili  
     I started Nkili in 2011 after attending Arts School for a year in London, at the Architectural Association School and later at the University of Dundee School of Architecture.
   I was in my second year in the University when I entered for the Business Plan Competition. We needed to develop business ideas about opening a people-friendly business shop in Dundee, which inspired me to start something on my own. With the help of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust funded by Prince Charles of England, I developed a business plan.
    The whole idea of the trust was to develop young entrepreneurs. I was given business advice, went for classes for a few months and then got a grant in October 2011. I got my final award, which was financial, and this helped me to start my business. I also got another grant from my university, which was a six-month lease in an office space, using all their facilities to do my business.
   So, I started Nkili in January 2012, when I got the full funding with my online website I started with seven shirts and three scarves. Nkili is just focused on making beautiful hand-printed shirts with my own unique designs; so, I design prints and shapes for shirts.
    By February, I got a lot of support from the Scottish media. I was in the Skinny Magazine, an arts and entertainment magazine in Scotland and in the Evening Telegraph, too.
 What has an architect got to do with fashion?
     The one-year course I did at the Arts School, London, helped me, because it offered an artistic view to architecture, as it entailed fashion and textile, photography and painting. It helped to shape my fashion sense.
   Before I left school and presented my final work, the comment that was made pointed to the fact that my strength was in fashion and textile, and I knew that as well.  That gave me the confidence, but I knew I would study Architecture and be an architect in the long term.

Her love for shirts
    I decided to go into shirt making in particular because I wear silk shirts all the time. I decided not to use generic prints for my shirts. I wanted to design my own shirt and make them look like something different.
   The shirts just describe my character. I made them very feminine. They were hand painted and classic with a quirky twist. My designs are based on an architectural design. Both fashion and architecture are about design and structure.
The Nkili signature
    The Spring/Summer Collection, Seeing Beautiful Thing, is about women’s luxury shirts. It focused on highlighting the most important garment in a wardrobe — the shirt.
   Nkili designs, prints and produces the most beautifully crafted silk shirts that people will treasure. Each piece goes on a journey, from design and print to production. The process of combining tonal hand drawing with traditional silk screen-printing and hand-painting techniques on pure silk makes each piece unique.

What inspired the Collection
    My collection is influenced by one of the leaders of modern architecture — Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s minimalist design style. He adopted the ‘less is more’ approach and arranged the necessary components of a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity.
   By highlighting the shirt in its pure form, without distraction, the progressive beauty and craft can be seen. Everything is simple, but sophisticated.

Future plans for Nkili in Nigeria
    I want to make my designs accessible to my clients in Nigeria, and to achieve this, I already have two stockists in Lagos namely, Les Spaces and Deola Sagoe’s flagship stores in Victoria Island.
    I, also deal with an online store called They have an independent store for young designers, where you have your own boutique. In the future, I intend to go into other fabrics outside silk.
How can one compare the fashion industry of Scotland with that of Nigeria?
     There is no comparison between the fashion industries. There is so much diversity over there. The Nigerian fashion industry pales in comparison to that of Scotland and largely the United Kingdom.
   Fashion industry in Lagos is just starting and there are only a few people in the country who are just starting it.  There were a lot of incentives, which I took advantage of in Scotland, to help me start and grow my business.

How can Nigerian government help young entrepreneurs to grow?
   I happened to be in the right place at the right time. The Scottish government is investing in young people from the age bracket of 18 and 26. After spending a year in London, which was the foundation because the Arts School refined me for the textile and fashion industry, I moved to Scotland in 2009.
    The platform of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust created by Prince Charles for young and under-privileged people was what I used to set up my clothing line while still in my second year at the university. That is the kind of incentive every government should have for her youth. I have two years of aftercare support for Nkili.
     I have a financial adviser whom I go to from time to time for my clothing line; I also have a legal adviser, who takes care of other things so that I can face the design proper. I sometimes wish there was a trust like this for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. It could go a long way in empowering young people.
     Apart from the grant from the trust, which I could access for Nkili, there were other incentives such as the Enterprise Gem Business Incubator from the University of Dundee, which offered me £1,200 to invest in my business.
    I would like to see an encouragement of young people with innovative business ideas in the country (Nigeria). They’ve helped a lot of people to grow their business in Scotland. You don’t even need to have a degree to get the support. It would be nice to have this kind of support here.
 Growing up
   I was born in Lagos. I spent my first eight years in Nigeria. I’ve spent most of my life in Oxford and London, but then, I moved to Scotland in 2009. I come to Nigeria almost three times a year because my parents live here and I intend settling down at home.
Her role models in the fashion industry 
   Stella McCartney is one of the designers I consider as my role model. She is my main influence. She is probably the richest fashion designer in the world, but if you see her, she is very plain and minimal. She wears everything with confidence.

Her definition of fashion
    Fashion is more than clothes, but an expression of oneself. One can decide to dress like this one day and like that the other day. I love classic styles, colours and make-up, but I also like anything that is a bit off and quirky at the same time.

In the name of attitude and of taste… Confidence is Ashionye

     No matter your age or shape, looking good stands you out. However, a few steps can change your whole perspective on how you look and feel.
   ASHIONYE Ugboh-Raccah is one of the fashionable celebrities in the country. The hard working lady has carved a niche for herself in the entertainment and fashion industry.
    Apart from having her fragrance line, Romance by Ashionye, her unique sense of style has over the years placed her as a stylish person.
    In 2007/2008, she was the Face of Pepsi Light. Her first step in Nollywood earned her a 2010 AMAA nomination for her role in the movie, Jungle Ride. She's also had lead roles in MNET soaps such as Doctor's Quarters and Tinsel.

Quick tips from Ashionye

Be confident
  Feel confident in yourself about the way you look and that will come across to other people.

Simple and chic
  Ashionye’s style is simple and chic.

Jeans rocks
     Her favourite piece of clothing is a pair of jeans. “That would be a nice fitting pair of jeans,” she says.
Red, red wine
   Many women are afraid of wearing red colour because they believe that it’s hard to pull off. Nothing screams the word ‘sexy’ louder than wearing the red colour. It takes attitude and ultimate confidence to be able to wear it.  For Ashionye, red is her favourite colour. “It is bold and stands out,” she says.

    “I have loads of favourite designers; so, I'm not going to start mentioning them,” she states.

Smell nice
   She discloses, “my signature scent are 5th Avenue by Elizabeth Arden, Sicily by D&G and, of course, Romance by Ashionye. They are strong and very feminine.”

Red carpet glam
    “I actually plan for a red carpet event well in advance. I go through my wardrobe and if I don't find anything appropriate, I call up a designer friend (I have a couple) and get an outfit made quickly. I also get fashion tips from them. These are perks of being friends with designers,” she intones.

Shop Smarter
  Ask yourself a few questions regarding what suits you before you shop, and plan what to buy in advance. Speaking on her favourite shopping spot, Ashionye, says, “It's hard to pick favourites; there are great shops and boutiques around. As per countries, I don't go out of my way to plan a shopping trip, but whenever I go on vacation, I make sure I come back with cases of new clothes.”

Be fit
  She says: “To be honest, I haven't been to a gym in a while, but I exercise chasing my son around the house.”

Mary Kay, is it?
  Knowing the right make-up product that suits your face matters a lot, if not, you might end up breaking out. For Ashionye, Mary Kay does the wonders. She explains, “I'm a fan of Mary Kay makeup. I have been using their products for years now. I love their mineral powder; it sits well.”

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Oguntokun … From the bar to the world stage

…Doing Shakespeare in Yoruba at the Olympics

THIS gusty morning, Wole Oguntokun saunters in to the Renegade Theatre office on Akinwunmi Street, Alagomeji, Yaba, Lagos, in a tired mood. He is in a T-shirt and jeans. The dark complexioned playwright/ has been on the set of Ajai, The Boy Slave, a play he wrote and directed, whose final performance was on Sunday, April 29, at the MUSON Centre, Lagos.
  After four months of rehearsing three plays, two of them already performed, you wonder how Oguntokun, popularly called Laspapi by friends, gets his energy.
  “It’s certainly not drugs,” he smiles.
  The lawyer-turned theatre director, who symbolises what can happen when an artiste dares to dream, doesn’t touch anything hard, “they are not for me,” he says.
  Since 1998, he has been on the Nigerian theatre circuit and on May 24 and 25, he will be presenting his latest directorial work, Itan Oginintin (The Winter’s Tale in Yoruba), one of the plays scheduled for World Shakespeare Theatre Festival 2012.
  April 21 and 22 saw the opening performance by one of the 37 international companies selected to present William Shakespeare’s plays in different languages over six weeks in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. The play, Venus and Adonis, by Isango Ensemble, in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SeSotho, Setswana, Afrikaans and South African English, was staged on Shakespeare's birthday and it’s part of efforts to celebrate both the cultural diversity of London and Shakespeare's worldwide appeal.
  Highlights of the festival include a hip-hop re-interpretation of Othello from the Chicago-based Q Brothers, as well as Deafinitely Theatre's British Sign Language rendition of Love's Labour's Lost.
  “Whether you want to see A Midsummer Night's Dream performed in Korean, Richard III in Mandarin, Julius Caesar in Italian or Macbeth in Polish, Hamlet in Lithuanian and Henry V in English, the Globe to Globe Shakespeare plays give you the chance to approach The Bard from a new direction and see some of the most acclaimed Shakespearean companies from around the world,” the Oguntokun’s voice crackles.
  He thinks for a moment, glancing down at me, then he says, “we are the only theatre company invited from West Africa. And this puts us on a positive light to fly the Nigerian flag.”
  There’s a pregnant pause. Suddenly, he draws a long breath, as he scrapes in words to fill the void. “We have a culture and tradition that is very solid. This worldview is what we are selling with the play, Itan Oginintin,” Oguntokun says.
  Audition and casting for the performance held in Lagos in January. Reading of the Yoruba and English versions started almost immediately.
  With Wale Adebayo, who played Sango in Even Ezra Studio’s flick, Sango, playing Sango, Rotimi Fakunle as Ogun and Kehinde Bankole as Oya, Oguntokun promises that Itan Oginintin is going to be a helluva of excitement on set.

Putting Yoruba language on global stage, through Shakespeare
IN Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Polixenes (the King of Bohemia) visits his childhood friend, Leontes (the King of Sicily). After a nine-month, Polixenes is ready to head back home to Bohemia, but Leontes’s devoted wife, Hermione, convinces Polixenes to stay a little bit longer.
   As Leontes watches his wife and best bud chat it up, Leontes suddenly becomes wildly jealous and suspects that his very pregnant wife is having a torrid affair with Polixenes – Leontes is certain that Hermione is carrying the man’s love child.
  Leontes quickly arranges to have his old pal poisoned, but when Polixenes catches wind of Leontes’s plot to have him killed, he flees with a Sicilian guy named Camillo to his home in Bohemia.
  According to Oguntokun, Yoruba folk tales inform the magical new production, Itan Oginintin, where Leontes becomes Sango; the god of Thunder, and Hermione is Oya, the warrior spirit of the wind.
  “We are doing the Shakespeare’s play from a Nigerian perspective,” he says. “We have put a Yoruba mythology, introduce our culture to an audience that is foreign.”
  Itan Oginintin dramatises the intricate, but revealing story of Yoruba myths and legends — the altercation between Ogun, the god of Iron and Sango, over Oya. In the legend, the marriage between Oya and Sango was consummated after Oya divorced Ogun, her first husband.
  How would these foreign audiences appreciate the script, which seems different from what they know?
  “Trust that we are going to do something that is fitted to their standard,” he jokes. “We have had about four months of rehearsals and still checking on what is missing in the script; from-time-time, we are looking at the script to see and feel the sub-text— hidden messages.”
  Chief Tade Ipadeola did the translation of the play.
  Why Chief Ipadeola?
  “We wanted somebody who could do the original translation without missing anything; somebody who knew the importance of what is at stake and wouldn’t allow it to be watered down,” Oguntokun says.
  What could have influenced the decision to have Oguntokun direct a play for the Shakespeare Festival?
  “My contributions to Nigeria theatre,” he answers. “They had done some research and my views were sought out before I was offered opportunity to direct the play.”
  You ask what his feeling is?
  “A mighty feeling,” Oguntokun exhales. “I haven’t taken it all.”

A CHILDHOOD fascination with literature, dramatists and theatrical works which continued well into adulthood as well as a burning desire to create and show others his own works, brought Oguntokun to the theatre.
  He says confidently, “as a child, I’d create little sketches that kids in the neighbourhood would be part of. I could sit and watch plays as well as television for 12 hours at a stretch when I was growing (I still do that now). It was easy to see that I would end up in that field even though I studied Law. The country appeared to be suffering a shortage of productions, large-scale works being few and far-between. There also appeared to be lethargy on the part of producers concerning the promotion of the stage. I thought I’d brighten up the literary landscape. It’s worked so far.”

A pouch filled with theatrical productions
IT turns out that everything is connected with what Oguntokun envisioned. In the last 14 years, he has consistently done theatre and now, his dream is to take theatre round.
  He is grinning from ear to ear. You could feel the happiness, as he leafs through handbills announcing different productions on his table.
  When did he storm the theatre and with what production?
  He stands up, and takes his guest round the Renegade Theatre office and brings out pictures from his past production.

  “I’d been part of stage productions at the Obafemi Awolowo University, though I was a student of the Faculty of Law. My first stage production for the general public was in October 1998 at the MUSON Centre. It was a play I wrote, produced and self-sponsored, titled, Who’s Afraid Of Wole Soyinka?, it was a satire of the military in governance in Nigeria and it brought me a lot of attention. I still hold the record for the highest number of stage productions at the MUSON Centre in Lagos,” he breathes.
  Oguntokun emerged as a player on the Nigerian Theatre landscape in September 1998 with his productions of his satirical stage drama, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, which lampoons the Nigerian military leadership.
  The first productions were put up at the University of Lagos' Arts Theatre in September. In October and December of 1998, he produced the same play at the MUSON Centre, Lagos.
  The Centre, thereafter, hosted many plays he wrote and directed including restaging of Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka? in May 2002; Rage of the Pentecost (August 2002); Ladugba! (September 2002) and The Other Side — November 2002.
  At the same venue, in March 2003, he produced and directed his adaptation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin titled, Piper, Piper; and his play on the dangers of HIV/AIDS, Gbanja Roulette, in May and July 2003. In December of that year, he featured the matriarch of Nigerian Drama, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, in his The Inheritors.
  Other plays of his produced at the prestigious facility, MUSON Centre include Prison Chronicles, The Other Side, starring Kate Henshaw; The Sound and The Fury; The Inheritors featuring Joke Silva in August 2006, and Anatomy of a Woman featuring Stella Damasus-Aboderin.
   In July 2007, he initiated a collaboration with the Terra Kulture Arts Centre on Victoria Island, Lagos and commenced the Theatre@Terra, becoming its founding producer and artistic director and turning it into one of Nigeria's most consistent venues for Theatre, with plays being produced every Sunday at the venue. Oguntokun ceased to be the sole producer of Theatre@Terra in January 2011 though he continues to direct plays at the venue from time to time.
  Oguntokun was official consultant to the British Council/Lagos and the crew of the National Theatre in London for the purpose of that National Theatre's production of Wole Soyinka's play, Death and the King's Horseman in April and May 2009.
   He directed Ola Rotimi's The Gods are not to blame for the MUSON Centre International Festival of 2006 and was commissioned by the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) to head the writing team that adapted Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues for the Nigerian populace. The end result was V Monologues-The Nigerian Story, a production, which he directed in March 2008 and staged at the National Arts Theatre, Terra Kulture, The Muson Centre (all in Lagos) and also at the Women's Development Centre and Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Centre in Abuja.
  Oguntokun created the yearly Season of Soyinka in which plays by the Nobel laureate are featured for a period spanning at least a month, and The Legend Series in which evergreen plays by first and second generation Nigerian dramatists are featured. He is the author of the published poetry collection, Local Boy and other poems.
  He wrote, directed and produced the unprecedented The Tarzan Monologues — a dramatic stage-rendering of Monologues by men touching on topics that include Religion, Politics, Erectile Dysfunction, Infidelity, Finances, Love and Marriage, Infant Mortality among many others.
  The performances were all Sundays in November 2009 and February 2010. This led to the production of The V. Monologues v. The Tarzan Monologues in which male and female actors duelled on stage in all the Sundays of March, September and October 2010 in Lagos, as well as at the National Theatre, Ghana.
   Oguntokun directed Aime Cesaire's "A Season in the Congo" for the Lagos State Government /UNESCO-sponsored ‘Black Heritage Festival’ in April 2010 and his own play, The Waiting Room [21] in the same festival [22] in April 2011.
   He was one of five Nigerian theatre directors selected by the British Council to be part of a Nigerian Theatre Director's Residency/Workshop in the United Kingdom in May 2011.
  In August 2011, he was one of two Nigerians chosen to be British Council delegates to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  In January, He directed Ntozake Shange's multi-award winning play, For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.

…Sustaining Live Theatre Performances  
WITH Theatre @Terra, has it been a success to revive theatre in the country?
  “That’s a definite ‘Yes’. Terra is Nigeria’s most consistent venue for stage plays in the country now, with plays being staged regularly without interruption for the past few years. It has allowed the development of artistes, set designers, costumiers, make-up artistes, stage managers and directors. Theatre artistes who are involved get paid well and quite a number are into it full-time. The project is a well-oiled machine but it wouldn’t have been possible without the unflinching support of Bolanle Austen-Peters, the Managing Director of Terra Kulture, a major collaborator and partner with us in Theatre@Terra.
  “Legends like Professor Wole Soyinka have become bulwarks of the project by allowing some of their plays staged at the venue regularly. As a result, many people have made theatre attendance a compulsory part of their calendars now and it’s finally showing that consistency pays off if you can continue to stage competent works. It’s a pity we don’t have theatres everywhere, like for example, Germany, with more than 300, but we hope to attain those heights some day. We are striving to make it a success financially but good things come to those who wait, is what they say.”
  The challenges of producing theatre in Nigeria?
  Opo gan,” he retorts in Yoruba.
   According to him, “a shortage of suitable venues. There are very few places with the status of Terra Kulture that would make their venues available. Often, by the time the producer pays for a venue, there’s little or nothing left over to pay the cast. There’s also a dearth of sponsors. In many places, gate-takings are not adequate and very few actors want to practice art for art’s sake and can one blame them? Bills have to be paid and commitments met.”
  After three and a-half-years why did he pull out of the project?
  “I guess the place grew more attractive to people and many thought I was making a fortune so they got interested,” he says. “At the beginning, directors refused to work with me. They didn’t see the financial returns, now they seem to have become interested, so, I gently watched my steps.”
  Oguntokun says, “I had thought of leaving my comfort zone, Theatre@Terra, and travel round the country doing theatre.” He adds. “I didn’t want to go auto-pilot.”
  So you now left because you didn’t want any competition?
  “No,” Oguntokun says. “I just wanted to do something else. Doing something of hardcore has been challenging, and all these while, I couldn’t do anything else. Every Sunday, I was always doing one play or the other.”
  According to him, “there is no hard feeling between the management of Theatre@Terra and I. I did a project there in January.”
  Without sponsorship can theatre survive in the country?
  “Sponsorship?” He asks. “It comes in many forms and not all instances have to be formal. It would be difficult for theatre to survive without sponsorship but it can be done. What is essential is a re-awakening of the theatre-going culture in many Nigerians. If there are enough enlightened people streaming through the gates, the production will be a financial success. The producer must be ready to put his own money where his mouth is, however. Very rarely, will people back you until they see you’ve kick-started your project yourself. If you don’t believe in your own dream, why should anyone else?
  How does he get sponsorship and are the sponsors always ready?
  “Word of mouth is a very powerful tool and produces better results than any letter requesting sponsorship can,” Oguntokun say. 
  He adds, “there are few things stronger than a person who comes to see your production and is so firmly convinced of your abilities, he or she decides to support you or recommends you to a potential sponsor.”
  For him, “sponsors are not always ready to go on, and you must be ready to continue without them. I suppose that’s the major difference between a lot of would-be producers and me. I’ve learnt not just to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk. If one waits for all the lights to turn green, one will never leave one spot. We must move from point to point. Use your own resources sometimes. You must treat the theatre as a business too, if you want it to grow.”

And Five Years on The Girl Whisperer…

WITH a Bachelor of Laws from the Obafemi Awolowo University; Master’s of Law (LL.M) and Master’s in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies, M.H.R.S. from the University of Lagos, he continues to write weekly, The Girl Whisperer — on gender relations in The Guardian on Sunday, a column he has written since March 2007 and is a member of the Governing Council of the (Committee for Relevant Art) (CORA), a leading Arts and Culture Advocacy group in Nigeria.
  The Whisperer through the years?
  “It’s been five years of fun and excitement,” says Oguntokun.
  He continues “it has been an interesting ride, sometimes bumpy but always fun. What started as an inspiration shared with the Editor of the paper has since gathered momentum and someday will be made into book-form and in several volumes. I have been loved by many (and sometimes hated, some people refusing to take to my postulations). What no one must forget is that this column is not a Holy Book. It is me telling what I think of gender relations, and the things that can go wrong between partners and potential associates.”

All things Bright … and beautiful for a LiveWell mission


BISI Bright is the Representative of Africa/Middle East International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), the global federation of national associations of two million pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. She is also the first vice chairman and CEO of LiveWell Initiative (LWI), a non-governmental organisation that focuses on reducing health illiteracy and improving life expectancy.
  “The LiveWell Initiative is a community based, not-for-profit organisation with international focus. Since its inception in 2007, the group has provided free health empowerment programmes to over 1.4 million Nigerians and 3,000 Ghanaians including the physically challenged. Yet, it’s not funded by government or any group,” Bright says.
  The NGO, which launched its academy, the LWI Academy, through which it hopes to reach out to millions of Nigerians, Ghanaians and other Africans. The NGO collaborates with various local, national and international organisations and has got the endorsement of the US Consulate General in Nigeria, for its effort in the area of public and grassroots health empowerment programmes.
  Why the Initiative?
  She says, “it was established to fill the health literacy gap by empowering people with health literacy, which is different from functional literacy. Having realised that a lot of technocrats, high-flying individuals and whiz kids have very low health literacy level, we decided to bridge the gap.
  “Our programmes are, however, open to all — the rich, poor, young, old, lettered and unlettered. We decided to add value to the social space through health literacy and empowerment.”
  As a way of empowering people, the organisation recently trained and graduated seven officers at the Lagos Business School (LBS) and Enterprises Development Centre (EDC).
   The lady retorts: “It is God-given inspiration, and which also emanates from a few experiences I had. I was shocked to my marrows when I heard of the death of a 44-year-old female engineer, who suddenly died of heart attack. This made her family members angry, that the lady was ignorant of her health condition. So, with that, God, through one of my children, told me to start an initiative that will enlighten people on health issues and that birthed LWI.
  The LWI runs different programmes throughout the year; however, the most popular is the ‘health literacy’ aspect. “We run at least 60 programmes a year, which comes to an average of five programmes a month. One unique feature is that all the programmes offer free healthcare services to the people.
  “Some of the programmes range from workplace wellness, work life balance, executive health seminars and health awareness campaign in market places, garages and mechanic villages, as well as the LWI Academy (LWIA) training in First Aid/CPR, Health Safety and Environmental Management.”
  She adds: “We also run community health outreaches in rural, semi-rural and urban areas; deworm children, teach school children about etiquette, personal hygiene and hand washing. Our school’s programme covers drug abuse and disuse, as well as our ‘Project Diabetes,’ which teaches children (and adults) about diabetes and obesity and, and how to eat right. This project is in line with Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’. In addition, the LWIA trainings cover self-esteem building, youth empowerment and other humanitarian activities.”

ON Grand Health Bazaar (GHB) and networking, Bright says: “The objectives are of threefold: to promote health and wellness among corporate citizens by sensitising them to the importance of health, as it relates to commerce and productivity with a view to improving overall work-life balance; to promote organisational health in the corporate sector through a motivational, exciting, learning and rewarding exposition, which will enhance the individual health and overall corporate health of the citizen; and to promote inter-sectoral health by initiating cross-cutting health sector collaborations in a mutual synergy.”
  The LWI GHB 2011 was the first health multi-sectoral bazaar in the Nigeria. It focuses on women’s e-Health and adult immunisation. The show attracted endorsements and accolades from organisations such as the US Consulate General (USCG), UN Millennia 2015, Millennia 2015 Zimbabwe and others.
  Bright reveals that the training programmes compete with organisations such as the LBS and Phillips Consulting due to its exquisite, innovative and highly qualitative nature run in ‘clean air’ venues like Protea Hotel, Ikeja, Elion House Hotel, Ikoyi and The Marco Polo, V.I, Lagos.
  “This quarter, we intend to mount a ‘Domestic Health Fair’ for all drivers, cooks, gardeners, housemaids, nannies and other domestic servants. It will be a very interesting one, and we are looking out for collaborations. We want to do this because most domestic servants do not have access to any form of healthcare except in emergencies when they get minimum access and they are made to pay a refund by their bosses,” she says.
  On reaching the youths through camping programmes, Bright opines: “We will also run a Youth Camp Outreach in partnership with the MFM Camp, and our bulk internship programmes with Babcock University as well as other institutions. We will also run an ‘open air’ Free Health Mission for the public. This is the third year the programme is running and it usually costs us a lot of money. However, we run the programme yearly at strategic locations, and we always experience large turnout.”
  While saying they are looking at partnering with corporate organisations to boost their financial base, empower more people and develop programmes, she reveals, “the major challenge faced is finance. We run two offices with over 120 officers to cater for.
   “We have over 20 doctors, pharmacists, several nurses, public health professionals, microbiologists, biochemists, engineers, lawyers, administrators, business study graduates and others. Our programmes are in very high demand, but funding has been a major challenge. However, we intend to overcome it by improving our income generating drive,” she says.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Beverly... A daughter returns with love


PREVIOUS efforts to have a one-on-one chat with her failed as the London-based actress was said to have returned home to complete her film training at the Rodhampton University, London. That was after she starred in Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s Home In Exile, the movie that brought her to limelight.
  Recently, there were feelers that Beverly Naya had taken a bold step to relocate back home, having completed her studies in the United Kingdom.
  According to sources, the delectable actress and model has always nursed the ambition of returning to fatherland, so, her stint on Imasuen’s set was actually a sort of testing the waters. Through a friend, who seems to have been keeping tabs with her, I nicked her for a chat.  
    As she wheeled in on a black Toyota Corolla into the Shopping Mall somewhere on Lagos Island, the Delta State-born actress wore a very simple dress, yet looking sophisticated. With light makeup and short silky gown that exposes her decent legs, Beverly was on the go. The usual noise from customers trooping in and out of the mall, coupled with the generator sound led to a change of venue. Left with no other options, we ended up in Beverly’s car.  You don’t need to rack your brain to know Beverly’s belief; she’s got a black rosary hung on the centre mirror. 
BORN in London to Nigerian parents, Beverly was six months old when the family relocated to the United States where she lived in Atlanta and Chicago. Just as she clocked eight, the family moved back to London where she spent a better part of her life.
   “I’m the only child, so, I had a bit of a quiet childhood; but I have loads of cousins and they always made sure I was happy and kept me company. I have some beautiful memories from my childhood,” she enthused.
   Though a Nigerian, her first visit to the country was at the age of 15. At that time, the music of American hip-hop star Sisquo was making waves and Beverly was a big fan.
   “At that time of my life, I was obsessed with Sisquo, so, when he came to Nigeria, I had to go and watch him. My Mum knew how much I loved him and she arranged for me to go to Sisquo concert. I was fortunate to meet him backstage and I was speechless; I just kept staring at him and at one point he started looking at me like I was crazy,” she confessed.
     Eventually, Beverly managed to utter the words, “can I take a picture with you?” And just as the camera flashed, “I kissed him on the lips! He was completely shocked by that. Only to get home, try to develop the picture and they were not there. All of them were gone, so, I lost that memory forever. But I’m over Sisquo now,” she smiled.
    Right from her childhood, Beverly has always shown signs of playing big in the arts, though without a specific direction. Initially, she wanted to sing, then toyed with modeling, but finally settled for acting.
   “I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, but I’ve always been an arts oriented person and I knew I was going to do something in that direction. As a child, I just loved to enjoy life, but the older I grew, I started to set goals for myself and realising where my passion really is, especially when my parents told me I couldn’t sing to save my life.”
   What does that mean?
    “They said, ‘your voice is horrible, don’t sing.’ So, after that, I realised maybe that’s not where I needed to go. I’ve always known that I have the ability to act; my parents believe that’s the area I should go and they have supported me since then.”
    Immediately she opted for acting, Beverly made efforts to formalise what started as a passion. She studied Drama in College for two years and got a distinction for the few plays she performed while in school. Later, she took a three-year break to the university, where she studied Filmmaking and Scriptwriting, and graduated with a second class upper in Filmmaking and a first class in Scriptwriting.
BEVERLY was only 20, when she featured in Home In Exile, alongside Desmond Elliot, Justus Esiri, Chiwetalu Agu, Francis Duru and others. The actress/model actually took a holiday to be part of the production. A lover and admirer of Nollywood, Beverly has always looked forward for an opportunity to return home to act, so, when the script came, she grabbed it with both hands.   
   “There was no way my parent would have allowed me to relocate to Nigeria to pursue acting because I needed my degree. So, I came during the summer holiday and did Home In Exile, directed by Lancelot.”
    Featuring in the move was Beverly’s first direct exposure to the Nigerian movie industry, an experience she had always dreamt of.
    “No doubt, I was very nervous. It was my first time shooting a feature length movie and working with Nigerians. It was a nervous experience like I said, but I did enjoy it, hence I’m doing more now.”
    Coincidentally, her role in the movie was similar to what she was experiencing personally, as a young Nigerian, who had spent all her life abroad.
     “It was a sort of culture shock for my character; coming from America to a country where I know very little about. In fact, there was a scene in the movie where my character, Julie, sat on the king’s throne, which is a taboo. It was kind of fun acting that part, especially because it could happen to anyone who has lived abroad for so long. In that sense, I will say it was cool.”
   Though born and brought up in the western world, Beverly is a strong believer in the rich culture and tradition of Africa. 
    “I’ve always said that Africa as a continent has a very rich culture; I’ve always wanted to explore various parts of this continent. I think it’s a beautiful thing; I think it’s enviable in my opinion. This is something that we should cherish,” she harped.
     Unfortunately, the western world erroneously labels some of these rich cultures fetish?
    “That’s one aspect of our culture; African culture is very broad, so we can’t limit it to being fetish,” she noted. “However, the western world tends to pick holes in our culture instead of looking at the beauty of Africa. To me, I don’t really see that as a major part of our culture.”
   Even with the shortcomings in Nollywood productions, Beverly believes that things are gradually taking shape. 
     “Definitely, there’s a contrast with the way things are done elsewhere. For instance, in London, we have more time to shoot movies. Also, the time that we have to interpret our scripts is shorter here. Sometimes we get a script like a week or two before the movie commences and that could be a challenge too. But I think I’m getting used to it now and I really do enjoy it and I love challenges. I’m driven towards challenges, so, it works fine for me.”
     While in the UK, Beverly was involved in few productions, mainly short films. On the other side, she also modeled. But when it was time to play in feature films, the Ibusa lady opted for Nollywood.
     “It’s happening more now because I know a few people in England and America, who have taken the decision to come home. My mum used to tell me that charity begins at home, so, the initial movement was because of that. However, while in the university, I resolved to move back to Nigeria and work here after school. Officially, I decided to come home in May, 2010.”
      Aside from the thirst for Nollywood, England seems not to have presented a healthy environment for black actors like Beverly, except playing prostitutes, drug addicts and criminals.
    “We don’t work as often as we do here; we don’t get scripts that are as challenging as what we get here — in my opinion. I think I’m able to be more dynamic roles in this industry; I can play a character today and do a contrast of it in my next movie. I love work; I don’t like idleness. I love to always get the opportunity to work and Nollywood provides that platform for me. The scripts coming out here now, the quality and budget, show we have really advanced,” she enthused.
   From all indications, the London-trained filmmaker is enjoying the Nollywood experience, playing lead role in a number of productions including Make Me a Heart, Dark Waters, Weekend Getaway and others.
      “It’s been good; I’ve been on set lately. Since September last year, I’ve done three cinema movies — Weekend Getaway directed by Desmond Elliot and produced by Emem Isong; a week after that, I was on Charles Novia’s set for Alan Poser starring Ossy Ukaeje. After that, I was in Terrila Thompson’s Up Creek Without A Paddle. The movie is about the Niger Delta crises and the budget is really high.”
    Of all her works, Beverly seems to have fallen in love with her role in Stripped, a yet to be released movie shot in Lagos.
    “My favourite would have to be the character from Stripped which is the movie I just finished shooting with Ramsey Nouah and Joseph Benjamin. That character is the best I’ve played so far and it was amazing; she experienced a huge variety of emotions. The character was very challenging; she lives in the village and also a prostitute, which is far away from who I’m; I can’t wait for everybody to see that movie.”  
    How did you cope?
   “It’s all about research; I do a lot of research whenever I’m working. The more research I do, the more I get used to the character.”
      Barely a year after she return, Beverly has featured in a number of productions; a feat some of her fellow returnees are yet to achieve. One wonders how she got these roles in such a short period of time?
   “Well, for Weekend Getaway, I was fortunate enough that Emem Isong got in touch with me for that role. As for Alan Poser, I’ve had that script for over a year; he literarily wanted me for that character. Up Crick Without A Paddle, they had someone in mind for that character, but I told them I could handle it; they believed in me and gave the role to me. If you meet Tarrila Thomson today, he will tell you how impressed he is with my role. As for Stripped, they had auditioned over 200 females for that role, but the time I came, the director was like, ‘this is the person for this job.’
     She continued: “Maybe it’s a sort of payback for taking that decision to work in my fatherland. Again, when you believe in something and you voice it, it happens. That’s how it has always been with me; I trust in God a lot to see me through in anything I do.”
HAVING found her rhythm as an actress in Nollywood, Beverly is now eyeing the big picture.
    “Definitely in the near future, I’m going to get involved in directing films and music videos; I also model in my spare time.”
    Have you done any modeling in the country?
     “Yes, I’m working with Etisalat right now; I have a contract to do some billboards adverts for them.”
   As for the challenges involved in being a star, “I’m aware, but I just feel that God would never give me something I can’t handle. I never let anything affect me; I’ve got such a strong family support with amazing friends. Most importantly, I have God on my side. So far, I have all these things, I believe there’s no single challenge I cannot handle.”
    To Beverly, looking good is something that should be taken very serious.
    “I love to be different, I love to be unique; I love to walk into the room and everybody looks at me. Sorry, that’s how I love it,” she said amidst laughter.
    That means you are ready to do some crazy stuff?
    “No, I’m not wild,” she quipped, laughing aloud. “I love to look like a lady, no matter what. I just love to have an aura of confidence; I’m a confident person; not arrogant, but just confident.”
    What’s your kind of man?
    “I like an ambitious man; a man that knows how to treat a lady and make her look special. I love a confident and intellectual man. I need a handsome man that dresses well and has to believe in God too.”
    Any plans to return to London soon?
   “I’m based in Nigeria now, but obviously, London is still home; I would go there from time to time to see my family members, friends and to shop.”

Susan Peters … Foundation lift for asthmatic patients


HER voice floated quietly, but confidently. She was emotional as she spoke; and even with wide grin that spotlighted her elegant face, you’ll notice little tears dripping from her eyes.
  As a growing child, the Nollywood actress and model battled with asthma. The experience was not palatable. Now, she is determined to create more awareness about the ailment, which has killed many young people. “My experience, coupled with that of my father, a diabetic patient, made me think of setting up a foundation to cater for the less-privileged,” she says.
SUSAN Peters, the Benue State-born diva says she will officially launch her non-governmental organisation (NGO), 'Susan Peters Foundation: Benue Pikin' on May 30, her birthday. “I hope to use the organisation to enlighten more people, as well as, create awareness on childhood asthma and diabetes,” Susan says.
  “Childhood asthma is something most people don’t know about. So, I intend to create awareness about these two killer diseases — asthma and diabetes,” she pauses, as if to muster enough strength to say what is coming next.
  “I love charity and I hope to use the medium provided by the Foundation to contribute my quota to societal growth,” Susan says, in a voice that carries not only her dream, but also the spirit behind it.
  Reflecting back Susan says, before now, she’d always celebrated her birthday with inmates in orphanages,; using such occasion as an avenue to enlighten them on how to handle such cases.
  Since it is an NGO, the Foundation will source for fund both within and outside the country. Says Susan, “we are, however, looking up to kind-hearted Nigerians, corporate organisations and government for support to make the mission work.”
SUSAN’s break into Nollywood started with an excursion to Lagos in 2002 after a course in TV and Film in Kaduna. The actress, however, had her first shot at limelight, when she did a modelling job around 2004.
  Since then, she has graced so many billboards including those of BAT (British America Tobacco), Fidelity Bank, Keystone Bank, Golden Penny Pasta, U.H.F Long life Milk, Haemeron blood tonic, Airport Branding and others.
  However, modeling has not stopped her involvement in acting. In only a few years on the turf, she has featured in over 50 movies including Sound of poverty, Wicked Intensions, Stone face, Spiritual War, God Mother, Nollywood Hustlers, Bursting out, 30 days, Mortal attraction, Moment of Truth, Young Masters, Getto Language, The Begotten, Wasted Effort, My Diary, Squad 23, War Front 2, State of Emergency 2, Stolen Bible, The Hammer, Save the Crown, God Mother, The boy is mine and others.
  Is she comfortable with the way movies are flooding the Nigerian market?
  “Our videos now go through the cinemas before they are finally released into the market. You have to go see them at cinemas or have to wait for it to be on DVD,” she discloses.
  Susan believes there is no industry without challenges, even in politics. In the UK, she says they have their own lapses and “we have our own as well but we pray to God every day that it gets better."
She continues, “Nigeria is a big country, and there is no way you can compare the way video films are shot here with that of UK.”
  Then again, she pauses. “The way we work here is tense. We do back to back movies like there is no tomorrow. An executive producer won't just sit down and expect you to use a month to shoot a video that could take him some days. People in the UK don’t work like us; they work with ease.”
  How does she choose whom she works with and the work to be done?
  She says, commitment to the job and project determine that.
  As to the seeming stiff competition among actresses -- which often lead to conflicts or what is popularly called beefing; she tacitly admits such exists, but points out that men don’t really go through the same challenges and difficulties.
 “If a particular role is meant for this man, it is for the man. But in our case, we have lots of new faces that are equally doing well. Gone are the days that they use to beg a lady or woman to act, she explains.
  But does this make her happy? “Maybe not,” she says. “The lesser the politics in Nollywood, the better.”
  She also puts a caveat: “There is need for more investment in the movie industry. If there are more investors, there will be more jobs for the youths. The industry is very large to accommodate everybody.”
  To what extent has her appearance fees influenced her life on the acting turf?
   While advising up-coming actresses and models to seek God’s love and favour, says, “if you have to be Susan Peters, you must have to forget about the money at present. When you are fresh in the industry or just coming in, the take-home is small. If you really have passion for the job, you must not think too much of money for now and make sure that you are relevant and get roles based on merit. The money will always come later.”

WHEN Susan got a call from Emem Isong to play a supporting role in her movie, Bursting Out, little did she know that the work would earn her, her first recognition outside the shores of the country.
  Few months after the premiere, the movie earned her the Best Actress Award for (Supporting Role) at the Nollywood and African Film Critics' Awards (NAFCA) held in North Carolina, USA.
   Though the category had other strong contenders such as Ini Edo, Nadia Buari and Roseline Ngissah; Susan’s troublesome character as Ibiere in the movie sure won the hearts of the judges and viewers, who voted massively for her in the competition.
   The NFACA recognizes work of professionals in the African film industry, including directors, actors, writers and humanitarian workers.  
  Apart from two international awards — Afro Hollywood Award, United Kingdom and Best Supporting Actress in America (NFACA), she has won two awards from City People magazine: Outstanding Performance in the movie industry (2012) and The Most Stylish Actress of the Year (2010) and Best of Nollywood (BON) last year. “I cherish all my awards because they are very importance to me," she relishes.
  Till date, she remains the only and first Nigerian Actress to feature in the International Afro American Magazine, Black Beauty And Hair.

  Is she lonely at the top? “No,” Susan says. She is in fact surprised at the negative perception the society attach to single ladies.
  “Marital issue is so serious in our society. Any little thing, people will insult you to go marry as if marriage is the end of the world,” she laments.
 She adds that force has nothing to do with getting the right person. “Marriage will come at the right time. The reason many people experience-failed marriages is because of pressure either from family or their peers.”
  Susan advises women not to rush into marriage. “Take your time and get to know the person even though it takes forever to know someone.”
  If she finally marries, breaking up in the future won’t be an option. “I want a marriage that describes everything to do with 'for better for worst'.”

HER fashion sense?
  The award-winning actress says, “ I am a fashionista and good dress sense influences me.”
  The lady, whose most expensive fashion pieces are her Swarovski and diamond sets, says, she does not really have favourite designers. “I go for what fits me. My style is classy, edgy, trendy, sexy and sassy.”
  Susan says her beauty routine is simple ­— regular facial wash, use of moisturisers and a lot of water. She eats well, too. She uses any kind of shower gel and ‘clean and clear’ products for her face.