IN 1990s actress Ann Njemanze, who later became the partner of actor Segun Arinze (Aina) in a relationship that ended as quickly as it emerged… after a child, was one of the most admirable faces of the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood).
A very good artiste with an admirable on-the-screen mien and engaging reflexes, Njemanze was a darling to many of her fans especially to those who watched her moving delivery of her roles in such films as True Confession, Forever among others. But suddenly, she vanished from the scene. At the early years of the new century, she tried a return. Not long after a nasty road accident, which occurred while she traveled out of her Lagos base for one production almost ended her life. She survived narrowly. But went deeper under.
https://www.nigeriafilms.com ran into her recently and a discussion of Nollywood and her absence from the scene led to many more remarkable disclosures.
“Yes, I am Ann Njemanze. I am from Imo State,” she said.
Asked if she still acts, she emphasised, “Yes I do. I still act, and in fact, I have just finished a television soap opera that I think is expected to be aired on DSTV. I played the role of a doctor.
“I am looking forward to delving into the Yoruba movie industry. It is not that I am fluent in the language.”
But why did she stop acting? “I stopped briefly because I had to go back to school. I studied visual art (painting) in the University of Lagos Department of Creative Art. I finished in 2003. I did that and I decided to go into other businesses. I decided to follow the line of what I studied in school, (painting). I also did a bit of interior decoration. And I have been writing. I am actually trying to put together a collection of my poems and poems written by some of my colleagues.
“As I said, I still act. When scripts come, I do them, if the money is right. You know what the economy is, so whatever one wants to do, it should be worth it.”
But it seems she is now getting more intellectual about the industry as her mind seems more drawn to making movies in local languages.
“I like Yoruba movies for instance; I like their stories. They are very home made and home-oriented. But then the truth is the English language movies get a lot of criticism for their stories. May be because of the medium. The Yoruba movies are not awkward because of the language. So what they portray, what they try to tell is very near home, and one understands it, and like it too when they translate.
I think it is time we go back to our indigenous language in making movies.
I paint and I do a little bit of ceramics. As I said, I left school in 2003/2004. I have been painting while in school. That also opened me up to other parts of market. You realise that there are other ways of making money aside from just acting. I like art; every aspect of art. I love art as a whole and I think it is me. It is something I appreciate a lot.”
Her passion for screen art, she explained, began from childhood and the talent came from her parents. “It started when I was in Port Harcourt. We used to live at 30, Oheato Street, 6-line, Port Harcourt. Each time there is power outage at night my mum has this story-telling- trait in her. She tells us stories with a lot of dramatising. She had it in her. My father loves music. My parents actually encouraged me to go into acting. I wanted to study law or English but my parents said I should do something that has to do with art, so they encouraged me and I guess that is why I have a lot of support from them.”
Asked what she’s doing now? She winks, somewhat hesitantly. Then offered: “I do a lot of writing. I have been doing some painting. But I think writing is taking more of my time now. I am thinking of doing a movie, an indigenous Nigerian language movie. I do not know in what language, it could be Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, but certainly not English language. I have devoted my time to doing a lot of scripting and painting; now I do voice over.”
The lady seems to have a lot of hobbies which range from expressing her creativity in art to cooking exotic dishes and travels. “I like trying out new cuisine and I like watching movies, foreign movies in the accent of French, classical movies, I like opera. That is basically what I love doing. I love Chinese foods. There was a time when I was crazy about Chinese cuisine. I have tried Indian too. Somebody told me that there is a Turkish restaurant in Lagos Island. When I get the name and the place I will get there just to find out what their cuisine is like. I like Chinese; I like things that have to do with flavours. I like cultures that imbibe a lot of flavours in their cooking. I like Nigerian meals. It is the usual. And because I schooled in various parts of the country, I have tasted the various foods. Port Harcourt, Lagos, Kaduna and Benue State. Army Children school, Port Harcourt, Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, University of Port Harcourt (Diploma in Theatre Art) and University of Lagos, Degree in Art (painting).”
For growth in Nollywood she said: “We have come a long way. But we can do better because I believe that when the independent producer who knows what he is doing comes back to the industry, Nollywood would become a better place. It would become a thriving industry, if we do it professionally and not have people who do not understand the business just come into it. I am not against anybody who had no prior knowledge of art or producers bringing their money in, but I really do not like the trend.