For Joke Silva, acting is not only a passion but also what she does with her life. Her marriage to veteran actor, Mr. Olu Jacobs is over 25 years. Silva sojourned into the movie industry about 30 years ago, and has since been projecting the image and culture of not only Nigeria, but Africa, through her company, LUFODO Productions.
Her father was a lawyer while her mother is a medical doctor but she chose acting due to her love for it. In an encounter with National Life, Silva goes down memory lane on her private life and career.
First, you want to know why she enjoys stage play more than acting. Her words: "Yes, I enjoy stage plays and I believe that stage and film go hand in hand. For a stage play, the maximum cost of production is about five million naira and many people don’t know it has to be that expensive. Stage plays take longer rehearsal period than acting, it takes as much as two months at times, and you cannot ask people to put in two months without compensating them adequately. It is difficult to let people understand that it takes a long time to rehearse so that it becomes part and parcel of you and also becomes a good production when you perform for the audience".
What I do
My production company known as LUFODO Productions, which concentrate on stage plays, was incorporated in 2000 as a liability company, though it has been in existence for over 20 years as an enterprise. LUFODO Productions has trained a lot of people and some of them have done a lot of productions. LUFODO Productions’ first foreign outing was the Hackney Empire in London which was a theatre that was sponsored by the Council of Arts in London with five million pounds. They loved the play and asked us to come back. With Dr. Yerima’s assistance and lovely casts like Teni Aofiyebi, Bukky Ajayi, Iyabo Amoke and I, the outing was a success.
Lightings are very expensive. Sometimes you may need to pay N1m a day for lights. But it may be cheaper if you are running a long show. What really excites me about the whole issue is that a lot of production companies are following our footsteps and I am glad about that. The work is challenging, but I love it.
You were part of the judges in the Aart of Life Foundation some years ago. What is it all about?
Aart of Life Foundation was set up by Mrs. Taiwo Taiwo in memory of her daughter, Abioye Taiwo. The essence of the foundation is to give young people hope. They do group counseling. Quite a lot of us were trained as counselors and there was a time we had a town hall meeting with the parents and guardians of the children who died in Sosoliso crash.
People were asked to send their stories or whatever challenges they had faced and there was a panel that selects the story that would inspire other people. The stories are made in form of docu-drama, while the audience vote and select the person whose story they feel is more interesting and challenging.
How has Nollywood fared?
We thank God in this part of the world that malaria prevented some people from coming here, we would have ended up fighting apartheid like some other African countries or be subjected to racism like what was happening to our brothers in South America or West Indies. We don’t have that, so we can tell stories about our way of life and past history, not story of trying to cope with life. I believe that is why Nollywood became popular among different people in the world.
Secondly, Nollywood explosion also came through technology. Our system was totally in support of technology, so we hit the ground running; digital technology also took us to the stratosphere. Talking about technology, people have been saying that it brought out the good, the bad and the ugly in the society. Nudity in movies is un-African and it could be likened to parts of the bad things technology brought, which send wrong signals to the youth.
What is your view about that?
Nudity in movies depends on the story that you are trying to tell. I don’t think nudity is done on movies for the sake of pornography. At times, when you are telling a story, there is need for a bit of exposure. The way you act about that exposure in order not for it to turn to pornography is a decision that the producer, director, technical team and the actress have to decide, because it is a collaborative act so that at the end of the day, you are not talking about nudity but a good product that can sell itself.
The Nigerian movie industry has increased in leaps and bounds. It is a brand which came out some years ago and took Nigeria to the world’s stage. Everywhere in the world, non Nigerians are interested in Nollywood. Secondly, a lot of people depend on Nollywood for their livelihood. People are also asked about the Nigerian movie industry when they go for an interview for visa or other diplomatic issues just to find out whether they are truly Nigerians. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t go the way other movie industries in the world went, that is, from celluloid to television, then to video. We went from television to film and later to digital.
The way we tell our stories is not serial because we are television based, even in our films. We need a capacity building for Nigeria’s movie industry.
Why I went into acting
It is something I wanted to do from the onset. I enjoyed performing right from my childhood. As a child, I had wanted to be a lawyer or medical doctor because my mother is a medical doctor while my father was a lawyer. But the passion I had for acting was something my parents took cognizance of and encouraged me to do it as a hobby, but not a career. I was however, a bit of a stubborn child, so I insisted that acting was what I wanted to do. My parents were supportive and I was lucky when I started out professionally to work with some of the top people in the business.
My very first film
Professionally, I started from the University of Lagos Cultural Centre, which is now called Creative Arts Department. I worked with the Late Bode Osanyin and Stella Monye. It was a cultural troupe and it was called “Omodo” by the Late Bode Osanyin. He liked my voice, so I was the narrator. We did another play called “The Exception and the rule”. We performed at the Goethe Institute.
Are you selective of the roles you play in movies?
I do to a certain extent. It is not as if there are thousands of scripts coming to my table now because I think they see me as expensive. But there are some roles I would not play in a movie. For example, I lost my daughter and one of the scripts brought to me to perform was a role of a woman who was a witch, killing her children, so I rejected it. At times, I accept some roles because I feel the audience would like it.
Sexual harassment in Nollywood
Sexual harassment happens in almost all professions and sectors, but may be rampant in Nollywood because many people consider entry into the industry, very slow. A lot of people come to me, telling me that they want to go into acting, but I counsel them about the challenges of acting.
There must be a sense of responsibility with whosoever these young people approach. Though, the harassment is on both sides. Some of these young girls do all sorts of things, just to attain stardom. I don’t think it is necessary because the doors would open for you if you have the talent.
I would have been a lawyer.
Would you allow any of your children to choose acting as a career?
Definitely, my younger son is going to be an actor while the older one wants to be a director.
You are known as Joke Silva while you are married to a movie veteran, Olu Jacobs, why are you not bearing your hubby’s name?
My professional name is Joke Silva. For us it is not an issue. We’re both trained in the United Kingdom where acting profession is highly respected. In that clime, you don’t change your name because you have created a brand name that people recognize you with. You don’t change that brand name but can only repackage it. So I am bearing Joke Silva for brand recognition. To make the confusion less for people, I stick to Joke Silva. Where I bear Joke Jacobs which has become totally unnecessary are in the family, church and my children school. But it is no longer necessary calling me Joke Jacobs because my children used to introduce me to their friends at school as Joke Silva.
Everybody calls me Joke Silva and I am very happy with that.
Your marriage clocked 25 years in November this year. What is the secret of your happy married life? God is the head of my marriage. God has taught us how to forgive each other and He makes a new wineskin for us in each season. We found that over the years and thank God for His grace that he makes available for us.
Can you in a few words describe your husband?
My husband is a wonderful man. A great father! He loves people. Our friends call him the professional landlord because he puts things right, getting some workmen to fix things here and there. When Olu is at home, he is home. Also, he has given so much to this industry. I look at him and say, “Lord, reward him in his lifetime.”
Where did you meet your husband?
We met at the National Arts Theatre in 1981 and got married in 1985. We have two boys.
How do you unwind?
I love watching television and I read a lot of novels, especially, with a glass of wine.
Do you have a memorable day?
I have many of them, but performing in: The king must dance naked at the National Theatre around 1992 is an event I can never forget. There was no space so people were even sitting on the floor while others were standing. I performed with Olu Jacobs, Albert Egbe, Aunty Taiwo Lycett and Richard Mofe-Damijo.
We had a brilliant script by Agbeyegbe, while the director was Bayo Oduneye. What I will never forget is my running off to the back of the hall and coming back because my character went mad at the end of the episode. There was a standing ovation when I walked into the hall after the performance.
What do you have fear for?
Burying one’s child is what I am afraid of. I lost my daughter some years ago and wouldn’t want to go through it again.
What do you have passion for?
It used to be work and it is still my work.
What is your advice for Nigerian women?
I used to tell God to allow me to live in this world one day at a time. Sometimes, you plan and it fails.
You have a beautiful stature, how have you been able to maintain it?
My friends have been telling me that. One of the things I do is to listen to my body now more than before. Some people eat even when they are not hungry. I eat moderately because it costs a lot of money to get rid of fats.
How was growing up like?
We lived in Yaba when I was growing up and later moved to Glover Road, Ikoyi. We had everything and most of the people that come to my house presently are some of the people I grew up with. We used to ride bicycle around and I did not enjoy going to school.