Nigerian Actress Ayoka Omo Ologede: My Tribal Marks Is My Trademark
See excerpts of veteran Nollywood actress Ayandotun Emmanuel aka Ayanka Ologede’s recent chat with The Nation’s reporter Dupe Ayinla Olasunkanmi
YOU have been in the industry for a while. How did it all start?
I am going to relate in Yoruba, because that is what I use in my profession. It is true that I have been doing this work for a very long time, and I can say it has been of great benefit to me. I come from the Ayan family; the drummers. By tradition, the drummer was part of drama as stage play mixed with dance when we have the drummers’ festival. Then, we were scantily dressed and happy dancing around. But presently we no longer do that, because the world is now exposed. I started participating in drama in my early years at home, and I grew into it as I started primary school; that is, the First Baptist Primary School, Iwerele, Oyo State. Then, I proceeded to Oke Igano Model School, it continued and then I came to Lagos and attended Aunty Ayo Comprehensive in Keffi. All through my education, I was very active in drama.
On graduation, I then went to our father, Hubert Ogunde, went to another school, before standing on my own. I have been on my own now for almost four decades. Hubert Ogunde, God bless his departed soul, was the person who exposed me to the modern way of doing drama. It was then that he started the group called Lagos State Theatre Art group. That was before ANTP came into existence at Yaba, Alagomeji. He was staying at Number 3 and they usually have the meeting at Number 10, on the same street.
They were about six that started ANTP then, before it became a group. We were all enjoying before it became one with rancour because everyone wanted the leader’s position, which made all so messy. But presently I am under TAMPAN, managed by Dele Odule.
But there are those that are not under any group…
That is true. We have a lot of them in the industry now. In our own time, we went under a lot of training, but these ones just come in and are given much respect as long as money is involved. These people that bring in money also know that talent is very important for them to have a good production. So, what they do is to get themselves attached to popular actors and feature them in their movies to make waves. Money is not the crucial feature of our work but talent. It is just that the financial return on acting is not very attractive. But in our group, the president is very disciplined and that is the reason we are praying that what took place in ANTP, does not happen with our new group. Much of our work is done out of love and respect for one another. And I know that if we join hands together, we can achieve a lot.
With the influx of new talents, how often do you get roles?
Yes, we have a lot of these new faces floating all over the place but the truth is that, they can never take our place or roles. They will play their roles and we will do ours too. The sky is big enough for all of us to fly.
Why are you always on low cut?
I just love it and I also spot it because I wish to expose my head to fresh air. You know when you have hairdo on, it will be difficult for you to feel the breeze. My husband is very comfortable with it. When he saw it, he was like ‘it looks good on you.’
You look good in a shirt and three-quarter trouser. Do you often dress like this?
(Laughs) Yes, often time, I am always dressed in such wears. Except I have an occasion to attend, then I would have a different look. I love wearing trousers. It makes me look smart. My husband always compliments me when I wear them; he says I should not dress like an old woman.
How long have you been married and how have you managed marriage with your career?
I have been married for a very long time. But I started my acting career before I met my husband and started my family. Then we acted stage plays, going from one state to another. We visited different towns and had lots of fun moving around and making people happy with our acts. We had a very big bus that conveyed us around town. Some of us sat at the top, dancing, drumming and singing. Even if the money realized used was not much, we accepted it gladly. I give so much respect to late Hubert Ogunde. He had so many costumes. He was the first person with whom I travelled to the north to stage a play. Then, plays were much appreciated.
Which was your first major movie?
The first major movie that I acted in, I was given a fee of N300. It was big money for me at the period and the title of the movie was Eri Okan. It was produced by Adebayo Salami. I was not the actress initially contracted for the role but when the actress did not show up, Ojoge suggested me to to play the role of Omo Ologede. Then, no film maker wasted time with production as equipment used for shooting movies were rented daily. I can remember that my N300 fee was put in an envelope. For that role, I can never forget Oga Bello. I was yet to start when the person for the role came in and he told her that someone else has taken up the role. Another funny angle to the story was that, the lady that was supposed to play the role had faint tribal mark, but mine was very sharp and visible, but it did not stop me from getting the role and others afterwards.
Talking about the tribal mark, has it been a challenge so far?
Not at all, it has become a trade mark for me. Me, International Ojuelegba, I am happy that I have these tribal marks.
What is your relationship with the Oba of Iseri?
(Laughs) I guess the question came from the plate number on the car. Well, if you noticed, I have been speaking to someone on the phone. The caller is from abroad, she is the daughter of Oba Iseri, Idimu, Lagos. She is my very good friend; her name is Faderera and the first daughter to the king. She was the one that gave me the car.
What is the gain of being a public figure?
There is a lot of gain, which includes getting married along the line and having kids, and staying married and alive. Another gain is that we are connected to some important personalities, which has given us some grace to an extent. There is also the love shown to us by fans, especially when we are on the road. I enjoy it when people come to greet me.
Why is it that we no longer have the old method of stage play that you mentioned earlier?
Remember, the world is changing. Yes, in those days, it used to be fun. But everything has turned digital now, people hardly have time to go for local shows, they will rather have them on the go. Then we used to dance on buses, and then came the video, DVD, now the cinemas. What we want is for the government to help us with piracy because they have taken all our dividends.
But how do they get hold of your movies?
That is one puzzle that is yet to be solved. We want to keep appealing to the government to help us look into the matter.