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Meeting with the Masters: Ray Lema shares secrets of his Amazing Musical Career
July 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Ray Lema Talk about musicians who have with great consistency flown the African flag high through music and Ray Lema will rank among the top. Born in Zaire which is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ray Lema has toured the globe with his brand of music which in his own words channels a link between traditional African Music and his modern pianist training. Despite the success and fame that he enjoys, Ray Lema has shunned the trappings of stardom as he seeks to be a better musician every day.     Lema, who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in African music across generations says music is a function of one’s education and for a culture as rich as Africa, the focus should not remain on the showbiz element of music. Despite the challenges, Ray Lema says he is optimistic about the future of Africa especially with the younger generation which has more tools at their disposal to help is seeking solutions.

Ray Lema, we understand in your younger years, your aspiration was to be a Catholic Priest and you actually went to a seminary, what made you change your mind and when did you realize that music was your true calling?

I found my calling at the seminary when I went to be a priest and then I left because I was not quite comfortable with some concepts of the catholic religion.

How challenging was it for you to forge a name for yourself in music and may we know some highlights of your career?

I wasn’t in the challenge of “getting known” I was more in the challenge of being a better musician and I still am. I started as a classical pianist and then I became a rock guitar player, then I became the musical director of the National Ballet of Congo (DRC) and after I left Congo I’ve been on the roads, and if you go check my website, you can read about my biography.

Much of your music is different from the traditional Congolese and African Music, you have made it big with that, but what made you go for a different brand of music other than what most other than what most Africans of your time went for?

I think a matter of training I’ve been trained first as a classical musician and then being the director of a national ballet I had to listen and play with so many traditional musicians that the Congolese rumba didn’t really appeal to me. Today I try to make a direct link between African traditional music and my modern pianist training.

How many albums does Ray Lema have as of this moment and which of them registered the greatest success?

I’ve never been into the “star system” so it’s not a priority for me to go check which album is the most successful. But as I said before, I just feel I’m getting better as a musician. As for the number of albums same, just check on the website.

What is your appraisal of African music today and its younger generation, some have complained that there is too much vulgarity and it is lacking in message, your take on that sir.

Music is a reflection of one’s education and if we invest in educating our people we shouldn’t have that complain. The problem  is actually that in modern African music we have only the show business side, and it’s not enough for  cultures as rich as African cultures to be represented only by showbiz.

Ray LemaThere are others who think too that music from earlier stars like Franco,Tabu Ley, Manu Dibango,Miriam Makeba,Franklin Boukaka , Le Grand Kalle,Fela etc had a patriotic zest and helped in promoting a strong African identity and promoting unity, do you agree?

All the musicians that you named didn’t have to sell an image through musical video clip. They were busy selling just their music, and their music was very close to the people, so it’s true that they had a stronger identity that what I hear today, because when I watch today’s video clips, they don’t really reflect musical careers, they just reflect an obedience to marketing rules.

May we know the relationship you have with some of those artists cited and may also know some of the younger generation of musicians you appreciate and frequently interact with?

I met personally and played with most of the musicians you cited. Most of them are gone, except for Manu Dibango with whom I have played extensively.

Among the younger, I play  mostly  with instrumentalist like Etienne Mbappe, Pépé Feli, Lokua Kanza, Bil Aka Kora, Fredy Massamba, Ballou Canta, les Tambours de Brazza with Emile Biayenda, Francky Moulet … there are a lot …

In terms of money, in terms of income, would you say music pays more today than it was a few decades back? This question is asked with issues of piracy and its negative effects in mind, how do we fight piracy so the artist can enjoy the fruits of his work?

Talking about money first, I should say Yes and no! Some “stars” today make the amount of money that could not have been dreamt of years before. And that’s where you have to make a difference between “stars” and musicians especially in Africa. Those who make money with music are the singers. The instrumentalist playing behind already have a hard time just surviving!

Talking about piracy, the first problem, talking about Africa is the weakness of the distribution system, then still in some countries the copyright is non existent or inefficient.

Piracy, with internet is a worldwide problem. Different solutions are being studied to reward the composers, but still I have to say that no satisfying solution has been found.

The continent recently celebrated fifty years of the African Union, considering that great names like you excelled in the earlier years of independence, what is your view on how the continent is evolving?

You’re misinformed! because in the 60’s I was still a teenager  !!! I’m not that old !!!

In spite of all the problems we are facing in Africa, I deeply believe in my continent and more especially in the new generations coming who have more tools for analyzing our situation.

 

Irving Acao, Etienne Mbappe, Nicolas Viccaro, Ray Lema, Sylvain Gontard

Irving Acao, Etienne Mbappe, Nicolas Viccaro, Ray Lema, Sylvain Gontard

You are originally from the Congo and that country with its amazing resourcing and wonderful culture has not known peace for a long time now, how do you feel about that and in what way can music and famous musicians like you help in making things better?

Those amazing resources are the main Congolese problem because some big corporations from all over the world make their profit by keeping this situation unchanged and as a musician , I still feel very small in front of those corporations who will never give up peacefully their lucrative business.  What has been  happening for years in Congo is intimately linked to the global economic system, which is now  totally  out of control  and you can see that the crisis is worldwide, so I can only hope that there will be a global change before it’s too late.

Any special projects that you are working on right now?

Yes ! my  jazz quintet , with Etienne Mbappe on bass with whom I have a long time complicity.

I’m also working on new compositions to play with a string quartet , a new piano solo … tons of projects !!!

What do you consider as the legacy of Ray Lema, what would you want Africa and the world to always remember you for?

Being a universal musician deeply rooted in his African tradition !

Mr Ray Lema, thanks very much for your availability and for granting this interview, sometimes it is very difficult to get access to stars of your caliber.

Anytime. Now you know the way !Thank you,

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When Nollywood Success Opens Doors to The Presidency
April 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

-Actress Binta Goudiaby Fetes achievements with President Yahya Jammeh and Gambians

By Ajong Mbapndah L

President Yaya Jammeh of Gambia and Nollywood Actress Binta Goudiaby

President Yaya Jammeh of Gambia and Nollywood Actress Binta Goudiaby

It was a most memorable trip says hard working Nollywood actress Binta Goudiaby upon her return from the Republic of Gambia where she was received by President Yahya Jammeh .Though born in Senegal, Binta’s mother hails from the Gambia and part of her childhood was actually spent there. Binta who won big at the 2012 Nollywood & African Film Critics‘(NAFCA) Awards in the USA proudly presented her trophy to President Jammeh. In the company of a delegation from NAFCA which was part of the trip, President Jammeh was presented with “Life Time Achievement,” award from NAFCA.  It was not all about movies for Binta, as the work of her Djibonkete Foundation created to help women through education and entrepreneurship also occupied center stage. In an interview with PAV,Binta shares her trip and attempts to share  more on Gambia.

Binta, may we understand why you were in Gambia; what took you there?

I was born in Senegal but I grew up equally between Gambia where my mother is from and Senegal.   Also, I’m a humanitarian and an actress, so I was invited by the President to honor my NAFCA 2012 trophy for best actress of the year and to discuss the progress I am making with my Djibonkete foundation.  But in the meantime, His Excellency President Yaya Jammeh was awarded the very prestigious “Life Time Achievement” NAFCA trophy by Nollywood. So, Nollywood delegates made the trip with me to Gambia, to hand the trophy in person to the president, during an official ceremony.

How familiar are people from Gambia with your work in Nollywood and how was the reception you received?

I received a warm welcome from the government and the friendly open minded people of Gambia. They are very happy people and they love their country.  They know my work very well and love it. I am very proud of that.

So you were received by President Yahya Jammeh, how were you able to get the opportunity to meet with him?

He was the one who invited me and I really appreciate that. He has a great respect for everything that can help Africa make progress and move forward. I suppose that is what attracts him the most  about  my Djibonkete Foundation. It is a foundation that was established to empower women by mainly helping in their education, entrepreneurship and thereby financial independence. It also helps students from poor family backgrounds  get a better education, amongst other things.

So what are some of the issues that you discussed with the President, any projects you shared with him and was he willing to support you?

We talked mostly about my trophy, my foundation and how it can help the country. He loves talking to people with ideas on how to make Africa a better place for its citizens.  He is a big supporter of the movie industry and that in itself helps me and my foundation. NAFCA CEO, Dr. Victor Olatoye and I also discussed with the president about Nollywood, the movie Industry and the trophy he received.

Not much is known about President Jammeh of the Gambia, what kind of leader did he strike you as, was he easy to converse with, what impressions did you have generally after your meeting with him?

He is a very nice, kind and patient person. He was very easy to talk to and down to earth. He seems like a strong leader and I learned a lot from him.

Talking about Gambia, from the little that is out there, the perception is that it is ruled by a dictator, that there are limited freedoms, people cannot express themselves etc, what is it you found out about that country that people who have never been there may not know?

When I look at him, I don’t see a dictator. I see someone who loves his country and who is working hard to make it achieve the best development and reach the highest level in the world standards.  Gambia is very peaceful. Everyone has a job, companies are run by the young and they are very successful, there is a lot of tourism and a low crime rate.  The people are so wonderful and they get along so well with each other. The President may have a different approach to problem solving that some people may not agree with, but it seems like things are getting done.

President Jammeh and the Lifetime achievement presented to him by NAFCA

President Jammeh and the Lifetime achievement presented to him by NAFCA

You are more of a cultural and entertainment person, what kind of potential and opportunities did you see in the Gambia , be it tourism, investment or anything else?

There are many opportunities and the tourism industry is doing well and making investments into the country is always a good idea because that contributes to the growth of the country.  Gambia is also a wonderful place to make more movies because the country is so beautiful and hospitable.

Besides meeting the President, what do you consider as some of the successes of your visit and what next after that, what should Gambians expect from you?

Meeting the President was part of that success and also a great honor.  My presence in Gambia allowed me to think about what my next move should be but I’m still in the thinking process. However, I believe that Gambians should expect me to do my part to improve the movie industry and to spread knowledge about the culture.

With regards to your movie career, any other projects you are working on or have in mind?

We’re planning to shoot more movies in Gambia but I don’t want to spoil anything so you have to wait and see.

Binta,  good luck in your ventures and thanks so much for talking to PAV

Thank you very much for having me here.

 

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A Griot In America: Cheick Hamala Sharing 800 years Malian Jeli tradition through music
March 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

It is a chilly evening in Washington, D.C, but the crowd in the Bossa Bistro is impressive, the ambiance is great whites, blacks and hispanics dancing, people nodding heads at the bar and cheering as the band distills profoundly touching music. Except for the Malians, Guineans,

Cheick Hamala proudly sharing his 800 years old jelli tradition

Cheick Hamala proudly sharing his 800 years old jelli tradition

Burkinabe’s and Senegalese at the Bistro, few could understand the words from the music but you could tell from the reaction around that it had a magnetic effect and people were having fun. On stage was Cheick Hamala Diabate, a leading Griot from Mali expertly sharing tradition from his jeli or griot background. “Griots are story tellers, peace makers, poets, musicians and more with a lot of influence in working towards a harmonious society,” says Cheick Hamala.

His preferred musical instrument is the “ngoni” and few are those who can rival him when it comes to its mastery. Hamala is not only the undisputed master of the “ngoni,” but others have learned how to play several other traditional instruments from him. At the Bossa Bistro, he is accompanied by a band which has a cast of whites, African Americans, and Africans. “It is the result of constant training,” said Hamala when asked on how he succeeded in fusing such a diverse cast to play authentic Malian music. Music is universal he said.

From Africa, to Europe, Asia, and South America, Canada, Hamala has toured extensively and sometimes it is better to ask him where he has not been to instead of where he has been to. He has met and advised global leaders and is at ease playing for a young couple at a family event, playing for a sold out concert or for a distinguished audience at the U.S Capitol.

On the evolution of music in Africa, Hamala was optimistic despite the challenges of coping with general changes and modern times. It takes perseverance and hard work to make it he said in advice to younger artists. Though Mali is in crisis with the country in struggling to reunite after an armed rebellion took control of the Northern part of the country, Hamala remains positive that everything will be ok. Though he distances himself from politics, Hamala has rallied others and participated in initiatives to bring succor to afflicted compatriots back in Mali.

In addition numerous critically acclaimed albums that he has gratified the world with, Cheick Hamala has also collaborated with other artists with reputable names like Salif Keita. Born in Mali into the Diabate family well known for a Jeli or Griot tradition which dates over 800 years, Hamala has also lectured and instructed others on jeli traditional instruments across the USA. He has performed at venues such as the Smithsonian Institute, George Washington University, Brooklyn College and New York State University. When not on tour he plays on Tuesdays at the Bossa Bistro in Washington D.C. “I am a griot and will die a griot and it is my hope that even after me the tradition will continue, “said Hamala in expression of attachment to his jeli tradition.

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Africa’s Rising Top Model: Bertini Heumegni Surges on despite the Odds
March 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
Rising star Bertini Heugmeni

Rising star Bertini Heugmeni

It is very challenging for Africans in the competitive world of modeling but there is no turning back for Bertini Heumegni who has emerged as one of the most familiar faces on

the New York fashion circuit. Cultural differences, rejection at castings, and sometimes racism are some of the odds that weigh against aspiring models from Africa but Bertini has slowly but steadily weathered the storm and ranks about the most promising representation for the continent today.

Born in Cameroon and a father of two, Bertini says his first break came from a chance encounter as he was spotted while serving as a bouncer by an agent of the famous Sharon Mulligan Agency in Cape Town. Not shy about the humble beginnings, Bertini reminisces that one of his first booking jobs was with Sting Sunglasses in from Italy for the face of Africa in 1998.Today Bertini has a very impressive resume   with a career that spans from Cameroon ,to South Africa, Italy, France, the USA and counting.

Bertini has featured in commercials and events for Fresca and Pure Smirnoff in South Africa as well as for Guinness, and the telecommunications giants MTN in Cameroon. He has participated at multiple fashion events including the Johannesburg fashion week, American Next Top Model, Cape Town fashion week, New York fashion week, Fashion on the Hudson, New York African fashion week, etc.Agencies which have used his services include Sharon Mulligan, Storm Model, Supermodels, Next Models all in South Africa, Paris Models in France, Ricardo Gay in Milan, Cosmo Models, Boss models, Icon Model in New York and Grace del Marco in Spain.

Upon completing acting and directing classes at the H&B Studios in New York, Bertini chronicled his exciting life adventures into a movie called The American Dream.With himself as the star and Helene Faussart the lead singer of the group Les Nubians as co-star, the movie is a cocktail of drugs, love, sex, and betrayal.

After fifteen years of slow and steady progress in the industry, Bertini has grown in confidence and ambition and a perfect illustration is the recent launching of his own underwear

Response to the line has been amazing says Bertini

Response to the line has been amazing says Bertini

line. Dubbed BH, initials for Bertini Heumegni, the model says the line is a fulfillment of a dream he was inspired with when Italian Associate Catherina Fiorillo suggested at a Milan Men collection event that his name will fit perfectly in the fashion industry. The response to the line has been awesome Bertini says as works towards launching the product across Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.

On what makes his line unique or why people  should have a preference for it , Bertini in all confidence   cites a number of reasons: The first underwear collection, with a 3 inch band, elastic straps adjusted to fit different categories of men, women could throw on in the night to seduce their husbands or boyfriends or in the morning after a night over and still look sensual, the waistband and leg holes are bonded to resist bunching,BH can be worn also to the beaches as swimwear, provides extra support and Stretching. As a model and fitness consultant Bertini says he has insight on what men like to wear and look good. The BH model he goes on has 90% cotton for comfort and slimming effect on the body, 10% spandex for extra support and stretching and 3 inches waistband and woven logo.

Asked if he had any words for aspiring models, Bertini recommends that they remain natural. What is perceived as a weakness may turn out to be your greatest asset. Who would have thought that my natural green eyes which made me a subject of taunts from bullies when growing up will eventually help elevate me to where I am today, Bertini quips. My cat eyes or hassle green eyes are now my strengths, no more my weakness .A lot of people make the mistake of sacrificing their African culture and roots Bertini says, but aspiring models from the continent should bear in mind that Africans are natural and exotic. The continent is full of talent he affirms and young people just have to believe in themselves, show dedication and patience, remain persistent in the face of unending challenges and success will eventually come.

On future initiatives, the New York based Bertini says besides promoting his BH line across the globe and especially in Africa with its huge market, he needs to honor modeling engagements while polishing up plans for a reality TV show that will be unveiled in the months ahead.

More on Bertini and the BH Line can be found at www.bertinih.com

 

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Akon: Putting Africa first,Why I’m a changed man
March 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Isha Sesay and Jessica Ellis*

Akon-is-a-Senegalese-American-multi-platinum-selling-singer-well-known-for-his-successful-solo-work-and-his-impressive-roster-of-collaborations

Akon-is-a-Senegalese-American-multi-platinum-selling-singer-well-known-for-his-successful-solo-work-and-his-impressive-roster-of-collaborations

From the soundproofed walls and floor to the large sofas and keyboard racks, there’s only one prevailing color inside Akon’s state-of-the-art personal studio.

“It is all white,” says the multi-platinum selling artist, of the studio where he has recorded and produced several of his R&B and hip hop hits. “It helps me think a lot easier,” he adds. “This is my place of creation — I am self-engineered, I pretty much work everything in here myself.”

It’s also here where the Senegalese-American singer is putting the final touches to his fourth studio album, expected to be released in June, nearly 10 years after he first rose to fame with his 2004 debut offering “Trouble.”

Since then, Akon has sold millions of albums around the world and collaborated with countless pop and hip-hop icons such as Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dog and Eminem.

Along the way, he’s also stirred up controversy on several occasions, catching criticism for exploiting his criminal past, as well as for his sexually explicit lyrics and concert shenanigans.

Born in the United States to Senegalese parents, Akon, or Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam, spent his early years in the West African country.

“What I remember the most really was just running wild there,” he says. “Barefooted, swimming in dirty lakes, selling fruit, picking mango trees, hoping not to get caught because they don’t take kindly to thieves in Africa,” he adds, laughing.

At around the age of 8, Akon left the “jungle” of Senegal for the “concrete jungle” of New Jersey. Yet, the transition into his new environment wasn’t easy.

“Making friends was the hardest part,” says Akon of his school years in the United States. “I didn’t speak any English; it was a different culture, dressing different. I would get teased a lot — not playing the bully card — but I found myself always trying to find ways to fitting in. I was always fighting.”

Akon says that it was this reality, coupled with a desire “to be cool,” that sent him off the rails during his teenage years. Aged as young as 14, he was running with a bad crowd, involved in illegal activities including stealing cars — which led to a six-month jail stint.

Today, Akon says he feels “lucky” to have left that lifestyle behind him.

“The guys I came up with, none of them are here right now,” he says. “Four of them are dead, three are doing double life,” he adds. “It’s more of a bitter-sweet success story for me because I was the one that actually slipped away and its only because I made the decision to change my life over after that one experience.”

Born in Senegal, Akon has set up a foundation that's working to build schools and hospitals in the country. "I am going to keep advancing, doing as much as I can, but I really want to make the biggest impact in Africa," he says.  Pictured, Akon performing in Nairobi, Kenya, at the 2009 MTV Africa Music Awards.

Born in Senegal, Akon has set up a foundation that’s working to build schools and hospitals in the country. “I am going to keep advancing, doing as much as I can, but I really want to make the biggest impact in Africa,” he says.
Pictured, Akon performing in Nairobi, Kenya, at the 2009 MTV Africa Music Awards.

But it was this background that shaped Akon’s first steps in music. In 2004, he released his first single, “Locked Up,” to great success. Two years later, his second album, “Konvicted,” reached triple platinum with three million copies sold in the United States and more than five million worldwide by the end of 2007.

But despite “Konvicted’s” mega success, Akon says that period was a “confusing” time for him.

“All these records being broken and all the money made, you almost want to make yourself believe that you are invincible,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what I was becoming.”

During a notorious Akon concert in 2007, the singer threw a 15-year-old boy off the stage and onto a teenage girl who suffered a concussion. “I was charged for it — to this day, if I could have changed that, I wouldn’t have did it.”
During those days, Akon says, he let down Africa.

“I was the first to break it internationally, on that level, from Africa,” says the rapper. “Africa was really expecting me to represent them well and at that time I don’t think I was doing that.”

But that year also marked one of his most high-profile collaborations, working in the studio with Michael Jackson on a duet called “Hold My Hand.” Akon finished the vocals in 2009, after Jackson’s death, and the song became the first single released on the King of Pop’s posthumous album titled “Michael.”

“We snuck off to go to the movies, he had a disguise on,” says Akon, recalling his collaboration with Jackson. “It was me and his three kids and we were on the escalator and the people were like ‘Akon, oh my God, Akon,’ and I am signing autographs and laughing, thinking ‘you don’t even know who is beside me’ — the whole time, he is standing there laughing.”

Looking ahead, Akon says his goal is to give back to his continent. He’s set up Konfidence, a Senegalese foundation that’s working to build schools and hospitals in the country, he says.

“I have learned a lot along the way and I am glad that I never regretted enough because my past made who I am today,” he says. “Just do understand that the person you see today is not the one from yesterday.

“I am going to keep advancing, doing as much as I can, but I really want to make the biggest impact in Africa.”

* Source CNN

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The Regency of Ajongako II A Historical Play by Nkong Kima
February 7, 2013 | 3 Comments

Introduction
The Historical Background

The incursion of European exploiters on the Dark Continent witnessed a historical turning point which left Africa almost at the verge of total chaos. Although pro-colonial advocates hold strongly that this European conquest brought Africa out of an endless state of slumber and decadence, the Pan-African unionists and other pro-African elite think otherwise. Various pictures of the European incursion into the “peacefulness” of Africa have been presented by different researchers, historians and men of letters. Nkong Kima herewith uses this dramatic medium to present one of the faces of the post native resistant era against the European rule.

The event which prompts the playwright to produce The Regency of Ajongako II is the Bangwa Resistance of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century in Cameroon (Kamerun) against the German colonial rule (1884-1916). The Bangwa people constituted one of those tribes in Cameroon which put up a strong resistance against the then foreign rule. Although the resistance did not involve the entire Bangwa tribe, the greatest portion of it was involved being the one governed by the then most renowned Bangwa king Asonganyi Fontem – the portion which is today known as Lebang and ruled by the Fon of Fontem (Asonganyi’s grandson). Not only Lebang was solely involved however because other neighbouring settlements through their chiefs came in during the resistance either to support Asonganyi or to betray him; the latter group doing so just to win the consent and protection of the German colonial master and as a result of their envious feelings toward the most renowned king.

Asonganyi was initially not an enemy to the German colonial administration in Kamerun. In fact, he was a friend and a trusted one too. He welcomed the German trading agents sent to his territory and even went into a permanent friendship deal with them through a blood pact. His long term friendship deal with the German firm agent Gustav Canrau – whom the Bangwa people called Manji-Kwala in imitation of Conrau’s carriers who accompanied him during his trade tours – witnessed a trustworthy intimacy pact between the Bangwa king and the German colonial authority. The betrayal of confidence however originated from Conrau. When the time of his departure came Asonganyi had instructed his vassals to present energetic young men who could work on the German coastal plantations at the request of the white man. There was a need for a strong native labour force to maintain the German coastal plantations at the coast of Kamerun. Asonganyi, in order to express the depth of his intimacy with Conrau, provided close to a hundred young people with the hope that they would return to the land after one year of service at the coast with gifts in return.

While the one year period was yet to elapse, Conrau reappeared with request for more men although he had not brought back the previous retinue. This time he was not given the celebrative reception he had during his first visit to the territory. The king was rather cold toward him and decided to hold Conrau in close custody. Many families protested at voice top without even dreading Asonganyi who was by then the most feared personality in the Nweh territory asking for the return of their kinsmen who went with Conrau. Many had lost hopes and rented their clothes to mourn for their lost relations. The truth was that most of those men were probably dead with the unfavourable conditions of work at the plantations and for the fact that most were exhausted through long journeys on foot. Asonganyi suspected this and this suggests why he became cold toward Conrau and decided to hold him captive.

While in detention Conrau sought for every means to escape to no avail. It became obvious to him that the Bangwa king was not ready to release him. Besides, he had no information from the German colonial headquarters in Buea and began to lose hopes. He knew Asonganyi was only waiting for time to execute him after failing to entice the king with promises of ensuring that he would become the only monarch recognised by the German authority throughout the Western Grassfields. His last attempt to escape met with little or no success as he was pursued and beheaded just few kilometres from the Azi royal palace. Some sources say no Bangwa soldier actually beheaded Conrau but that he took away his own life after discovering that his attempt to escape was a futile one. It was said that Nkwetta Bezankeng who actually brought his head to the palace cut it off when Conrau had committed suicide.
When the news of the assassination of Conrau got to the German colonial authority, they immediately dispatched an ultimatum requesting for the arrest of the Bangwa king and the perpetrators of Conrau’s assassination. This led to a strong confrontation between the Bangwa natives and the German colonial soldiers. The Bangwa people fought bravely with the use of a traditional fortification or defensive medicine known as “aziah” which had been used in the recent past to fight against neighbouring enemy tribes (Atem George 2000:8).

Asonganyi went into hiding and refused to show up for a long period. Many Bangwa natives of neighbouring clans came to Asonganyi’s rescue but many yet cooperated with the Germans to lead them through the hilly Bangwa terrain in the pursuit of the most wanted man – their intention being to capture Asonganyi and defeat his forces on behalf of the colonial master. When “aziah” began to lose its potency and the Bangwa people could no more resist the strong military skills of the Germans, Asonganyi decided to surrender in order to avoid the great loss of lives among his people orchestrated by the Germans. He came out of his hiding in 1911 and handed himself to the German authority. He was immediately taken prisoner, tried and exiled to the north of Kamerun to serve a life imprisonment sentence. His throne was handed over to his eldest son Prince Ajongako by the Germans. In order to weaken the Bangwa people and arrest an imminent assault from the natives due to the sentence given to their king, the German colonial administration set up a resident office in Azi known as Fontemdorf. It also disintegrated the Bangwa territory appointing different warrant chiefs to govern it and compensating those who cooperated with them with portions of the kingdom governed by Asonganyi [ibid]. The Germans had to oversee into the activities of these warrant chiefs among whom Asonganyi’s eldest son was one.

The Germans dictated the traditional policies to govern the natives to the warrant chiefs, the more reason why these chiefs were hated and dreaded by the natives. Most of them eventually became power mongers; abusing the traditions and the pride of the native peoples. Ajongako for instance became a tyrant through German influence, betraying his natives and patronising raids to send labourers to work on German plantations, the same reason his father fought against at the expense of his freedom. With the coming of the First World War which witnessed the expulsion of Germany from its overseas territories and the arrival of mandatory powers to take over Germany’s possessions, Asonganyi the Bangwa king was to recover his lost throne. This however brought another controversial situation in the territory as Ajongako the prince regent was not ready to surrender the throne to his father. He was however forced to do so through intrigue solely planned by Asonganyi’s loyalists. The consequence was that Ajongako had to be exiled from the Bangwa land after Asonganyi had regained the throne. It is this regency period of Asonganyi’s son (Ajongako) that Nkong Kima presents to us through a live dramatic medium.
The Executive Superintendent
Cumaland Publishing Factor
In collaboration with Ndi Mbecha A. F.

Dramatis Personae:

1 Ajongako II – the Bangwa Prince (German warrant chief sitting as regent to Asonganyi)
2 Asonganyi (the exiled Bangwa King and father of Ajongako)
3 Fuatabong I (German ally governing part of Nweh tribe)
4 Fualeke Chacha (Asonganyi’s ally also governing part of Nweh tribe)
5 Mafuantem and Mafuameika (aunt and sister of the former Bangwa king Asonganyi)
6 Nkwetta Bezankeng (Asonganyi’s half brother, co-regent to Ajongako)
7 Hauptman Langhell (the chief German Officer in the Dschang area)
8 Lt Rausch (German officer overseeing Fontemdorf)
9 The Dschang area kings (Fotoh, Foleke, Fondong, Fongondeng, Fongotongo etc)
10 The nobility corps comprising loyalists to both Ajongako and Asonganyi
11 German and native choruses, officers, soldiers, kinsmen, court elders and retainers, messengers and the masses

stall the king to his throne. Speeches of goodwill are made most of which reveal the ordeal orchestrated in the king’s absence. The occasion ends with a ceremony of promotion in which loyal tribesmen are accorded titles of nobility.
A2 – Scene 14
This retribution

Scene Synopsis

A1 – Scene 1:
At the newly open Fontemdorf resident office, Hauptmann the resident superior of Dschang and Lt Rausch who will eventually oversee Fontemdorf come to pressurise the Bangwa elders to handover the Bangwa resistant king Asonganyi to them. The elders reveal that Asonganyi died in the course of fighting the Germans, but which the latter do not believe whole heartedly. However, they accept Asonganyi’s proposed Prince Regent Ajongako to co-reign with Asonganyi’s deputy, Nkwetta Bezankeng. They go further to share the Bangwa territory into two giving the northern part to Fuatabong I for assisting the Germans during the Bangwa resistance. They also punish and dethrone those like Fualeke Chacha and Foto of Ndungatet for supporting Asonganyi during the resistance war.

A1 – Scene 2
Ajongako and Fuatabong I discuss on how to haunt and capture the natives for plantation labour in order to appease the colonial administration and fulfil the instruction given them as German colonial warrant chiefs. As Fuatabong I leaves, Ajongako prepares with his closest advisers to stage night raids in order to capture labourers.

A1 – Scene 3
Lt Rausch is disappointed that unlike Fuatabong I Ajongako has made no attempt to bring labourers for the German coastal plantations. As they are talking, Ajongako marches some captives up and hands them to Rausch. He pleads that his men should return to the territory after service at the coast of Kamerun. This gesture establishes a temporal cordial affiliation between the Prince Regent and the German firms.

A1 – Scene 4
The public, through the eyes of two villagers is scared with the manner in which night raids are carried out to supply labourers to the white man’s plantations. As they make allusion to the harsh treatment of labourers in those plantations, a retrospection of live plantation activity is displayed with plantation supervisor wantonly shooting down labourers and using tricks to make them work without resting.

A1 – Scene 5
Ajongako is seen with some of his close palace relations. A half brother is so bitter with the regent for sleeping with his mother and putting her in a family way. The regent states that it is his right to own his father’s wives now that the king is away. Another accusation the young prince and princess make is the regent’s wayward habit of seizing the wives of his relations. The regent is hurt with this accusation and orders that the young prince should be sent to Fontemdorf. He pays no dime to the pleas given on the young man’s behalf.

A1 – Scene 6
The court elders are worried about the king’s present desire as he wants to come out of his hiding and present himself to the white man in order to avoid the killing of his people. They convince the elders in the king’s attendance to hold the king’s peace and let him not surrender lest he is beheaded or hanged by the white. The end by hoping that Germany’s stay in their land should be short-lived.

A1 – Scene 7
Abachi from Fualeke Chacha creates a spectacular show by vowing to make the Germans in Mamfe (Ossindingue) know that Asonganyi is in hiding and not death as his people claim. This is because he is infuriated by the Prince Regent’s conduct for recently seizing his wife. He demonstrates his anger in the market place amid a curious crowd and leaves for Mamfe. He doesn’t want to take the advice of not betraying the Bangwa king.

A1 – Scene 8
In Fualeke Chacha’s council, he regrets that one of his subjects is going to betray the king in hiding as he is duly informed. He sends messengers to Azi to alert the Prince Regent.
A1 – Scene 9
The royal council of Azi palace meets to discuss the impending betrayal of the king with all blaming the Prince Regent for going his own way and hurting many people. They however agree to unite their thoughts in order to rescue Asonganyi from the impending execution.

Act Two
A2 – Scene 1
Report reaching the Dschang resident office says Abachi has revealed that Asonganyi is only in hiding and not dead as the Bangwa people claimed. Officers express views of undying suspicion against the Bangwa people but pledge their services to the crown of Germany if it comes to war. We hear that Lt Rausch has been dispatched to Fontemdorf for this purpose.

A2 – Scene 2
Lt Rausch reaches the Azi palace led by Abachi. He insists on having the king handed over although the royal council still wants to claim Asonganyi is actually dead. He leaves with an ultimatum to have the king presented in less than a day. The councillors disagree on whether to hand Asonganyi over or not.

A2 – Scene 3
As Lt Rausch sits at Fontemdorf heavily guarded, Asonganyi comes in with a cross section of his territory who are curious to watch the king’s fate. Asonganyi presents a white cock and a white sheep as symbols of peace thereby handing himself to the white man. Rausch announces that the king shall be taken to Dschang to be tried. Natives are shocked to hear this and declare that they are ready for another war with Germany. Asonganyi threatens them with a curse if they dare fight on account of him again, citing enormous bloodshed which has been recorded. As he is bound away, the officers fire guns into the air to disperse the curious crowd.

A2 – Scene 4
The Bamileke kings in the Dschang area meet in the palace of Fotoh-à-Dschang to discuss the impending fate of Asonganyi and how to appease the white man to free their kinsman. They agree to beguile him with a gift of seventy elephant tusks hoping that this would make the white man free Asonganyi.

A2 – Scene 5
This court scene opens in the Dschang resident office where Asonganyi is to be tried. He is levied so many charges among which is the initial one of causing Conrau to die. Asonganyi knows that guilty or not he must be persecuted and declares his stance strongly without dreading the outcome. He is therefore given a sentence which among all is being permanently dethroned and not allowed to return to the Bangwa territory. He is exiled to the town of Garoua in northern Kamerun where he will serve a life sentence. In the midst of this confusion Fotoh-à-Dschang speaking on behalf of the Dschang area kings pleads pardon for Asonganyi but this is denied. The victim is marched out to the land of his asylum.

A2 – Scene 6
Two commoners meet at a market place in Azi to discuss the ongoing executions, betrayals, exodus and many faults all orchestrated by the prince and the German administration. They reveal there is a lot of torture of innocent people.

A2 – Scene 7
At Fontemdorf, Lt Rausch receives news that the ongoing 1st World War is extending to the colonies in Africa and is highly agitated. He dispatches messengers to the respective quarters in support of Germany to make preparations toward the war. His main preoccupation is to reinforce the Nsanakang unit where the most deadly war is to be fought.

A2 – Scene 8
This is the actual war scene in which we are exposed to the last fight at the battlefield of Nsanakang. The allied forces give orders for their forces to strike and bring the Kaiser to his knees. A German commander comes in to surrender as they prepare to quit Kamerun.

A2 – Scene 9
Mafuameika summons the commoners and is addressing them about the release of the king who has chosen to stay away from the crown. She is also excited that German period of tyranny is over. As the natives react joyously, Ajongako is infuriated as he comes in and meets them. He insults the queen mother and sends them away. He is very anxious about the impending state of the crown as it seems obvious that he may lose it.

A2 – Scene 10
Ajongako is filled with thoughts about a possible return of the Bangwa king to seek his throne. He swears not to give up power if it comes to that. While he is deep in this reflection a messenger from Asonganyi comes in to alert him of the ongoing execution of native rulers. Asonganyi wants him to come with him and seek a hiding but Ajongako suspects that his father may be using a trick to oust him from power. But he decides to go anyway.

A2 – Scene 11
Gossipers come in to inform Ajongako of Asonganyi’s projected return to the territory. We learn the king escaped to Dschang, but no one knows why, only to prepare and come back for the crown of the land. The prince summons his forces asking them to march up toward Legwe to stop the king. He leaves with his train toward Legwe with pretext he is going to welcome the king.

A2 – Scene 12
Mafuameika summons the nobility corps to plan strategies and sabotage Ajongako’s intention of killing his father the king. They agree to convince the king to return through the Ngundeng road and not through Atungong as earlier planned. They intend to reinstall the king on his throne before his son discovers.

A2 – Scene 13
This scene witnesses the actual return of Asonganyi to recover his lost throne. The ceremony is presided over by the younger queen mother Mafuameika with the support of her aunt Mafuantem. The king is brought back with a hilarious manifestation of traditional rituals. The kingmaker Mbi Nditu and his train rein scene reveals the fate of Ajongako paid off his wrongdoings. While at the target point waiting to lynch his father, a noise of jubilation seems to be heard from the royal palace. Messengers come in to inform the regent that Asonganyi has regained his lost throne and declared Ajongako exiled. The prince regent is shocked with this news. To worsen matters, his retinue begins to desert him in order to seek Asonganyi’s pardon. Only one loyalist to him wants to remain and die with the prince regent. They decide to wander until death takes away their lives.

A2 – Scene 14
This retribution scene reveals the fate of Ajongako paid off his wrongdoings. While at the target point waiting to lynch his father, a noise of jubilation seems to be heard from the royal palace. Messengers come in to inform the regent that Asonganyi has regained his lost throne and declared Ajongako exiled. The prince regent is shocked with this news. To worsen matters, his retinue begins to desert him in order to seek Asonganyi’s pardon. Only one loyalist to him wants to remain and die with the prince regent. They decide to wander until death takes away their lives.

The End

* Nkong Kima is a Teacher ,Writer and Critic. Cumaland Diary is a blog for the expression of his literary ideas and works.

 

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In memory of a legend:Mumia Abu Jamal interviews Bob Marley in 1979
February 7, 2013 | 0 Comments

Bob Marley Interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia, USA 1979
Mumia :
The significance of the herb, aka, the flower?
Marley :
Herb? herb is the healing of the nation, seen? Once you smoke herb, you all must think alike. Now if you thinking alike, dat mean we ‘pon the same track. If we ‘pon the same track, that mean we gonna unite. Some say ‘don’t smoke herb.’ Dey don’t want us to unite, right, so they say, ‘don’t smoke herb.’ (laughter)…It’s true! So you know, herb is the healing of the nation and people must get herb for dem use. Dem wanna smoke it, let ‘em smoke it. Dem wanna boil it in tea, let ‘em boil it in tea. If dem waan steam it, steam it, if dem gwanna eat a little, eat a little, but dem must det it! True true. Yea, mon, that is why I say, um, you have a lotta liquor store, and because dem know man must smoke, you have plenty cigarette, but dem no waan ya smoke herb, y’know? Because, as ya know, the alcohol kill ya, and herb build ya! Yea, herb make ya live. People I know smoke herb live the longest! Jah know! True, true! Herb smoker live the longest pon earth, mon — true true! I know a man when I a likkle youth who smoke herb and I grown and see, him kyaan change, him is the same mon from ever since! (laughter)…Him a deal with Rasta, ya know? One named Robert. Never change. See him years, never change…It’s Rasta ya know?

Mumia :
Brother, what’s the significance of the song, Exodus?
Marley :
Exodus means coming together…the movement of Afrika, of Black people. Exodus from Babylon, we’re in Babylon, and then a physical exodus to Home. But what we really a say is dat, we waan Black people to unite, with one another, Seen? Now, the only way we can unite is to deal wit truth…the truth is that King Solomon and King David is the root and if we gonna deal with roots, we hafta deal from King Solomon and King David time, Lion of Tribe of Judah, ya know? So, this is what I and I say: time for unity! Cause we’s a people, we have something…and we have to deal with it, seen?

Mumia :
What kind of feeling do you get when you come through a city like Philadelphia, with almost a million Black people?
Marley :
When I come into this city here, in Philadelphia…sometime, I wonder if I am on time, ya understand? ‘Cause the think is to be on time. When I come here I want, I really desire, fe really get thru to the people I don’t wanna come here for joke! When I leave I wanna see people dreadlock, or say I’m Rasta, and get the thing rebellious, dat, we can’t live, you know, we can’t continue going thru this same thing, over, over and over again, when the problem is, our people must be united. And then all problem solve, and then every problem solve. ‘Cause if the Black man check it him have the knowledge, wisdom and understanding enuff to do it. Seen? While the next one get the gift of technology, and the next one get the gift of dis and dat, Black man get the rootical gift him maintain the God business, dat purpose why earth was created. I and I have to maintain dat…

Mumia :
One of the songs that you do, brother…that touches me, and I’m sure it touches most Afrikans globally, is the song that comes from the words of His Imperial Majesty, speaking to the United Nations War, right? Touches me, man, touches us.
Marley :
That the truth, you know? You see, what His Majesty say is the truth…now when we listen, when His Majesty say that, we look out ‘pon the earth, and we know dat, when alla these people who say dem is leaders, for people ‘pon the earth, agree to what His Majesty say, then ‘til today, you have no more war, and no more problem. Because, what HIM say is true. Until the philosophy that hold one people higher than the other one is no more, then if it continue, ya gwanna have war! When it done, problem over, seen?

Mumia :
Until Rhodesia is free, South Afrika is free, Philadelphia is free, you know what I mean…Kingston is free…Wherever we are, that’s the message…
Marley :
That’s it! Because Christ government shall rule the earth, ya know? And Christ is Rastafari! Over a period of time, people think, and hafta get over thinking that Christ was White. But Christ a Black mon! Just like the Bible tell ya, say Christ Black, Solomon, say him Black, Moses, tell ya, say him Black, Jerimiah, say him Black, Haile Selassie Black. So Christ no white. Christ Black, you know? So that’s how our people get tricked, dem show us a White Christ, people say, what we wanna deal with the Bible for, me know Christ no White. But the Bible say, Christ Black. If the Afrikan think Christ White, that’s dangerous. It’s a waste of time. Everytime you know we say “Rastafari Our God,” you move one cornerstone outa Rome, and Rome must cripple. Really! Because Rome is the enemy, you know? Rome is the enemy of the people. Dem is the Anti-Christ, and dem walk around and tell people dem a deal with Christ. But naturally, dem is Anti-Christ, for Christ is Haile Selassie — and just like how I know, the Pope coulda know too! Cause plenty people know. What, I’m a gonna hide it? The Pope know, everyone know, all dem people know, say Haile Selassie I God, you know? But dem hide it cause, dem die, and next guy come take dem space, and the people suffer the same, you know, so it’s the people really have to make the decision and don’t care for who dem say is the leader to make it God. Leader nobody. No leader not there, you know?

Mumia :
This city, Philadelphia, has the highest Black unemployment rate than anywhere in America…Now this is the same city that the Pope came to a couple of days ago. You were talking about the anti-Christ, right? Doing his work, right?
Marley :
Yeah. You see, I don’t like the Pope, I don’t like none of them? Seen? That is the truth. Because, him gwan come tru here, really, and tell ya: “Yes, live in peace. Live in this, live in that.” Live in that under him society! You know? You must agree to live in peace as long as Pope there. No. No Pope. No Pope, and we live in peace! You see, if there were no Pope, we’d a live in peace. Because him come wit the anti-Christ ting, and tell the people dem all kinds of foolishness, seen? But me really deal wit’ them. Pope Paul bless Mussolini for attack Ethiopia. Ethiopia carries the oldest history of Christianity. So wha’ Rome jus’ come the odder day, Rome is nothin’. You know? Rome is nothin! That’s why we a say, you know, when the Pope dead…the best ting that ever happen to we is two Pople dead the other day. (laughter) True, true. That’s one of the sweetest ting ever happen, you know. Rastaman in Jamaica pray every for more Pope dead, you know. Yeah! Dem is a people who PRAY for the Pope them dead. So you see one time one pope get a heart attack, you can just imagine the joy in Jamaica. So we get a likke joy down here. We happy! But this one, you know, is a dangerous one. You know? Because him a fool a lot of people. Dangerous.

Mumia :
What’s your hope, brother, for the future of Black people in America, and Black people in the world.
Marley :
Way I see, you seen, it looks simple but it’s true. RASTA FOR THE PEOPLE! Rastafari! For the people, seen? Capitalism and communism are finished. It Rasta now! The Blackman way of life. That’s what we a say now dread. We a say: give the Black man fe him way of life now. Mek him show you how government run and how people care for people. Who you think have the Love. Who sing the tune inna the church. Black people a sing them, you know. Whose the spiritual people pon earth. The Black people. Dem a deal wit God. And God no let dem down. God always dere. And God say dem fe unite! Because when you unite, that is the power of God, you know. God love Love, which is unity. So when you unite, you get the whole power of God. That’s what him want. Until Black people unite…if the Black people don’t unite, the world, no one, no one can live good.

Cause the white man not living good, you know. The China man naa live good, either. Why? Because the Blackman is not united. Because the Blackman, him are the cornerstone pon earth! When time him shaky, the whole earth shaky. You see? When him solid, everything solid. And it a long while since we have been solid. You know. It’s been a long long time. So you find out how much war, fight and dem tings, go on. You know where dem fight? In Africa! Our motherland. So anybody can see that war will start over here in America, man. REAL war. European pass over here and boom dis raas claat. True true. You mus’ remember, dem have all of dem atomic business. So, you know. We not afraid for it, but Africa is the best. Africa for Africans, at home and abroad. African can be developed man. Africa have sea, river, everything. And clean. You have more land, more everything. You have good good everything. The best climate. The best land. You have the best everything! That’s why today, His Majesty God more than yesterday, you know. Because we see that His Majesty never sell out to Russia, nor sell out to America. HIM uphold Black dignity, seen? So tell dem you can proudly say RASTAFARI, and naaw deal wit no traitor. That the sweet part ‘bout it.

Source *lumumbabandele.tumblr.com

Audio link:

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Oluchi’s World: Modeling And More!
November 2, 2012 | 3 Comments

By Obed Boafo*

Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi makes modeling look so easy. One of the few black models to have hit the global limelight, Oluchi has seen her career grow from good to better to perfect.Her success story makes an interesting read, and the kind you would want to revisit over and over

14 years ago, when she auditioned and won the Face of Africa modeling contest, it was a kind of breakthrough that shot her from obscurity to stardom.

Oluchi winning the Face of Africa contest was special in so many ways. It was the first-ever model competition that covered the whole continent. It was organized by the South African channel M-Net in collaboration with Elite Model Management.

She was seventeen years old at the time and didn’t know zilch about the path she was creating. A three-year modeling contract with renowned modeling agency Elite Modeling Management worked the magic of what would go on to become a beautiful story.

It was not until after she had won that the reality that she has arrived, dawned on her.

The successes that have since followed her triumph on that platform have been extremely refreshing.

She has a long list of clients she has and continues to do work for including Victoria’s Secret, Gianfranco Ferré, Gap, Express, John Galliano, Christian Dior, Costume National, Chanel, and Giorgio Armani, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. Oluchi has also worked with very professional photographers such as Steven Meisel, Nick Knight, and Patrick Demarchelier.

She has graced covers of well known publications like Vogue, i-D, ELLE, Untold, and Surface; and has featured in campaigns for Nylon, Marie Claire, and Allure.

One of Oluchi’s most talked-about modeling feats so far is her featuring in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for four straight years from 2005 to 2008.

Although she maintains a strict working time table, she finds ample time to do youth and women empowerment and developmental projects, working with NGOs to bring hope to hundreds of households.

Oluchi playfully describes herself as an African Fashion mini goddess, a speechless actress, timeless clothes hanger, a game changer, an entrepreneur and a global individual.

The journey to the top of a successful modeling career, just like most of her peers, was challenging. But she scaled through with a great deal of perseverance and dedication to what she loves doing most – modeling.

A successful career woman, she is the brain behind of OModel Africa, a South African-based agency with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town that focuses on “discovering, developing and delivering a select portfolio of African models to our South African and international clients for catwalk shows, TV commercials, editorials, advertising, feature films and below the line work”.

Through constant “media exposure in interviews, TV appearances and special appearances at events throughout Africa, and through constant contact with clients around the continent,” Oluchi’s OModel are able to position their models for growth.

Ghanaian model Kate Tachie-Menson, 2008 winner of M-Net Face of Africa is one of the models who have had the OModel experience.

Oluchi is married to Italian fashion designer Luca Orlandi.

You can follow Oluchi on Twitter: @OLUCHI

*Source http://african.howzit.msn.com/oluchi%E2%80%99s-world-modeling-and-more

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Jim Iyke To Star In New Reality Series
November 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Nollywood’s favourite bad boy Jim Iyke is currently working on a reality TV show called ‘Jim Iyke Unscripted’.

Iyke, the star of over 150 Nollywood movies, often finds himself in the news and gossip columns for his contentious romantic entanglements. Jim Iyke Unscripted is a joint production from African Magic and Oh Africa TV worth a reported $1.5million. The show is expected to air for a year and will cover all aspects of the star’s life.

Iyke was born in Libreville Gabon in 1976, the youngest child with six older sisters, before his family moved to Engugu Agidi in Andambra, Nigeria.

He worked in banking before deciding to pursue a career in Nollywood in 2001. He is most often cast in playboy roles, and has often been cast opposite Rita Dominic. Jim is the force behind clothing label Untamed Closet, which has boutiques in Lagos, Abuja and The Gambia.

Iyke has won several awards in his 11-year career, including three teenage choice awards, a best actor Nigerian Entertainment award, African Hollywood award, African Achievement award a best African actor at the NET awards held in New York last year and also the Best Actor of the year at the Mode Men Award ceremony in 2010.

Jim established a charitable foundation The Jim lyke Foundation for Children with special Disabilities. A biography of the foundation on its website reads: “The Jim lyke Foundation is a non-governmental, non-religious and non-political organization comprising of persons who are engaged in the advancement of the protection of rights and welfare of children with various deformities. This project is necessitated by the flagrant neglect and abuses of the rights of children born with deformities in Nigeria.”

Iyke’s many fans around the globe will be able to see more of Nollywood’s busiest playboy as the show is set to be syndicated on channels around the globe.

*Source http://african.howzit.msn.com/iyke-to-star-in-new-reality-series

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Africa’s Rising Top Model: Bertini Heumegni Surges on despite the Odds
July 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

It is very challenging for Africans in the competitive world of modeling but there is no turning back for Bertini Heumegni who has emerged as one of the most familiar faces on

Bertini Heumegni

Bertini Heumegni

the New York fashion circuit. Cultural differences, rejection at castings, and sometimes racism are some of the odds that weigh against aspiring models from Africa but Bertini has slowly but steadily weathered the storm and ranks about the most promising representation for the continent today.

Born in Cameroon and a father of two, Bertini says his first break came from a chance encounter as he was spotted while serving as a bouncer by an agent of the famous Sharon Mulligan Agency in Cape Town. Not shy about the humble beginnings, Bertini reminisces that one of his first booking jobs was with Sting Sunglasses in from Italy for the face of Africa in 1998.Today Bertini has a very impressive resume   with a career that spans from Cameroon ,to South Africa, Italy, France, the USA and counting.

Bertini has featured in commercials and events for Fresca and Pure Smirnoff in South Africa as well as for Guinness, and the telecommunications giants MTN in Cameroon. He has participated at multiple fashion events including the Johannesburg fashion week, American Next Top Model, Cape Town fashion week, New York fashion week, Fashion on the Hudson, New York African fashion week, etc.Agencies which have used his services include Sharon Mulligan, Storm Model, Supermodels, Next Models all in South Africa, Paris Models in France, Ricardo Gay in Milan, Cosmo Models, Boss models, Icon Model in New York and Grace del Marco in Spain.

Upon completing acting and directing classes at the H&B Studios in New York, Bertini chronicled his exciting life adventures into a movie called The American Dream.With himself as the star and Helene Faussart the lead singer of the group Les Nubians as co-star, the movie is a cocktail of drugs, love, sex, and betrayal.

Reception for BH line has been great says Bertini

Reception for BH line has been great says Bertini

After fifteen years of slow and steady progress in the industry, Bertini has grown in confidence and ambition and a perfect illustration is the recent launching of his own underwear line. Dubbed BH, initials for Bertini Heumegni, the model says the line is a fulfillment of a dream he was inspired with when Italian Associate Catherina Fiorillo suggested at a Milan Men collection event that his name will fit perfectly in the fashion industry. The response to the line has been awesome Bertini says as works towards launching the product across Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.

On what makes his line unique or why people  should have a preference for it , Bertini in all confidence   cites a number of reasons: The first underwear collection, with a 3 inch band, elastic straps adjusted to fit different categories of men, women could throw on in the night to seduce their husbands or boyfriends or in the morning after a night over and still look sensual, the waistband and leg holes are bonded to resist bunching,BH can be worn also to the beaches as swimwear, provides extra support and Stretching. As a model and fitness consultant Bertini says he has insight on what men like to wear and look good. The BH model he goes on has 90% cotton for comfort and slimming effect on the body, 10% spandex for extra support and stretching and 3 inches waistband and woven logo.

Asked if he had any words for aspiring models, Bertini recommends that they remain natural. What is perceived as a weakness may turn out to be your greatest asset. Who would have thought that my natural green eyes which made me a subject of taunts from bullies when growing up will eventually help elevate me to where I am today, Bertini quips. My cat eyes or hassle green eyes are now my strengths, no more my weakness .A lot of people make the mistake of sacrificing their African culture and roots Bertini says, but aspiring models from the continent should bear in mind that Africans are natural and exotic. The continent is full of talent he affirms and young people just have to believe in themselves, show dedication and patience, remain persistent in the face of unending challenges and success will eventually come.

On future initiatives, the New York based Bertini says besides promoting his BH line across the globe and especially in Africa with its huge market, he needs to honor modeling engagements while polishing up plans for a reality TV show that will be unveiled in the months ahead.

More on Bertini and the BH Line can be found at www.bertinih.com

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The Powers Behind Nollywood
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Ayodeji Adeyemi*

Nigerian producers and film directors who wield a lot of influence in the movie industry struggle to overcome the challenges of piracy and new technology so that the good old days can return

It was 6.30am and dawn had just spewed like a silky fabric over the neatly tarred streets of Lekki Peninsula, a high-class urban district of Lagos. A convoy of vehicles rattling along Bajji Close came to a halt in front of house number two. Lancelot Imasuen, a movie director and leader of the team, hopped out of a Toyota bus and marched into the sprawling compound nestling a duplex. Minutes later, he shuffled out and started barking orders at his team. At once, his crew, consisting of technicians, engineers and cameramen, sprang to life. As they busied themselves setting up equipment, some of the young actresses and their minders converged beside a bed of shrubs. The little brightness in the sky which had filtered down from the balconies and windowpanes, revealed the apprehension on their faces. Though they were relatively unknown stars, they had big dreams which seemed to weigh heavily on their shoulders. The assistant director, a fair complexioned middle-age lady, clutching the movie manuscript, made a robust attempt at calming their frayed nerves, easing them through their lines. The promise of stardom seemed to have a stranglehold on the starlets.

Eventually, the film site, a luscious sitting room bedecked with paintings, antique flower vases and furnishings, was prepped up for the first shoot. Imasuen, stepping away from the camera, edged towards the artistes, explaining to them his concept of the role. After a string of rehearsals, frequently punctuated by the director’s dissension, shooting began. The three actresses wove their craft, summoning an assortment of expressions to their faces, as they eased into their respective make-believe roles. Sometimes their acting impressed the director who had ascended to the status of a demigod venting his approval from Mount Olympus with a nod. At other times, Imasuen demurred calling for a retake, eliciting muted grimaces from the artistes.  Seconds stretched into minutes and minutes soon ran into hours. By the time the scene wrapped up two hours later, the director, turning to this reporter, says, “This scene that took two hours to shoot is just about a minute scene in ‘On Bended Knees’ – the title of the movie.”

From that point, Imasuen led his crew to another location still within the Lekki Peninsula where a similar routine was performed. Again, hours sped by like the speed of light. Soon, it was evening time and the cast and crew had to retire for the day. Imasuen retired into a posh hotel in Lagos Mainland. For directing this movie, he will be smiling to the bank. And he has done several like that in his over 15 years’ career as a film director. As at the last count, Imasuen agreed he had directed over 200 movies and was still having a lot more on his plate. His movies have also been a breakthrough, a launch pad for many stars. For instance, his 2005 smash hit ‘Behind Closed Door’ is credited as the movie that turned Nollywood heartthrob, Desmond Elliot, into an A-list actor. The same thing can be said of Chioma Chukwuka-Akpotha, another A-list actress, as well as several other big names in Nollywood.

Yet, Imasuen is little known to the average film lover. He belongs to that special class of star manufacturers. They are the fingers behind the camera, the unseen forces that can make or mar a star in

Nollywood, the third largest movie industry in the world. Imasuen’s obscurity seems to have been adequately compensated for with tons of cash he has earned for his directorial role. This, perhaps, explains why Imasuen can afford the luxuries of life. When he is not on locations, he shuttles between award shows and film festivals across the globe. Indeed, Imasuen lives a fairy tale life that the average Nigerian would literally kill to have. A recent icing on the cake for him was when the Canadian government, last October, honoured his efforts with a Media Merit Award.

But things have not always been that rosy for him. In his over 15 years sojourn in Nollywood; he has had his fair share of ups and downs. In the early days, he went through lengthy dry spells of not having any movie to direct. His breakthrough however came with ‘Twisted Fate’, a movie he produced in 1995 which earned him critical acclaim. Other movies followed in quick succession. And so was money and growing influence as some of the unseen directing spirits and forces behind Nollywood.

He is not alone. In the same shoes with Imasuen is Teco Benson, one of Nollywood’s top directors and producers who, though relatively unknown, have struck gold in the industry. But while Imasuen teed off as a director, Benson sauntered into the industry as an actor. He recalls that his first pay as an actor was N8,000 for the movie, ‘Forbidden Fruit’, produced in 1995. That might seem small, but Benson observes that it was more than his take-home pay at his former job as a civil servant.

After playing many minor roles in movies, Benson decided to go behind the camera in 1996. He started off as a film producer before easing into directing movies. This transition was seamless for him but he notes that he invested thousands of naira into movie books and attending workshops both within and outside the country. “I bought books on all branches of movie production, producing, directing, cinematography, acting for films and television,” he says.

Benson has so far directed over 50 movies and still has more in the pipeline. And what he missed in fame, he made up for in fortunes. Take for instance ‘State of Emergency’, a movie he directed in 2000. Never mind that it took a month to produce, it still sold over one million copies. “By now I guess the movie should have moved three million copies in sales,” he says. Hence Benson can afford to live a five-star luxury life. Apart from the fact that he lives in the exclusive high-class residential area of Lekki, he also cruises around town in flashy cars in his fleet.

Benson is not the only one living his dreams from behind the cameras. There is also Tunde Kelani, top movie director and British-trained cinematographer. Unarguably one of the most celebrated filmmakers in Nigeria, Kelani only last week just returned from a trip to São Paulo, Brazil, where he hosted a successful film festival. The festival, which spanned three weeks, had the top brass of Brazilian cultural and movie industry in attendance. Nine of his previous works (in Yoruba language) were screened, including the smash hits ‘Saworoide’ and ‘Agogo Eewo’ while his new movie ‘Maami’ also premiered to an appreciative crowd.

He is however not new to such successful outings. Kelani’s career in the movie industry has been nothing short of a five star. Even though his movies are shot using Yoruba as the dialogue language, they have been smash hits with the audience both at home and abroad. Little wonder Kelani globetrots from one film festival to another exhibiting and promoting his works. In the process, he also makes stars like Kunle Afolayan, who is now also a prominent producer in his own right, Sunkanmi Omobolanle, and Peju Ogunmola among many others who now adorn the Nollywood landscape.

Just like Kelani, there is also Tade Ogidan, ace movie director. In addition to making chart bursting movies and creating stars in Nollywood, Ogidan has also found fortune simply being behind the scenes. A former producer with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Ogidan left the television station to start OGD Pictures Limited in 1990. He has since gone ahead to produce a string of jackpots as a number of his films have been screened in international film festivals. These include films like ‘Hostage’ (parts 1, 2 & 3), ‘Owo-Blow’ (parts 1, 2 & 3), ‘Out of Bounds’, ‘Saving Alero’ and ‘Dangerous Twins’ (parts 1,2 & 3). In the process, he also literally created a number of stars like Femi Adebayo and Stella Damasus while catapulting the likes of Richard Mofe-Damijo, Lanre Balogun, Yemi Solade, Bimbo Akintola and Bimbo Manuel amongst others into A-list actors. Ogidan’s latest film, ‘Family on Fire’, recently premiered in London to much applause.

The former continuity announcer with NTA Channel 5 equally has plans to screen the movie in many international film festivals. The edge this affords is that it opens more doors for the movie to be shown in many cinemas across the world. This, of course, is a jackpot for any film-maker worth his onions. Also in the same ilk with Ogidan is Amaka Igwe, a renowned film-maker. Apart from the fact that her movies were also screened abroad, she actually organises her own film festival which has become a melting pot for both local and international filmmakers and stakeholders. Her film festivals have since become prime market for sourcing Nollywood movies and television programmes. They are also a veritable cash cow that guarantees her a comfortable life.

Imasuen, Benson, Kelani, Ogidan, and Igwe however represent a small breed of directors who have found fortune by being behind the scenes in Nollywood. Though the Nigerian movie industry reeks of gold from afar, in between the glittering lines and the razzmatazz lies an industry that is tottering.  Save for a few stars and even fewer directors, many in the industry are barely managing. If in doubt, one just needs to ask Dickson Iroegbu, an award-winning movie director whose current state aptly captures the unseen truth of the industry. Today Iroegbu, in spite of being one of the top directors and producers in the industry, struggles to make ends meet.

Pause and rewind to 2003 when Iroegbu was on top of the world. His lifestyle then was red carpet. His movie ‘Romantic Attraction’, which cost N3.5 million, grossed over N9 million, making a healthy profit of N5.5 million. In 2005 his movie, ‘The Mayor’, apart from being a box office hit, garnered four awards at the maiden edition of the African Movie Academy Awards, AMAA. It scooped up gongs in Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor. In 2006, ‘Women’s Cot’, which he also directed, notched three AMAA. The categories were Best Cinematography, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

At that time, Iroegbu’s life rotated around award shows, corporate events, movie locations and film festivals. But before anyone could say Jack Robinson, Iroegbu found himself at the bottom rung of the ladder. His movies that once sold millions of copies could not even sell 1,000 copies anymore. He thus became prone to poverty, which swiftly swooped on him like an ill-tempered eagle. This was the technical knockout that literally turned Iroegbu’s world upside down.

He is not alone. Tragically there are many film-makers like Iroegbu who in the past had been accustomed to seeing their movies sell millions of copies, but suddenly woke up in another world where their movies could no longer sell a paltry 3,000 copies. Hence their livelihood and lifesavings went down the drain. “In those days, making movie was like narcotics. You invested a million naira in a movie and you’re sure to make over N10 million, but suddenly an earthquake came and movies hardly sell up to 10,000 copies,” says Imasuen.

But was it really sudden? Hadn’t there been tectonic plate movement within the bowels of the industry to which many had failed to pay attention? So what is responsible for this seismic shift in the industry that is regarded as the third biggest in the world, just behind Hollywood of the United States and Bollywood of India? While many are wont to blame piracy, the real culprit is actually a combination of self-inflicted injuries, which came together to create a perfect storm. In essence, Nollywood became a victim of its own success.

Indeed Nollywood became a huge success almost overnight in what some have described as a freak accident. It was said that Kenneth Nnebue, proprietor, Net Video Links, who had excess capacity of blank videocassettes was at a loss over the surplus. His desire to unload the tonnes of imported videocassettes, monopolising precious space in his warehouse, berthed the idea of producing the movie ‘Living in Bondage’. The film which hit the stores in 1992 became a runaway success selling millions of copies. This soon became an eye-opener to many about the lurking goldmine in the local movie industry.

Learning from his experience, many hopped into the Nollywood bandwagon, especially those who knew nothing about the industry. Still, they all struck gold. This good fortune was due to the insatiable appetite of the audience for locally produced movies, which had themes that resonated with daily experiences. In fact, so unshakeable was the honeymoon between the audience and the moviemakers that the former gladly forgave the latter for the many mistakes and shoddiness embedded in some of the films they churned out.

As a result, film-makers smiled all the way to the banks as movies with production budget of N2 million raked in more than three times what was invested. Benson observes that those were the golden days of the film-makers’ influence, when they were regarded and treated like the kings of the industry. At that time, he said, the power balance between the film-makers and the artistes was tilted towards the former, as the early set of actors and actresses had not yet gained the limelight and the accompanying clout. “In those early days the artiste did everything to impress the movie directors. Even if you told them that a scene involved jumping from the bridge, they were willing to do so just to impress you,” says Benson who has directed over 50 movies.

But as the rat race within the industry intensified, with many more entrants joining the fray, something happened which many in the industry neither accorded the appropriate attention nor adopted the right strategy for. Technology improved and the VHS videocassettes, which had been the building block of Nollywood, became supplanted by VCD and later DVD. “Many of us in the industry were neck deep in the chain line of producing movies that we did not even stop to consider how the change would affect the industry,” says Iroegbu.

At first, the migration appeared seamless, as the film-makers opted for the new technology, which brought on board several advantages over the old videocassettes. What they however failed to take cognizance of is the fact that they had lost a chief advantage of the videocassettes, which was the difficulty it posed for the unscrupulous business of piracy. While pirated videocassettes content were of abysmal quality, pirated VCD content displayed the same crisp and sharp quality of the original discs. The reality was slow in hitting the local film-makers. At the beginning, they thought that the good news was that the pirates had not yet dipped their treacherous fingers into the pie of the local film-makers. “It was only Western movies that were pirated in those days,” says Iroegbu.

On the surface, everything appeared to be going on well as film-makers were still making big money, even though movie standards had started declining. They however failed to plough a decent part of the proceeds back into the industry to develop the appropriate structures. One of the neglected structures that would later come back to bite the industry was the distribution channel. Distribution of films was centred in three streets across three cities, which were mostly a sloppy assemblage of stalls and shops. They are Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Idumota, Lagos State; Iweka Road, Onitsha, Anambra State; and Pound Road, Aba, Abia State.  Consequently the three centres – Lagos, Aba and Onitsha – were oversaturated with movies, while many of the inner parts of the country were not serviced. Pirates would later come to fill that gap. “We soon discovered that six months after our movies were released they had not yet reached other cities because the marketers were not keen about investing outside these three zones. How do you expect three places to serve an entire nation?” Imasuen queries while adding that, “we told the marketers to expand to other cities but they refused.”  The result was that while the pirates brought the films closer to more fans, thus increasing the exposure of artistes, their actions robbed the film-makers lots of revenue.

Equally glaring was the industry’s brazen failure to invest in movie studios thereby breaching one of the ground rules of movie production. In the movie kingdom, studio production enhances the quality of movies as they serve as a sort of laboratory in which the director can create any scene he imagines. The absence of this vital structure greatly curtailed the creativity in Nollywood. As a result, the country became inundated with films, which had almost identical locations, similar scenes and, in some cases – because of the lack of expertise of some budding directors – similar story lines. It was almost easier to predict a Nollywood movie after watching the first three scenes than crossing a highway.

Boredom soon crept in for the audience who wanted more excitement. The home video no longer had the allure that swept them off their feet in its early days. To worsen an already bad situation, pirates also suddenly saw the goldmine in Nollywood. The newer DVD technology and the faulty distribution chain proved just the right incentives for them to hop into the market. Hence they employed the successful formula they had used in wooing the audience into buying pirated Western movies. Pronto! They came out with 24 movies in one DVD for a cheap price of N150! The movie audience which had been questioning the rationality of parting with N250 for a Nollywood movie, with similar storylines and scenes, gleefully became the pirates’ bedmates.

The advent of African magic, a cable channel on popular subscription based Digital Satellite Television, DSTV, also added a twist to the Nollywood tale. Initially it was hailed because it made global stars out of the local stars. However this new outlet for viewing Nollywood movies greatly reduced the reliance of the audience on new movies in the stores. “What the heck! We could watch them for free,” many said. By the time the industry realised that the development was a double-edged sword, many had sold their broadcasting rights to the television station for pittance. Many other channels also came up adopting the African Magic template.  Internet sites like ‘Naija Pals’ also sprang up offering Nollywood films for free on the Internet. The prices of Nollywood movies had to be reduced to compete with the vastly advantaged pirated ones and the free ones on cable channels.

With all these factors combining, moviemakers woke up only to find out that their movies, which before could push a million copies within a few days, could not even push 10,000 copies in a whole year. This happened at a time when the power balance between the film-makers and the artistes had shifted in favour of the artistes. Thanks to several cable channels dedicated to Nollywood movies, the artistes were now global stars. Hence they could now command higher fees at a time the fortune of moviemakers was nose-diving.

The marketers who had become the major sponsors in the industry however tried unsuccessfully to persuade the A-list stars to cut their pay. When this failed, a one-year ban was clamped on their careers.  The unintended price of the ban was that it created division in the industry while it miserably failed to produce the desired result. Not surprising, the artistes came out of the ban unscathed while some even commanded higher fees. “The marketers did not inform the film-makers before taking such actions, so many of us did not support the ban which only helped divide the industry,” says Iroegbu.

Caught in a Catch-22 situation in which the movies would not sell without the superstars, while having them on set also rendered the project unprofitable, the marketers decided to cut the dispensable cost. They stopped patronising top movie film-makers, relying on those who would collect a fraction of the cost. These led to a proliferation of sloppy movies, which only reinforced the vicious cycle leading to more viewers’ apathy.

In no time, the industry could no longer attract the funds it once attracted. “It became difficult to source funds from the corporate world because we could not allay their fears on recouping their money,” says Imasuen. Many filmmakers and sponsors lost out, as Nollywood became the victim of its on success because of its lack of foresight.

But where was the government in all of these? It largely acted like a spectator in a football match. In the heyday when the industry was booming and churning out thousands of jobs with each movie, top brass of the movie industry insisted that the government was indifferent. Except for a weak attempt at reform, which was when the Nigerian Films and Video Censors Board, NFVCB, came out with a framework stipulating the minimum capitalisation for national distributor, nothing concrete was done.

 

And where attempts were made, they failed to hit the right target. For instance, Tinapa Studio was built by Cross River State government in partnership with the private sector and aimed at helping the local film industry. But the studio has turned out to be a white elephant project. The movie industry would not touch it with the longest poles. Why? They claim that the cost of shooting a movie in the studio would create a massive hole in their shoestring budgets. “I have a movie budget of N3.5 million and Tinapa is asking for N1 million to use their facility. How on earth will I go there?” Imasuen and Iroegbu query.

Another attempt to help the film industry, this time coming from the federal government, appears to have also failed. In the run up to the 2011 general elections, President Goodluck Jonathan, in what was described as a thunderstorm manoeuvre, promised to set up a $200 million intervention fund for the movie industry but this has so far remained only in the realm of promises. “The government is no longer talking about the funds again,” Imasuen said. Practitioners in the industry did not help matters. They became divided over who disburses the fund that is yet to be put on the table.

Given this scenario, can one then conclude that the death knell has been sounded on the make-believe industry and the careers of moviemakers? Imasuen says this is far from the truth. The industry’s ground zero experience appears to have forced the moviemakers back to the drawing board.

Imasuen argues that directors and producers now appear to have finally come to terms with the stark reality that the movie-to-video template, which the industry was built upon, is no longer sustainable. Their response, the magazine gathered, is to create a framework where movies now first go to the cinemas before they are printed on DVD. This of course requires that Nollywood movies attain higher standards suitable for cinema viewing.

Imasuen contends that the industry is poised for such, noting that movies are already being shot using the new HD technology. “We are already at the next phase which is shooting movies that can fit cinema standard. In other climes, film-makers make the bulk of their money from the cinema, and Nollywood is ready to cash in on that,” he says. Whether this approach will bring back the good old days of money and influence for the likes of Iroegbu remains a question only time can answer.

*Culled from Tell Magazine Nigeria. Illustrations by PAV

 

 

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The Cameroon Movie Industry Needs To Step Up
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Land Of Shadows Producer Gilbert Agbor

By Pandita Njoh Etta

The Cameroon Movie Industry is in need of an extreme makeover says Gilbert Agbor one of the most enterprising producers in the country. Despite the abundance of talent in the industry, the industry suffers from chronic neglect from government officials. The movie industry has the potential to employ about 10.000 to 50.000 Cameroonians if properly structured and supported says Agbor whose movies have earned him local and international fame. Trained in Nigeria, the difficulties have not daunted the resolve of Agbor to continue forging a path for the Cameroon movie industry. In a chat with PAV’s Pandita Njoh Etta, Gilbert Agbor sheds light on his career, projects as well as a critique of the movie industry in Cameroon.

PAV: How did you become a film producer and may we know how many movies you have produced so far and the reaction of the public to your productions?

Agbor Gilbert: I went to the film school in Nigeria for 6 years at the University Science and Technology in Calabar in the year 2000. Later, i went for training in Algeria for 9 months. In the course of my school, I met so many people who encouraged me and helped directed me as I pursued my passion for movies. i have been producing movies since the year 2005, when I came up with my first movie, BEFORE THE SUNRISE–which i received an award for in south Africa as the Youngest producer to come with a very successful movie. Later on, THE BLUES KINGDOM–from which I was awarded Peace Ambassador For Female Circumcision, LAND OF SHADOWS– which recently had an award for best costume at the nollywood and African film critics award, NAAFCA in the U.S, and DEEPER LOVE. My fans and the public in general do love and appreciate what I do, from the successes and my physical interaction I have had with them from time to time.( travelled overseas for three movie festivals and returned with three different awards) I also had a recognition in Burkina Faso for my contributions to the Cameroonian movie industry.

PAV: What would you describe as the major highlights of your career as a producer thus far?

Agbor Gilbert: My fans, and the appreciation i get from them made me who I am today. I am not the best, but i am good at what I do.

PAV: Are there any producers in the African movie industry and the world at large whom you consider as role models and what is it you like about them?

Agbor Gilbert: Oh yes definitely there are, only a foolish person will not have mentors or people they look up to, Fred Amata–nollywood actor and producer,  I met him during my school time in Nigeria. Collaborated with him to produce my film, Before the Sunrise. Zach Orji–nollywood actor and director. worked with him for my movies Before the Sunrise and Land of shadows. Mama Kinta- who is also a film producer and actress. Jean Pierre Bekolo, Agbor Steven Ebai–Cameroonian film producer and Tyler Perry–his struggles to be who he is today encouraged and still encourage me to be what I am today and to work harder.

PAV: You come from Cameroon where the movie industry has a lot of potential but is not very strong still organized , from the name, to the funding, to the  audience which seems to have a preference for  foreign films etc what is going on with the movie industry in your country?

Agbor Gilbert: We have negligence from all directions. From both the audience-consumers and the producers too. There is so much piracy amongst the consumers. For instance, a person would buy a single movie, plays it in his/her house and connect cables to distribute it to neigbours who will then pay him a few hundreds of France. Thus the movie cannot sell to develop money for the industry’s growth. Also, there is so much disorganization amongst producers, thereby limiting them to work together in unity and achieve a higher goal. Furthermore, there is no good networking and distribution agency for the movies, and the movies end up not getting to the greater part of the market, leading to a shortage of funds to pay the production body. In addition, the ministry of culture does not play their role in assisting production at all. When the head of government gives funds to the ministry to assist movie production in the country, they don’t give the money; and when they do, they give the money to the wrong people, who end up not doing the work. The ministry of culture needs to do better in assisting with funds and joining forces with the production bodies to fight against piracy, which is one big of a problem.

PAV: We have seen Cameroonians working with more acclaimed Nigerian actors like Patience Ozorkwor, Emeka Ike and others; does this reflect a deficiency of talent amongst Cameroonian actors or what reasons are there for the penchant to have big names in movies instead of promoting local talents?

Agbor Gilbert: No not at all. There are great talents in Cameroon and I do work with them. As a producer, primarily I will say it is a marketing strategy. Consumers buy movies because they love the faces they see on there and will want to buy only those movies, and in the cause, discover new and talented people like; Eyong Quinta Ashu, Lynno Lovette etc. also, collaborating with the nollywood actors, increases the market for the particular movie, and the Nigerians will want to see their own faces in the movie too.

PAV: Mr. Agbor, we come back to the issue of name, what is the name of the Cameroon movie industry? We have Hollywood in the USA, Bollywood in India, Nollywood in Nigeria etc, we have heard about Camwood, Camerlywood? Must the name be mimicked after what obtains in other countries and why can’t there be a unique name that reflects the culture of your country?

Agbor Gilbert: In 2008, the Cameroonian film industry–production houses back home, the president of the actors guild in Nigeria, prime minister of Cameroon at that time Ephraim Inoni, the minister of culture in Cameroon , representatives from the ministry of cultures in Ghana and Gabon, and also nollywood actor Jim Iyke came to an agreement that the official name of the Cameroon film industry is COLLYWOOD.

PAV: In Nigeria we learned that in the next twenty five years or so, the movie industry will have the potential of generating income that could rival what comes from oil, what potential would you say the movie industry has in Cameroon and is there anything the authorities are doing to help the industry move forward?

Agbor Gilbert:-I feel pity for the system in Cameroon; -high rate of unemployment, but the film industry stands a chance to employ 10,000 to 50,000 Cameroonians and more. -the government administrators have a great role to play in helping with the situation. Their security and unavailability makes it difficult for the producers to go to them for help and even when they get the chance to, they don’t listen. All the ministries not only the ministry of culture, need to assist.

Agbor Gilbert with Nigerian actor Jim Iyke

Agbor Gilbert with Nigerian actor Jim Iyke

The ministry of communication needs to help in marketing and other duties, the ministry of education needs to implement movie production and film studies in their schools, take for example me, I had to travel to Nigeria for my studies. Many others with acting, directing dreams have to travel abroad for education. They don’t consider it relevant. The ministry of finance needs to work together too, for assistance in making this work. the Nigerian government for example understands the benefits of the film industry over there, thus they work very hard to support them. The other day while looking at some videos in you tube, I came across a video of some top Nigerian stars singing a good luck song, campaigning for their now President Jonathan. The government knows that the people listen to these actors and actresses, and thus respect them and collaborate with them for events as such.

PAV: Taking a look at the continent as a whole , Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa etc, how would you size up the African film industry, from artistic performance, the way it is structured, quality of movies etc?

Agbor Gilbert:South Africa for instance has no limit. There is support from every corner. The ministry of culture and the government in Rwanda built shops for the production houses to help them distribute and market their films. In Mozambique, their head of state comes to their premiers to support them. Here in Cameroon, even the ministers will not come, and will not even send a representative that can contribute in any way.

Gilbert  Agbor all smiles after bagging an award at NAFCA 2011

Gilbert Agbor all smiles after bagging an award at NAFCA 2011

PAV: What are the projects that Gilbert Agbor is working on right now or has in mind for the nearest future?

Agbor Gilbert: I am presently working on a new movie, sharing ideas, travelling abroad for distribution and marketing. I am also working on launching the H- foundation which is a non profit organization to give allowances to the less privileged, scholarships for outstanding students in school. Also working with 28 HIV/AIDS patients with financial help and building their hope for living. In addition, we are also working to help the widows.

PAV: We end by asking if you have a word of advice to talented young Africans interested in the world of movies with the potential to excel as Directors, Actors etc.

Agbor Gilbert: -It is a rich profession in knowledge, finance, style-also known as swag-Follow your heart, and your dreams. It’s too big a world, the movie industry is so big that one has to have a great potential to be recognized. It is a very fun profession with advantages and disadvantages; when you choose to be part of this industry, you have decided to give out you life to serving the audience and no more privacy for you. Every day we learn, and when you fall just get up and run again, never give up on the dreams.

 

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