Joke Silva, An Icon In a League Of Her Own

Subtle exuberance, perfect glee and graceful poise make up the combination of obvious attributes the perceptive mind will register after only five minutes in the presence of Joke Silva, an iconic figure several generations grew up idolising.

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Actors, they say, are seasonal like rain but Silva has stayed put in our consciousness, on our screens and stages for decades.

To some, she’s the godmother of ‘Nollywood’, a term which the Nigerian film industry has come to be known. To others, she’s that looming, not ominous figure, egging you on, and supplying ceaseless inspiration to carry on in a fickle industry. Her charisma is such that, in her presence, you’re on your toes yet relaxed enough to be yourself.

Silva sees stage and screen acting as her babies, hence she has no favourite.

“Neither,” she declared when asked to choose between both platforms.

“I like them both equally, the techniques for working on both are different and they are both challenging. So, I like working with the challenges of both,” she said in an interview with TheCable Lifestyle.

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“Acting was something my parents knew I had a talent for, so they encouraged me throughout my schooling. When I got to the crossroads, that was my A levels year, I asked the Lord where he wanted me to be and when he gave the answer, it was entertainment.

“So, I focused on that and when I came back home after my A levels, my late uncle got me attached to the UNILAG culture centre, as it was called then. It later became the department of creative arts.

“There were performances all over Lagos and outside Nigeria, I was with them those good old days and we performed all over.

“That same year, somebody saw my work and said they would like me to come work on television; NTA. So I got involved in radio productions as well, and I got invited to work at the National Theatre.

The successive opportunities and experience weren’t enough for the thespian: she wanted more and sought it.

“I discovered that I still felt as though I was lacking something so I went back to train. For my parents, they wanted me to be sure of what I wanted to do. I had such a wonderful time, I was earning good money so it was a case of ‘well, this is what you are cut out to do’, so it might be a good idea to do and train properly for it.

“So, I went for audition training to get into drama school, otherwise you won’t get in.

After concluding her training, she studied at Web Douglas Academy for over two years before returning to Nigeria to work on ‘Mirror in the sun’, ‘Second Chance’, ‘The king must dance naked’, ‘Violated’, and ‘Owuro lojo’.

She credits good directors like Eniola Fani-Kayode for moulding her for the camera, saying: “I got some good grounding when I came back from my training.”

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With all due respect to the parties who have championed the recent debate of old and new Nollywood, Joke Silva is not interested.The best she can do for the sensitive debate is to remain on the fence of wisdom.

She said: “Let’s put it this way using the argument of old and new Nollywood, the side of the fence that I stand on is that for every industry, new players would come and while they would even be considered as new players is because they are bringing value for their own generation. “Those that consider themselves as the new Nollywood, give them another 20 years and they are going to become the old Nollywood and that’s the cycle of life. The new players must always add value,” Silva told TheCable Lifestyle.

Ironically, the ever-busy entertainer hardly has time to see movies, yet she spoke highly of ’76, Surulere and Oloibiri.

“I enjoyed Surulere very much but I felt it was a bit long; it could have been shorter but I enjoyed it. It was just the preview of Oloibiri that I saw; I really want to see it. I also want to see ’76 because that’s an era I am really fascinated about; I look forward to seeing it.”

Read full interview here: CABLE.NG

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