Why I walked out of my marriage-----Atim Ikpeme
Where have you been?
I have been working, pursuing personal contracts and doing other things, apart from acting. I have been into interior decoration, painting, script writing and voice over in adverts and on radio.
I just came off set a few days ago; it was Foluke Daramola's soap opera, so it is not as if I abandoned acting.
So you are back
I have never been off. Acting is not something you do everyday. It is not even something that is recommended. Ideally, you shouldn't do more than three of four movies a year and of course, one needs to create space for new things to come up. I have never been away.
How did you get into interior decorations and painting?
I am a graduate of Visual Arts from the University of Lagos and I have always loved the arts. I started painting and drawing from primary school. When I got into secondary school, I realized I had this thing in me but I wanted to read law. My parents thought I would do better reading Theatre Arts so I did Theatre Arts - diploma at the University of Port Harcourt but I ended up with a degree in Visual Arts. So the arts has always been in me.
Is there a future for painting in Nigeria?
If you look around you, art is every where. There is a whole lot of future in painting but the big challenge is finding the market here. If you are not in the right place at the right time, you will starve.
If you are not working in an advertising agency and not doing anything to drive the kind of arts you do forward, then it is a bit difficult. It's not really difficult if you know what to do and where you are going.
I paint and sell; currently I am working on some collections for greeting cards and may finish them before the end of the year.
After university, you continued with acting
Yes, leaving the university, I just continued with what everybody loved me doing, which was acting, but I just couldn't leave painting. I couldn't stay two weeks without my painting. I couldn't abandon it.
I am an artiste. I am an arts person and loves everything that has to do with the arts.
How did you get into acting?
My parents helped me with my career choice and I started with the diploma in Theatre Arts. After the diploma, you have a year off before coming back for degree program so just shortly after the exams, I came into Lagos and with the zeal to be in the industry, I started going for auditions and I came across Kenneth Nnebue, Amaka Igwe and I got launched into the market. I did movies like True Confession, Rattle Snake.
Did being called Domitilla after playing the role in the movie, Domitilla, affect you in any way?
There are people around the world who bear Domitilla, you know it's a Catholic name and I don't get embarrassed when people call me that. It was a near truth and straight story and it was something anybody could identify with.
I guess people were talking about the fact that she had to do prostitution to survive. It was a moralistic story. I draw a lot of comfort from the fact that people are also called Domitilla.
How did you get the role?
Zeb Ejiro was auditioning three of us for something that Oritz Wiliki was going to do. The lead role was what we auditioned for and Omotola Jalade took the first lead and I took the second lead. Zeb was impressed and he said if I lost some weight, he would love me to play a role in a movie he was working on soon.
I didn't take him serious then until I saw him two weeks later and he said I had lost weight, which was because I was working on another project, he told me to come and play the lead in that movie.
I don't want to sound like I am throwing the baby away with the bath water. We have come a long way but the truth is we haven't done exceptionally well. I don't enjoy the fact that mediocres came in and will actually dictate to you who they want to play their lead and who they wanted to see on their posters.
First, a lot of people think that acting is a child's play. Not everybody understands that it is serious business. Forget that it doesn't pay so well here and now but it is only a matter of time.
It hurts me when I look at the past when script writers will go lodge in a hotel for three months just to be able to write an appropriate script, something that could be vetted everywhere.
And then you compare that with today where you have someone who just sits down, writes a story, does the screen play and directs the movie.
Secondly, we the actors don't take time off. Our act, which is acting should be something that comes from inside of us, so we should always take time out to refresh, otherwise you turn out thrash.
I want to be able to mute the T.V set when I am watching a movie and tell what the story is, just from the expressions of the actor. Until an actor or actress gets to that point in our Nollywood, then we have a long way to go.
Another thing is that delivery is a problem. We are not expected to speak like the Oyinbo people but you have to be able to cut across to people. If you understand the character, you know how it is, you are going to pronounce the word.
I do not understand why an actress is in the village and she is speaking Queens English or why an actress that is supposed to be a sophisticated babe can't pronounce her words properly.
There is a whole lot but we have come a long way. And by the time the independent producer takes hold of the market again, takes hold of this industry again, things will get better.
For those of us who are already there, we should continue learning by going to stage, our actors and actresses think they know it all. I see good stories and bad directing, I see bad stories and good directing. We will get to that point where it will be 98 per cent over 100.
Nollywood show of shame at AMMA, did the Kenyans deserve the award?
It's sad but the truth is that those awards deserve to go to where they went to and really, I don't care whose ox is being gored here. I saw clips of the movie From a Whisper and I am not saying that the likes of Tunde Kelani did not do a good job, but you see, we need to have quality in our movies and this movie has quality.
These people are churning out quality movies, in terms of pictures, scripting, name it, but we can say it is because they are just starting up and I can say that they borrowed a leaf from us but what happened to us?
It seems we are frustrated here because we have nobody, no serious source of finances coming to us and the producers are handicapped.
How do you shoot a movie with hi-tech equipments and you don't have where to sell your movie? Now you bring these people, who have a cinema going culture, what do you expect? These people will put in all the money they have to make the movie because they know that two weeks in the cinema they will make their money back. We need companies that will sponsor the industry. It is not as if we don't know what to do or that we don't have the talent, it is finance.
Have you produced any of the scripts you write?
Not yet but I will get into producing someday. I will get there. I am not scared of going into producing but I will rather want to be more of an artistic director than a producer. I would want to look more at how the actor interprets the script.
Staying power after the accident, through the pain
My family was my staying power. My family…we stick together and I sometimes think they are meddling into my affairs. I had few friends that stood by me all that time. I tell people that the worst kind of thing you will feel is bone marrow pain.
They were there for me even when I couldn't pray, they kept praying for me and without them I don't know how I would have survived it.
Did you think you will not come back to Nollywood?
There was a point I got bothered when I came out with bulging shoulders and that was because I was on clutches for a long time and I said my look is bad. I didn't look the way I used to but one day my mother told me I will get to 80 years and regret that you never did the things you wanted to do, so better start living and that got me up. It took a while before I got back to being myself again.
Coping as a single parent
I am lucky we are in an African society, so we don't live away from the family. My parents, my sisters, my uncles, my aunts were there for her when I was not there for her. She grew up in a balanced environment. She will be 11 this year and she is her class captain - JSS 1. I thank God that she is okay and not freaky and has not gone into any vices.
Would you give marriage another shot?
I will try. I think I could give marriage another shot but it will take a whole lot of wanting to know who he is, everything and anything, being sure. I believe a lot in love, I have to be in love with the person, I don't want you to tell me you love me just for the moment. I want you to be in love with me and I in love with you when I am crazy and when I am not, when he is old and nasty. If I don't get there, I won't get into marriage. I don't want to compromise anything.
Is it that you are not considering marriage now?
I am not considering marriage now. I can tell you one thing though that I am a stickler for intelligent men. If you are the ugliest man and I find out you are intelligent, I could go after you but you see, years and experience, not from my past marriage but other experiences in relationships, have taught me that Nigerian men are funny people and one has to be careful with them.
The position I find myself because of the kind of work I do, I also have to be careful. For us actresses, it's very dicey; you want to be with a man who wants to improve on his portfolio of how many women he has dated. Words get to me very easily so I want to be careful.
When you find love, you will get married
When love finds me because I am not looking for love. I have a lot on my head and I can't let looking for love come into my head too.
I am in a relationship but it's not the kind of relationship were I expect marriage. I think for the average Nigerian woman, the ultimate is marriage, but that is not my goal.
I want my boyfriend or who ever is involved with me to say he is proud of me because I have achieved this and that.
And if somewhere along the line he thinks he loves me and loves the fact that I am a single parent so much that he can adopt every part of my life, then it is okay.
I want love to come to me because I love easily and it never pays me so I have to wait for it to come to me.
Is it that you think you have seen it all and so no need to rush into marriage?
No, that is not it. Maybe I am being careful; maybe I am guarding my heart. I draw a lot of strength from any relationship I am in. The relationship I am having today is a relationship such that when I make mistakes, he tells me I have goofed.
I may not accept it then but in my sober moments, I will accept that. I want something real. I haven't seen it all and the truth is I haven't even seen anything.
Your ex, Segun Arinze, gave marriage a second shot, are you happy for him?
It's been 11 years. The last time I spoke to him, I told him marriage is good to him. I feel happy for him. It is not easy for a man to stay that long, I guess for him, it was getting the right choice and I pray that this time it is right for him.
We had our issues, I walked out, he didn't ask me to live. He must have found his right person so I wish them the best.
Do you both still relate with each other well?
We do have our fights now and again like two friends would, but we relate well, why not? When we were married, I loved him as much as a wife would have loved the husband; I did the much I could.
Do you regret walking out of the marriage?
I never regret anything. I find the good and the bad in everything and I never regret. It is always best that way. I will not say I had as much wisdom then as I have now but I can tell you that it will not be too out of place to say I rushed into the marriage then.
I was young; I got married after my internship programme, which was immediately after I did my Diploma, a year after secondary school.
The only thing I wish I had done then was wait a bit longer, my parents tried and told me to wait but I refused. I looked at my parents and thought marriage was it all, so he didn't even ask twice, I accepted.
What makes Anne tick?
I have my weaknesses, I cry a lot but I do that inside my house. I have a few vices but I think what makes me tick is that I can relate to another person just as I am, I don't want anybody to relate to me as a star. I want to be me.
Has the scar on your chin affected you in getting roles or in any way?
It has not affected me in getting roles but last year, I lost out on a TV soap opera because they weren't comfortable with it, other than that I have never had any problem with it.
What do we expect from Anne now?
I am a more matured person. The most difficult thing to do if you are a celebrity in Nigeria is growing up in the eyes of people. Everybody is watching and everybody knows you better than you know yourself.
Anyone who is expecting to see a naïve Anne is in for a shocker because I am a woman now; I am a much more mature person.
Philosophy of life
Live each day as it comes. Live one day at a time, what happens today is going to be yesterday's news. I live my life celebrating everyday; I think I do a bottle of wine every other night. When you see what people are going through you just want to celebrate
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