Joke Silva is a study in excellent acting. She is a delight on stage, on TV and in home movies. The Nollywood star, who has won several awards at home and abroad, is married to an equally exciting actor, Olu Jacobs. In this interview with Tribune, she talks about the state of Nollywood, her staying power and marriage, among other interesting issues.
COULD you tell me about your involvement in the stage play, Hear Word!?
I played three different roles in Hear Word! One of them is a gossip with the rest of my sisters. In this, we are trying to address some of the things that women say about one another. If we want to achieve empowerment and nation-building, there are some things we cannot afford to be doing.
That’s one of the characters in the piece. Besides, we explored this idea of a family insisting that once a woman’s husband dies, then, the woman does not count for anything, especially if she doesn’t have children. That a couple is blessed with children is an extra blessing; and that you don’t have it does not mean you are less of a woman or less of a man.
How would you compare Hear Word! to the other stage plays you had done, considering that you are working with actresses Taiwo Ajai-Lycett and Ireti Doyle?
I’ve been working with them for several years, so this is nothing new. I have a passion for stage plays and I have always believed in theatre. Along with my husband, Olu Jacobs, we’ve been at the forefront of continuing with the theatre movement.
We believe very much in theatre, though we are very much involved in films, television and radio. We also believe strongly in the theatre movement and are excited that it is taking off. We are looking forward to it flourishing. Concerning your question, I can’t compare because each of my stage performance is just different.
Are you saying you prefer stage to movies?
No! I like all the platforms; they are platforms of expression for me. So, I find them to be very powerful forms of expression, especially when they are well done. Apart from this, it is nice to explore, in order to see how far you can push yourself as a performer in any of the platforms.
What is it like acting alongside Taiwo Ajai-Lycett in the stage play, Hear Word?
You feel like going back to school. The woman is just such an incredible professional. And I think theatre is one of her amazing moments.
How would you like to describe the state of the Nollywood now?
Nollywood is doing very well. It’s been celebrated all over the world and Nollywood is in the process of re-inventing itself again. That is one of the reasons I have never accepted to limit Nollywood to just the past 20 years. I always say that Nollywood is actually a name that was found for the entire film industry.
The film industry has had several circles in its lifespan and one of the circles was the time of the Ogundes, the Ojo Ladipos and the Ade Loves; and then, another circle was when you had the Kenneth Nnebue’s intervention and all that. Another circle is coming again, where you will have some people coming with a different kind of film.
You are looking at the Kunle Afolayans and the Desmond Obigalis etc. Each time this circle comes, it always raises the bar, which is exactly what we want. So, that’s what I see happening in Nollywood. But Nollywood is in a place now, where it needs to solidify its structures. Like the late Amaka Igwe would say, the time for celebration is over; so, it is now time to make sure we have the structures in place-and that has been happening.
What then is your staying power?
Wow! It is God’s amazing grace in letting me do a job that I enjoy. When you are doing a job you enjoy, you don’t realise that you are working, until you get home or you are done for the day and exhausted. It is God’s amazing grace for allowing me to belong to that profession and having an amazing husband who belongs to the same profession. He has made me to have an extra sense of self-worth for belonging to this industry.
Again, we are in an industry that is beginning to flourish and attract attention from various areas. One of the things I have discovered in my years as a performer, producer and mentor is the fact that we are at the stage, where Nigeria celebrates its performers, but doesn’t support us with the necessarily tools to be able to take it to the level that is should be. It celebrates us and we celebrate ourselves (laughs).
But we’ve got to find a way, where the art forms are achieved properly. What do I mean? Our art form is part of our cultural memory. Without a cultural memory, a people will always make the same mistake over and over again, thinking that they are doing things for the very first time. A cultural memory is important for those who come after us to know what we are like and to have dignity about who they are.
We do some things as a people because we have not achieved our cultural history. Those are the things that I am saying. It’s beyond money. Money is important for us to able to do the kind of things that we want to do. But there are other structures that need to be put in place and our cultural history is part of it.
As a star actress who is married to another star, what is it like at home?
The two stars are two very ordinary people at home; a man and a woman in a relationship, raising a family and living their lives together. Basically, that is it.
So, do you cook and do other household chores like everyone else?
I have never lied about that. I’ve never been the cooking kind of woman. When my husband met me, he knew. He was the one who used to do the cooking because he was so good at it. I used to do the cooking when I felt like it.
Sometimes, it was a huge success and another time an abysmal failure (laughs). I remember during our dating years, I cooked efo (vegetables) and it was drawing (laughs). He was just such a gem and he ate it (laughs). It’s not as if my mum didn’t teach me how to cook efo. Yes, we do all the housework and all the things you do as a normal family. For my husband, he hasn’t had the time anymore. For him, cooking is a therapy, but it is a chore for me.
Yet, he will always tell you that I look after him so much. But I do that in other ways. Now, of course, we have somebody who does the cooking. We have people who do the housework and the general cleaning. For someone like my mum, cooking is also a therapy; keeping the house nice and neat is a therapy for her. But it is not so for me. I have friends who adore cooking. I would sit down, watch them and say, ‘Wow!’
You two are seen as the Nollywood role models when it comes to marriage. What has helped you thus far?
One, we have great respect for each; two, we forgive each other. I think it is very important, even for young people who are getting married now. Sometimes, you hear things like, “Ha! Mummy Jay, I can never forgive him for what he did to me or…” Fine, you are entitled to your anger.
Over the years, I have realised that you must forgive each other. If you don’t learn to forgive each other, it’s not going to work because neither of you is perfect. Apart from this, we’ve learnt over the years to be honest with each other and to be honest about our feelings for each other.
How do you handle male admirers?
Thank you, but no thanks. You can’t compete with the one in the house.
You always look cheerful. Is it a kind of therapy?
People who know my mum would say, okay, no wonder. That’s how my mother is. But to get a smile out of my late father, you would try. But my mother was always the smiling one.
When you find yourself in some low moments, how do you manage the situation?
In my home, when I am in my low moment, my people know and they steer clear. But I have found out that by the time I have shouted here and there, I still go back to God. I just go back to God and lay it on His feet. I am not one of those who hand over very easily. I always believe that I can sort it out.
And that’s one of the things my husband doesn’t understand because in this kind of situation, he just sleeps. But not me! Finally, when I have done the sleeplessness night over and over again, I hand over.
You have been criticised by some people for being too emotional on the MTN-sponsored reality TV show, Project Fame…
(Cuts in) I don’t care. It’s because you see the growth of the contestants, so it just gets to the point when you feel that this person is normally so good. But at this particular day, he or she just happens to have a bad day, so he or she now suffers eviction. It’s not as if they are not good enough, so it can be very painful.