Veteran actress, Ajoke Silva is sure a leading example to most filmmakers that consistency and doggedness attribute success on the chosen field. Having featured in countless movies and powerful stage performances, Joke Silva is still very much relevant in the industry having kicked off her career in film in the early 1990’s. Married to veteran actor Olu Jacobs; the couple founded and operate the Lufodo Group covering film production and distribution assets and the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts, where she is Director of Studies. She is also the pioneering managing director of Malete Film Village, in association with Kwara State University.
However, it will interest you that Joke and Olu Jacobs met in 1981 at a rehearsal and got wedded in 1985, showing that love can truly last a lifetime. Cornered at the 100th premiere of Battleground, Joke Silva shares her journey in the industry with MUTIAT ALLI, and her thoughts on marriage break-ups, domestic violence and loving moments with husband.
Was acting something you knew you will end up doing while growing up?
I knew from about the age of 10 and my parents supported me from about the ages of 10… (Laughs) In the schools that I went to after my A-Levels, I prayed and asked God for confirmation and when he said Yes, I spoke to my father and he said to take a gap, between A-Levels and this industry you want to work in and see whether it is really what you want. And at that time, I’m talking of the late 70’s and early 80’s. To have a doctor mother and a lawyer father who are both at the top of their professions, saying their child should take a gap here. You know, it wasn’t common in our time but they allowed me to do that. When they found out that this was what I wanted to do and it was what I enjoyed doing, they said: “well, go to drama school”.
At the time you were growing up, there were certain professions that were considered noble like Engineering, Medicine, Accounting and the likes. Did that not bother your parents?
Well, I think what bothered them was whether I will make a living out of this profession I wanted to go into. That was the main concern. They knew the talent was there, they nurtured the talent, they encouraged the talent, but I think the idea was to encourage the talent to be a hobby (laughs…) you know, my mother played the piano and it was her hobby. It was even by accident I discovered she knew how to play the piano. She learnt while growing up… you know, it was something like that for them when it was also what I wanted to do. That’s why they gave me the gap here. It was to see how stressful the industry could be, how uncertain it could be in the sense that you don’t always have work all the time. But unfortunately for them in my gap here I was working right from the beginning to the end. Sometimes I had like three jobs at the same time. So I was working so often and they saw that I liked it so they supported me.
While growing, were there circumstances that made you make a detour from acting?
After getting married and having 2 children, work had dried up. I got married in 1985 and my second child was born in 1998. There was very little work and I was bored. So I went back to the university. I did my drama with the drama school then went to the University of Lagos to study English. It was while I was at the university that I now did some more work under Fani Kayode, mind-bending but there was one-time work dried up and I found myself teaching so many students in private schools. I taught in Abbey schools, I taught in Green Woodhouse, I taught in Atlantic Hall and a lot of my students are now in the industry. So many of them.
You are one of the celebrities whose marriage have worked and is still working. Unfortunately, we get to hear too many stories of broken homes. Does that not bother you?
It doesn’t, not particularly. I think it’s important for people to know what their thresh hold of pain is, what their thresh hold of acceptability is, I think sometimes in this society we tend to say “Oh, you must stay in the marriage no matter what he does to you”, to the individuals who have stayed in the marriage. You will hear of some women who have stayed with their husband right throughout the difficulty and when the husband dies, you hear them, they’re so bitter because it seems as if they wasted their life and this is something that the younger generation doesn’t want to go through. With that being said, I think also that there is a little need for both sides to see each other as human beings. There is a tendency for us to have the wrath of a man, our boys are raised from when they’re babies, and they’re saying “ehh! Wo! O ma sawonbirin leshe” (he will deal with these women) (claps)… so when a woman all of a sudden, say that this man should become responsible, should become accepting, should be able to take a leadership position, where he is a servant leader, how? He was never brought up to be a servant leader. He was brought up to be the king of kings and lord of lords! (Claps…). So, it’s a shift thing in mindset. It’s difficult but it’s something we have to do and that is why we are seeing what we’re seeing. That is why the marriages are not making it. The woman are like, “excuse me, I’ve gone to school, I do my share in this house” you know? Let me give you an example; I remember I had a brief conversation with someone where I said “Oh! WOW! Your house is beautiful. Ah! Well done to you and your wife.” He said “What did she contribute? It was me. I built it.” And I said “Sweetie, the fact that she wasn’t asking you for the money and she was making sure it was possible for you to build the house, if she did not give you a dime towards the house, her support to you building the house is her share in the house. Do you understand? But you know, they weren’t built up to think like that so you find that a lot of mothers will say; when you are building your house, if it’s only the roof, if it’s only a few tiles you can buy, you should buy it so that you’ll have a claim of the house.
With your successful marriage story; there must have been a Pet name for your husband and for you?
(Giggles) Ahh yes! His pet name is Omo boy and he feels excited and fulfilled whenever I call him that.
Are there no moments it becomes heavy for you and you don’t want to call him Omo Boy?
Laye (Never)! When there is Omoboy and then I say “Olu”, that’s Wahala (laughs). And then same is with me when he says “Iya”, that’s my pet name and when he says “Joke!” I know am in trouble.
You have sure paid your dues in the industry and still very much relevant; some scholars are of the opinion that there is a parallel line that exist between stage actors and screen actors?
I am a part of “Heart Beat-The Musical” which is a stage performance. Now there are the techniques for the stage actors, and the screen actor’s techniques are different. But there is a point where they converge and that is the understanding. Analyzing and understanding your character! They converge there in understanding the script and the role of your character being the world of the play, and accepting the reality of the world in the play of your script. Where they diverge, is the energy, the energy as in projection, not just in voice but in the entire personality. On stage, you have to project everything, your voice, your personality, your gesture, everything is projected. But in screen, even if it’s a big screen, the bigger the screen, the smaller your projection has to be (laughs..) because if you go all big as you go on stage because you’re going on a big screen, you will look at yourself and go – wawu. (Laughs).
Which do you find more comfortable?
I love both; I understood the techniques of both. I didn’t understand the techniques for a while in the early years so I used to feel much more comfortable on stage but once I got an understanding of the screen, it was easy.
How do you feel whenever a project brings you and your husband together?
It’s usually fun and exciting; at the same time we put professionalism in what we do. Take for instance, if we are to play the role of a couple in a movie set, we do it according how the script explains and leaves everything behind. So after the set we come back as family but on set we are who we are ‘Actors’.
What’s that one word that keeps you going?
In reflexion, what are you most grateful for career-wise?
Being able to re-invent myself in ways that make sense. I am very grateful that at every point of my career, re-invention has made sense for that particular time it occurred. This has also ensured that I remain relevant.
You have stayed on top of your game for over four decades. Do you see yourself retiring soon?
I am very lucky to belong to an industry that doesn’t recognize retirement. There are so many actors in the West who say they are retired but still find their way back into the profession. Ours is an industry that allows for longevity and I have taken advantage of it.
What are your thoughts on domestic violence? These days many women come out, talking of abuse in marriage.
I think I’m very happy more women are coming out to talk about it. It is important their partners must give themselves space. Once the violence starts, give yourself space! I think it is the most spirit destroying action one can put on their lover. And it doesn’t only happen to women. It happens to men as well. I think it is sad that any relationship gets to that point where you need to break the spirit.
But then, is there anything like a woman provoking a man to hitting her?
I think in relationships especially when we are angry with each other, I think lovers go for the jugular when they are angry. I know I do. (Laughs). I think it’s important to understand when you are getting to that point where you understand that you’ve gotten to the thresh hold. Like sometimes when I counsel young people, I say there is a role that you recognize, that if I push anything further, we’re going to be in trouble. When you hear that, when you feel it, it’s in the eyes, you can’t hide it. Each person, waka!
There is also the violence that people don’t associate to domestic violence and that is the emotional violence. Emotional violence is the violence that is so deadly because you don’t see it. It damages the person psychologically; I think the onus is on those who love the person. To let them see it and be aware of it. Marriage is not do or die affair.
What is that meal uncle Olu cannot do without?
That’s an interesting question. (Laughs out loud) ask him. (Laughs…)