ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
In our days, it was possible to survive on our professional fees,
appearing in 1 movie in 2 or 3 months was quite the norm then
Dolly Unachukwu and daughter, Nneoma
Uche Nworah Interviews
In another world, and under different circumstances, Dolly Unachukwu may well rank as a superstar, with millions of dollars in her bank account in addition to a life of thrills and frills, but in the African world and circumstances, she can at best be described as another popular Nigerian actress, who has seen it all, been there and done that. Her pioneering role in the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood) is legendary, having appeared in dozens of movies ranging from the highly controversial Glamour Girls, to Full Moon, Final Decision and Deadly Affair. Dolly suddenly disappeared from the Nollywood scene to the surprise of her many fans; I caught up with her recently in London for a chat on her life, future plans and her views on the Nigerian movie industry
* * * *
Uche Nworah and Dolly Unachukwu at the interview
Uche Nworah: Good to see you Dolly, How have you been?
Dolly Unachukwu: Very well (laughter)
Uche Nworah: Your fans would like to know where you have been hiding, all these while.
Dolly Unachukwu: (Laughter) Hiding? I have not been hiding O! well, lets say that for the past 5 years I have been living in London, I cant believe its 5 years now, time flies.
Uche Nworah: As an A List actress with high society profile, Nigerians were surprised that you suddenly disappeared from the public eye, what really caused you to leave?
Dolly Unachukwu: I wouldnt say that I suddenly disappeared, I got married and I had to join my husband in the UK, my fans knew I was living, I am sure they all wish me well.
Uche Nworah: We all know how different London is, in terms of the social and family life compared to what its like back in Nigeria, do you miss Nigeria?
Dolly Unachukwu: You can say that again, I miss Nigeria a lot, remember that I grew up in Nigeria, all my friends and some of my family are in Nigeria and I miss them all.
Uche Nworah: So, do you have any immediate plans of relocating back to Nigeria?
Dolly Unachukwu: I am not sure about relocating, but I am sure that I will be shuttling, I am quite settled here now with my family so such decisions are a bit difficult to make
Uche Nworah: So whats been keeping you busy in London?
Dolly Unachukwu: Well, a lot really. Outside looking after my family, I am what you will call a career student (laughter), I am always studying one thing or the other, at the moment I am at UEL (The University of East London) studying films and directing. This is going quite okay.
Uche Nworah: So in that sense, you are hoping to come back to the profession that gave you fame and fortune
Dolly Unachukwu: (laughter), fortune ke? I dont know of any Nigerian actress or actor that has made a fortune from acting, very sad indeed compared to our peers in Europe and America. Definitely my heart is still in the Nigerian movie industry, I believe that I still have a lot to offer.
Uche Nworah: So how would you assess the Nigerian movie industry today?
Dolly Unachukwu: I am quite impressed with the developments so far, its good to see that they are moving forward and unfortunately backwards sometimes, I am happy to see all the young actors and actresses coming through. I am really proud of them. I must also commend the Nigerian society who are now able to separate the characters portrayed in the movies from the real personalities portraying the characters, it wasnt like that in the beginning, as the stigma of a villain played in a movie did get transported into the real life of the actor or actress.
Uche Nworah: So do you still keep in touch with Nollywood actors and actresses as well as the other players in the industry?
Dolly Unachukwu: Yes, but only with a few of them, whenever they come into town (London), we catch up on the phone or we meet depending on our schedules.
and daughter, Nneoma.
Uche Nworah: From the lot, Which Nollywood actor or actress has particularly impressed you by the quality of the acting they bring across to the fans?
Dolly Unachukwu: No one actor or actress in particular as they have all been doing both good and bad work, any good actor should be selective in the work he or she does, it shouldnt just be for the money, as low quality movies can bring your image down, there is a danger for the fans to eventually get bored, fans are tired of seeing the same faces always, playing either a nun, doctor, businessman etc. This over exposure is not good for them, also this practice of shooting many movies using one set, and the same set of actors is abominable, the fans deserve better for the money they spend buying the films, this recycling wont work in the developed countries.
Uche Nworah: From your experience, is it possible for actors and actresses to survive solely on acting in Nigeria?
Dolly Unachukwu: In our days, it was possible to survive on our professional fees, appearing in 1 movie in 2 or 3 months was quite the norm then, and one could fairly survive on that, I remember that as far back as 1986, our fees was 150 Naira and we still survived on that, it is quite a shame that Nigerian actors and actresses command hire fees today, but still they prostitute in several movies, as a result the shelf life of their movies has greatly reduced, and also their marketability, some of them now though popular are no longer bankable.
Uche Nworah: What should Nigerians expect from you in the near future?
Dolly Unachukwu: By the grace of God, I have plans of coming to Nigeria this year, I am currently shooting a project (a film), and this is actually my first movie directing effort. I am really excited about the whole experience, it is a romantic movie full of betrayals, you can bet it has nothing to do with juju, this is pure drama, and I am depending on the actors and actresses to deliver the message. Saint Obi is also in the movie alongside other London based actors and actresses.
Uche Nworah: As a pioneer and veteran of the Nigerian movie industry, what advice do you have for the up and coming actors?
Dolly Unachukwu: They should work on their God given talent first and then try and train to understand the business, they should also remain focused. It is much easier to make it in Nigeria as an actor or actress; of course they should go to the right places and hang out with the right crowd. Hard work is also part of the game, they shouldnt get tired of auditions even if they are not landing the parts, they should try harder, and eventually the producers and financiers will take notice.
Uche Nworah: I am sure you must have been expecting this question, what exactly happened between you and Regina Askia, what was the beef about?
Dolly Unachukwu: I think whatever may have happened is all in the past now, both of us have since moved on, at the end of the day we are friends, we talk on the phone every now and then and I wish her well.
Uche Nworah: Your fans will like to know a little about the mystery man that took you out of Nigeria
Dolly Unachukwu: (laughter) please lets leave my husband out of this, he is a very quite person, and moreover I wouldnt want to start calling names before I turn to Jennifer Lopez (laughter)
Dolly Unachukwu making a point at the interview.
Uche Nworah: So what about the other special man in your life?
Dolly Unachukwu: The other special man in my life is Odera, my 12 year old son; he is an angel, a miracle. He loves football so hopefully he will grow up to play for Arsenal and buy us a bigger house (laughter).
Uche Nworah: So what is motherhood like?
Dolly Unachukwu: Brilliant, I must say though that I have always been a mother, I took care of all my sisters and brothers, including the ones that you see here today (Suzy and Lucky). I guess motherhood is something that comes to me naturally.
Uche Nworah: The growing trend of Nigerian producers coming over to London to shoot movies may give the impression that there is a thriving Nigerian movie industry in the UK, how true is this assumption?
Dolly Unachukwu: Well, contrary to assumptions, there is a Nigerian movie market and rental industry in the UK, but not a movie industry, they have tried to do it in the past, to create a Nigerian movie industry here in the UK but there is no known or bankable faces to work with, the costs as well are way too much to be recouped from film sales alone.
There is a big market in the UK though, I guess it is a process that will wear on and grow gradually.
Uche Nworah: Is it easy to get funding for movies here in the UK?
Dolly Unachukwu: That is another ball game, and for this I praise the Idumota people for their long years of partnership with the Nigerian movie industry, Funding in the UK is a bit difficult, I am funding my project myself, it is a family thing. There are people though that may be willing to sponsor projects in London, so Nigerians should reach out to them.
Uche Nworah: Thanks so much for your time Dolly, any last words to your fans in Nigeria?
Dolly Unachukwu: well, just to thank them for all the support, I have been working very hard at my current project, so hopefully they would get to see a beautiful movie when it is released.
Uche Nworah is a freelance writer and would wish to interview Africans who are excelling in their professions either in Africa or in the Diaspora, the stories of such unsung heroes can be an inspiration for us all. Do you know of anybody? Please email their details to firstname.lastname@example.org
posted 6 June 2005
* * * * *
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
* * * * *
Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
* * * * *
By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
update 21 December 2011