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#2018AMVCA: Merit Awardee Tunde Kelani Speaks On His Journey Into Filmmaking

An intimidating resume, a litany of national and international recognition, a creative oeuvre bursting at the seams and, when you throw in a humble disposition in spite of age and achievements into the mix, what you get is Tunde Kelani, or TK, a cinematographer whose work has become a benchmark for filmmakers in Nigeria.

The 70-year-old who was recently awarded the Industry Merit Award at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) held on the 1st of September 2018 at Eko Hotels and Suites told the Guardian Life that his journey in the creative industry was ignited by his early contact with Yoruba culture, which in itself began when he was uprooted from his cosmopolitan environment in Lagos to a mere rustic surrounding in Abeokuta.

“My siblings and I had never seen a live goat before we went to Abeokuta. We almost ran for cover and people were laughing at us.”

“Growing up, I witnessed a lot, read a lot, heard a lot. So I had a lot of stories to tell,” he says. “I needed a medium to share my cultural experience and I settled for films as a medium of expression.”

But filmmaking was not TK’s first love. He had picked up photography during his last year in primary school in Abeokuta, where he was staying with his grandparents in a large communal compound. By the time he was in secondary school, he had invested a lot in cameras, including a Halina 35x, a single lens reflex camera. The trajectory into filmmaking started when he trained as a cameraman with the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV), the first Nigerian TV station, in 1970 in Ibadan.

Sans the two years he spent at the London Film School, where he got a diploma in the art and technique of filmmaking, TK has not taken his eyes off filmmaking. That single-mindedness is reflected in more than a dozen seminal films he has produced, most of which are steeped in Yoruba culture.

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