Rahama Sadau: Setting Her Own Limits
“I was asked to play a lesbian and I just felt Rahama couldn’t do it.”
Most of my encounters with actresses are usually quite similar. They’re either divas or, well, humble divas. They usually walk in comfortably, generally at ease with all the strange faces on set and they come alive once the camera flashes away. Rahama Sadau is different. She exuded grace, fragility and is often quite shy as her voice is used sparingly when confronted.
Recognised as the queen of Kannywood, (Hausa, Northern film industry), Sadau built her reputation in the North, starting off with minor roles until she landed a role in Gani ga Wane alongside the popular Kannywood actor Ali Nuhu.
Last year, the young actress was kicked out of Kannywood after an onscreen hug in a Hausa music video alongside Jos-based pop star Classiq. The controversy, which made international headlines, saw Sadau condemned by the Motion Picture Practitioners of the Association of Nigeria. Hugging is a violation of the code of ethics in the Hausa movie industry. Subsequently, Sadau has ventured into Nollywood, where she has featured in several productions including, The Light Will Come, Super Story, Sons of the Caliphate and recently, the as yet unreleased movie The Accidental Spy, with Ramsey Nouah
The actress takes inspiration from Priyanka Chopra who transitions from Bollywood to Hollywood. Sadau talks about sharing similar ideals with Chopra when she says, “They don’t like her doing it but still they are proud of her.”
She further explains, “We have similar problems and are facing similar situations because at some point, they have to accept you and appreciate what you’re doing.”
Guardian Life caught up with the actress who talks about her Kannywood experience, rejecting roles and her transition into Nollywood.
If you weren’t an actress what would you be?
I would be a model, still in the industry
How was growing up in Kaduna?
It was a normal life, it has been very great and fantastic. I remember being a dancer in primary school and secondary school.
You’re quite young, 23? When you started acting really early how did your parents and your community first take it? Were they supportive?
No, especially my mum, because they thought the industry is not a good place for a young girl like me. But she has still been supportive. No matter how they try to keep us away from our dreams she still tries to support us because she is afraid of us falling into the wrong hands but at some point she was like no and I pushed for it.
Tell us about your Kannywood experience
I started acting in the year 2013. So far it has been great and it was my starting point. I am really grateful for it, I am thankful for what it has made me become today. I have lived in Kaduna all my life. Whenever I travel to any other state it’s for work.
You were banned from Kannywood, how did it affect your career at the time?
Well, it’s a stepping stone, I am grateful because it has opened a lot of doors because a lot of people didn’t know me until the ban happened. It’s not something good but I think it was just meant to be.
Do you feel that you did something wrong or deserved to be banned?
No, I can’t just touch someone and then they say I did something wrong. I think your religion and faith is between you and God. I grew up as a northern lady, I know my limitations and I know what I can do as a northerner and a Muslim. What I did should be at the liberty of the artist who shouldn’t be banned.
Did you ever find yourself turning down a script because of certain things you couldn’t do?
Yes I have my limitations like I said, there are certain things I wouldn’t do because of where I come from and the religion I stand for. If I show that I am ignorant of things, I have family and I know what the people in the north are capable of, that’s why I am being careful.
How has your transition to Nollwood been so far?
Before the ban I had featured in many Nollywood films like The Light Will Come, and Sons of the Caliphate. There hasn’t been much difference working in Nollywood. Perhaps the people are different, and the environment, similar stories and cultures.
Can you describe a script, which you had to turn down?
I was asked to play a lesbian and I just felt a side of Rahama that couldn’t do it.
Being a Muslim woman in Nollywood, what are some challenges you have faced?
I haven’t faced any challenges yet. There are other Muslims in the Nollywood industry, it’s just that we have different cultures and different ways we live our lives, but I haven’t faced any problems yet.
“I think your religion and faith is between you and God…I know my limitations and I know what I can do as a northerner and a Muslim.”
How difficult has it been for you to keep with your personal values?
It has been a bit difficult but I always try to stick to who I am and focus on the things that I need and work towards everything.
Describe your most memorable role
I played a Christian nun in a convent in a film called Tattoo. Wow, it was a totally different side to Rahama, quite different from what people are used to seeing. The covered, conservative Rahama is now a Christian; I mean I loved the role. I went to Corinthians International school, so all in all it wasn’t too different. I just step into the character and be that role, for me it is not something difficult as long as I understand what the script needs.
What are some core values you won’t compromise?
Growing up in the North has been a bit difficult when you are trying to be another person in another zone and another territory. I don’t feel comfortable when I dress in short clothes but I am cool with other things like opening my hair up.
How’s your schedule, do you get to do stuff that young women your age do like go on dates?
Yes, I am very busy but if I have time to sleep, then I’ll definitely create time for a date. I am a very boring person, I always stick to my laptop, watching movies but whenever my friends call me out on a date, we just go somewhere, it could be anywhere, have fun and come back.
So what’s your favourite series right now?
I love House of Cards, my favourite character is the President.
Is there anyone in Nollywood you would like to work with?
Yes, the face I am seeing right now onscreen. Just a few days ago I met Ramsey Nouah and acted with him. It was fantastic!
What are some projects you are currently working on?
I am working on The Accidental Spy, a film by AY, we have also finished working on a script called A Girl with No Words, it is a Yoruba movie and I don’t know how to speak Yoruba so I am deaf and dumb in the film.
How was that experience? Was it difficult?
When the producer sent the script I didn’t think I would have to say anything in the movie but then I had to learn sign language and it was so difficult. It is another world completely for other people. With the support of Bimbo Akintola we did it.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What would be the big picture?
I could see myself being like Angelina Jolie, but my role model is Priyanka Chopra. They don’t like her doing it but still they are proud of her. We have similar problems and are facing similar situations because at some point, they would have to accept you and appreciate what you’re doing.
So would you say that sometimes you are not accepted?
Well I am, it’s just that I don’t want to change to what people want me to be. I want to be me and I want people to accept that.
Creative Direction: Chidera Muoka
Assisted by: Beatrice Porbeni
Photography: Nkem Okorafor and Cynthia Lawrence
Hair: Tony Aigbogun
Make up: Jumoke Tychus