‘There’s a new black awakening I feel will drive narratives, going forward’
Born in Lagos Nigeria, Fabian Adeoye Lojede, at the age of five, moved from his grandparents place in Nigeria to the UK to join his parents. Though he completed his primary education and part of his secondary school in London, he moved back home in 1984 where he completed his secondary school and University educating, earning a Degree Psychology from the University of Ibadan. While in school, Fabian performed in plays for friends but went on to join global agency Rosabel Leo Burnett in 1998 as a copywriter and freelance voice over artiste. He later performed as a radio dramatist in Nigeria voicing many radio productions, before moving to South Africa in December 2003 to set up a production company 1 Take Media and continued to voice and perform for radio in South Africa and appear in a number of TV commercials.He moved to the screen with the first Pan African drama series Jacobs Cross in 2007 and played a lead role till the end of the show in 2012. The series had a successful run on Canal Plus, so, he is well known to French audiences as well as to the UK and USA audiences on the Africa Channel. Since then, he has become the de facto African acting idol celebrated across the whole continent and the diaspora. In the USA, he has been invited twice as a celebrity guest to the bi–annual Black Theater Festival. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, the talented actor and entrepreneur spoke about his career and exploits in the movie industry.
What actually influenced your move to the big screen?
The right story came my way; I’d always wanted to move to the big screen. The opportunities that came just didn’t seem right, so, I did mostly TV commercials and concentrated on my copywriting, voice over work and producing.
Coming back home to complete your secondary and tertiary education, how easy was it for you to adapt to the Nigerian system, any major culture shock?
There was a culture shock even though I was born in Nigeria. The first thing that hit me as a five-year-old in the UK was seeing so many white faces and just a few black faces. I was a Mushin boy as you can imagine there weren’t too many white people taking afternoon strolls in the neighbourhood. Then, coming back home, the first thing that hit me again was seeing so many black faces and not a white face in sight per se. But that only hits you for a day or two.
School wise was the corporate punishment; you could take on teachers in the UK. Well, I use to anyway, the worst you get is in lines and detention. I learnt the hard way that back home, teachers could beat the shit out of you. By the time I got to University, there was no culture to be shocked at.
Was the choice to study psychology borne out of passion or necessity?
My father used to get a lot of Rosicrucian digest magazines when I was younger, and that’s when I discovered the world of Psychology. Though I must say I was scared that if I didn’t make it as a creative I could always do my Phd. in clinical psychology and become a shrink.
Let’s talk about Jacob’s Cross, could you recall your reaction when you landed the role?
Not really, I was still a bit weary as to if it would end being another negative portrayal of Nigeria, which had lead me to walk away from some jobs in SA in the past. But it ended up being one of the most pleasant long running creative experiences I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, my business suffered quite a bit. TV series is like a 9 to 5; it’s time and commitment.
You wear so many creative hats, which gives you utmost satisfaction?
Writer! Writing will always be my first love, the process of generating and creating an idea that eventually forms into a story is so fulfilling.
How involved are you in the South African film industry?
As involved as one can be, both as a producer and production company owner with my business partner Mickey Dube.
Do you think Nollywood represents the African film industry wholly?
Wholly, no! Africa is going through so many things and I’m not sure any country can bear the burden of the total representation of that. Creatively, I think the only creative to have taken that responsibility and succeeded was the great Fela. You could use his music from the 70s all the way to Beast Of No Nation to chronicle what was going on across the world and how it affected Africa.
Is there really a single Africa story?
There can never be a single story for Africa; the beauty of Africa is its diversity. The only single story that should exist is the authenticity of any story we tell.
Do you think streaming platforms like Netflix is the future of films?
For the independent filmmaker, yes, but I’m not sure about the future of film. There’s something about sitting in a huge dark room, with surround sound and a huge screen that I think a sofa and a plasma screen can never replicate. But Netflix is a saviour for storytellers. The way the industry was structured before them would have killed new voices for sure.
What informed your passion to drive a Pan-African initiative and what is it all about?
Well, you cannot really love Fela and not be a Pan – Africanist. I guess you can if you’re one of those people that just hear his music without listening. You can’t help but be Pan- African when you realise that as Africans, we are still being pulled by political, cultural, economic, and religious strings of our former colonisers.
How do you resolve issues like finance and other hitches in promoting this initiative?
I wouldn’t really say it is an initiative that needs financial promotion; some people just need to re-educate themselves about their history. Africans have issues with Africans that practice African traditional faiths, but have no problem with Chinese or Indians that are neither Christian nor Muslim. Some will marvel at the Great Wall of China and have never heard of the Great wall of Benin, which is longer than that of China. They will say Whiteman brought science and mathematics but fail to see that Ifa is a set of binary numbers of ones and zeros or that there were no Arabs or white men in Egypt when most of the pyramids were being built as far South as Zimbabwe. I don’t believe white men gave us any form of enlightenment and neither do I believe in the fallacy called Western education, as there is no such thing. The knowledge contained in what you call western education is a combination of the intellectual contribution of many races and civilizations.
We had the written form of Nsibidi in Nigeria, Algebra from the Arabs. I know some people will say, so, what did it do for us? I think this question normally comes with the expectation that if it doesn’t make us like the west, it has done nothing for us. Well, we are the only ones that have kept our colonisers, religion, language as a form of academic instruction and inherited geopolitical boundaries and yet the others that have redefined themselves in their own image and history like China, Iran, Indian, Indonesia, Singapore etc are far more developed than us. There are people in Nigeria that are helping to push that Pan- African narrative already. You have Kunle Afolayan, Tunde Kelani, musicians like Olamide, Phyno, whose lyrical choice of delivery is more local than most, even if you don’t agree with their messaging. We have curators and cultural conservationist like Theo Lawson and Femi Odugbemi helping to keep the African documentary voices alive and grooming the next set of filmmakers right here on our soil. I think there is an unorganised movement here and in the diaspora reminiscent of the more organised Negritude movement in the 1930s.
What obstacles stand in the way of Pan-Africanism today?
Ignorance and the belief that foreign ideologies, religion included, are a form of higher civilisation to replace rational and humanistic thought. Self-hate is the virus they introduced in Africa that gave them the confidence to give us independence. They knew they didn’t need to be here to destroy and loot from us any more. They could simply just outsource it to some of our leaders, academics and religious bigots.
How many projects are you working on at the moment?
Quite a few; I’m currently shooting a new international TV series in Cape town, which we are not allowed to mention until we wrap.
In development, we have a Pan – African music drama series called Eko Vibes, a documentary Omo Egun, which is about tracing my family’s masquerade history and lineage in Abeokuta. I have also gotten the blessing from the Thomas Sankara family to develop a feature on the great Pan- African leader. I visited his family house and his village an amazing and humbling experience. It left me with hope that if we could produce one of him we can produce more.
I’m also in post for my short titled Eje and I have a few productions coming out like, Heavens Hell, which opens May 10 in Nigeria. There’s also a film with Kate Henshaw directed by Akin Omotoso, produced by Ego Boyo, Ghost and the House of Truth coming out end of the year. A series I did with Yomi Black Jelli and Clitoris. My own production Comatose with Bimbo Akintola, which we just released the teaser trailer.
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