Onitiri Aishat Ibidola is an actor, the only girl from a family of three children. She was the lead actor in Sidi Ilu Jinle, the adaptation of the Lion and the Jewel written by Professor Wole Soyinka the new flick from the stable of Mainframe Productions, she sees herself as the girl next door with no complexities. In her assertion about herself, “What you see is what you get!” the PDC Crew had the privilege to get answers from her directly. Excerpts.
PDC: What was growing up like for you?
AO: Growing up, wasn’t quite easy and it is just like everyone else, I have a story but all glory to the Almighty for his mercy throughout my journey.
PDC: At what stage did you take to acting?
AO: Acting is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was very young. I remember sometimes gathering my friends around to reenact whatever I saw on TV adverts or show *winks* There was never a dull moment when Aishat was around. I’ve never seen performance as a joke instead I consider it a medium of saving lives as such it is a lifestyle for me. I am getting fulfilled daily and there’s no regrets whatsoever.
PDC: Who are those that trained you and who are your mentors?
AO: For many years, I was under the tutelage Segun Adefila in his Crown Troupe of Africa Theatre Company. Just like me, he has trained other young performers for over two decades. He taught me so many things even when I was being discouraged by many others. There, I was taught to imbibe discipline and tenacity. He always says “No one can give you what you already have, all you need to do is know your strength and your weakness and then find a balance” I owe my mentorship to him. I keep looking up to people like Francisca Emmanuel, Ben Tomoloju, Taiwo Ajayi Lycent, Tina Mba, Joke Silva, these are well respected veterans that I’ve worked with at some point in time in my career. Nobody on earth can say they work with these maestro and they would not have learnt things that will impact on their life and career. Their conduct and how they carry the young ones along is a testament that they are real life heroes without cape.
PDC: Having taken a lead role in Sidi Ilu Jinle, what was your journey from stage to screen?
AO: The journey from stage to screen was honestly not too difficult for me. I just need to learn the ropes and since practice makes perfect, I’m here for the long haul. It was a quick switch for me when I got my first opportunity to be on screen and since time waits for nobody, I knew there shouldn’t be any excuses. I took on the challenge and thankfully with the discipline I imbibed from being a stage actor, it wasn’t a Herculean task.
PDC: How did you feel when the legendary Tunde Kelani invited you for a lead role in Sidi Ilu Jinle?
AO: Ahhhh! I was nervous oh, Tunde Kelani!! At first, it felt like I was dreaming so I didn’t take it seriously at first until I got to the location and the reality dawned on me. I keep asking myself rhetorical questions, Me? On Tunde Kelani’s set?
Playing a major role in my first screen play and under the umbrella of Mainframe Productions was, for me, a huge milestone in my acting career and I really appreciate the privilege and trust accorded to me.
PDC: What are the memorable things that you can remember about the set of Sidi Ilu Jinle?
AO: A lot to be remembered. Lovable actors on the set of Sidi Ilu Jinle. I’m still basking in the euphoria of working with the likes of Adebayo Salami, Lanre Hassan, Ibrahim Chatta and other renowned people in the theatre industry. My encounter with each of them was humbling and it’s amazing how accommodating they were even though they’ve being doing this for most part of their lives. The chemistry on set came naturally and it felt like we’ve been working together long before that.
PDC: As someone who was vast in staging English plays, how did you come up as a Yoruba lead actor in your first cameo?
AO: I’m Yoruba and I speak and understand my language fluently but I found that I had a huge challenge reading Yoruba especially with the tonal marks *chucks* But I realized that in the hands of Tunde Kelani, there is a magic wand for everyone. When I say magic it means he will come down to your level and make you too come to his own level and find a balance. And I challenged myself by reading and reading all over again to understanding every statement and I got the right pronunciation for each word. Since I left the set, I have been reading Yoruba novels for keeping improving on my ability to read and comprehend the language.
PDC: What were the challenges you went through on set of Sidi Ilu Jinle?
AO: It wasn’t necessarily challenging and thankfully I have a background in Theatre already so there were just some slight differences. For instance, when the director says ‘action’ on a screen set, you give a count of 123 before you start the dialogue, unlike in stage production, you have to speak immediately.
Another instance is that in front of camera, your speech tone is at a normal level because you have the boom mic, but in stage production, you are required to project your voice because you don’t always have these aids. It took me two days, on set, before I got conversant with it with these two scenarios. However, on the third day, I had adjusted to the new reality.
PDC: What has life been after you role in Sidi Ilu Jinle?
AO: Life after the role of Sidi Ilu Jinle is still as it was before the role. No airs! Just another feather to the cap, a new frontier in my career. Henceforth, it can only get better.
PDC: At this time when everyone speaks English, do you think there is a future for Yorùbá actors?
AO: Yes there’s a great future for Yoruba actors. The language itself is beautiful. I realized that if one understands his background, his language then he is rich forever. It’s important that we preserve our culture through our language for posterity sake.
PDC: As an actor, what are the privileges that you have enjoyed over the years?
AO: I’ve been to the most amazing places. I’ve met with intellectuals, worked with the best directors both internationally and locally. Met amazing colleagues and a network of friends in my line of work and by God’s grace, I’m still enjoying these privileges.
PDC: Who are the actors on your bucket list that you want to be in the same flick with?
AO: There are lots of them and I can’t list them all. Time will tell.
PDC: As someone who has acted on stage and on screen, which of the two do you prefer?
AO: Stage and screen both have their peculiarity but I won’t pick one for the other. I love both!
PDC: If you are not at a location or on set, what do you do?
AO: If I’m not on set or don’t have any stage performance, you will 100 percent find me going about my fashion design work or doing my kitchen business.
PDC: If you are not acting a role, describe Aishat in 3 words?
AO: Playful, Dancer, Globetrotter.
PDC: What next are the next big projects that we should look forward to from Sidi?
AO: Let’s keep that under wraps for now. There’s a lot to come and a lot to be done.