Africa: Pressure to Get married Can’t Get to Me – Tina Mba, Nigerian Actress
Africa: Pressure to Get married Can’t Get to Me – Tina Mba, Nigerian Actress
Still radiant and active despite being on the acting arena for decades, Tina Mba is a uniquely intelligent actor. Known for her frankness as a human being, she blows everyone away in every movie she gets to participate in. she spoke to ADEDAYO ODULAJA in this interview dwelling on her craft, long career and life as an unmarried but endlessly happy mother.
As 2016 is about to run out, what should your fans expect from you still in terms of projects you are working on?
Currently I’m working on a TV series and there is a couple of films in the works. Some would be premiering very shortly, some are still in edits and some I am yet to film and then there is a stage production as well.
Would you like to put a name to any of these?
I don’t think I have permission to.
Is any of them being produced by you or you are featuring in productions by other people?
No, all of them are by production houses.
What recent jobs would you say have excited you in the industry as a whole?
Generally, the movie titled Arbitration excited me, same goes for 93 Days, I am looking forward to the full view of a film called My Name is Kadi, that is yet to air but I think it’s going to be exciting. Isoken is also yet to come out but I know that will truly excite people and Okafor’s Law as well.
How about projects you probably didn’t take part in but you think are exciting?
Arbitration is one, The Wedding Party is another, I think it’s going to be a fantastic one. Those two, even with my eyes closed, I can mention them.
So what exactly do you have to do that makes your acting that extraordinary?
Extraordinary! I guess it’s just in entrenching myself in the entire process of the production and understanding how the crews work, how they feel, trying to understand the vision of the director and of the production house and merging it with what my thoughts are about how a character should be prefect. And then, of course the little things that an actor brings to the table, that is it basically, nothing extraordinary really.
In your career so far, do you sometimes feel you have been stereotyped in some ways?
I don’t want to call it a stereotype because I think I have successfully played them separate. I tend to belong to the age range of people who play mother but then we have millions and millions of mothers and they are different all around the world. For me, that won’t be stereotype, it would be playing different mothers and different productions.
As much as they entertain other people, entertainers are hardly entertained themselves. How do you entertain yourself?
I entertain myself by dancing, I dance at home (laughs).
How about dancing outside?
I don’t (laughs).
You once said you would have been a nun, what changed that?
Nothing changed it, if I wasn’t an actor, I would have been have been a nun.
Did you actually take any step towards achieving that?
No, I didn’t. I am just saying because of what they do and how they reach out to the needy, it appeals to me because humanity is key to me. The world is in trouble and you need a lot of good hearts to give people hope. That is the reason I say that.
But if you’d ended up as a nun, you won’t have the children who give you so much joy now?
Yeah I know but then I would have had, like I still do, plenty other children aside my biological children. You know, people you adopt along the way, people who tend to call you mum and with that, it means a lot that you are meeting a need or design in their lives so I still have a lot of children.
How have you kept yourself sane dealing with a society that is drunk on marriage and stuff like that?
I keep myself sane by knowing what God’s purpose for me is, by trusting that He sees my heart and knowing that He says He will do exceedingly, above all things, He will do well for me. With that understanding of God, I don’t fret about what society really thinks about these things you have mentioned. I just wait on Him, if it will be, if will be and if it won’t be, you can’t take God to court. I know you are very much at home in Yoruba and of course your language, which is Igbo. Which other language do you speak? I speak diverse Igbo, you know Igbo is like what you have with the Ijebu people so I do that quite a bit. My Hausa is not good, very pedestrian. My Urhobo is very pedestrian as well.
If your Yoruba, English are pretty good and your Hausa, Urhobo are pedestrian, you are still a polyglot as far as I know. How did you come by all these?
You have Hausa Maiguards, my mum, her siblings and were all born in the North. My family, most of my uncles, most of my aunts do live in the North so we can some kind of root, I think, with the North. I just pick these along the way, I used to speak Efik but I lost it because there is no one to speak it with. I have a flair for language, if I were to live in Ghana, I’d probably pick it up also.
Does that mean your childhood was as diverse as the languages you speak?
I lived in Ebute Metta and you know how it was then. It had all kinds of people in one compound, you could have Hausa, Yoruba, Edo and you interact so you tend to pick up these things.
What would you say is the most hurtful thing anybody has said to you about not being married?
Nothing, really. If people think they are going to hurt me by talking about marriage then they need to have a rethink because they do not know what my stand is and they can only conjecture and most of the time they are wrong. Marriage is a God-made institution; it’s not man-made therefore “He who findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” It is not, at this point in my life, that huge, has never been to be honest. I can stand my own, if it comes, it comes, not like I haven’t had propositions but I am not in a hurry. If it’s not right, it can’t work and I believe that if you get into it, you shouldn’t get out of it because it is supposed to be right, not perfect but right. But these days, people get married and in 3 months, they are divorced, in some cases people get married and they are very unhappy in their marriages. Why? Mostly because people get married for the wrong reasons. So if I were to marry today, it would be for the right reasons and it has to be an agreement, something that we both must understand and until that happens, I am happy that I am being me.
If you were to advise a younger person who is so into marriage, what would that advice on the red flags be?
There is no red flag, the only red flag will be that you both are coming from different backgrounds, it’s your marriage and you don’t need to listen to what people will say and you need to understand that people are not perfect. You met each other, with: plus – minus the faults and inconsistencies and whatever it is, you must understand that acceptance, compromises, agreements, people tend to try to change the other person. How do you begin to do that, someone you met half way, when they are already adults and you think you can do that.
They can make sacrifices for you; you can’t lord it over them and that is what brings about conflicts. Marriage, to me, is honourable; it is amazing and it is about the people and how they want their own marriage to be. It is like a book, you give your own the title you want and I do the same for mine and your content is not my content. People who do marriage counseling sometimes makes me laugh, they usually base it on their experiences or those of people they may have met or know but the truth is it is your own marriage and they can only give you basic tips that may not even work. Your husband may the one who doesn’t want family around and you may want that, he may be the type who doesn’t like you shouting and maybe you like to nag and so when you tell people, they would say ‘no, you have to, tell him how you feel’ but that is not what he wants. He wants you to call him, sit down and have a conversation about it but once you begin to raise your voice and nag, there is already war. Like I said, marriage is about you two and what you want.
You started with both modeling and acting, in casting your mind back, how was modeling back then?
It’s not what it is now. I was thinking recently if they still have models but it’s not like what we have elsewhere where models are placed highly. And it’s really simple; if you have a clothesline and you have a lot of industries working and business growing then the models can have signages. This person is for so and so line, there can be models but again what they used to do is bring in foreign commercials until the networks came and started using indigenous people.
They used to do it even up to the beer that people drink, they would shoot somewhere else and bring it and people who are models are out of jobs. I guess it is changing, you find a lot of people who say they are models and what they do really is go to events and do ushering jobs. If it was an industry that is really vibrant, you won’t find these beautiful girls who have a lot to offer in terms of that industry being paid N7,000 or N5,000 for standing all day and eating rice at the end of the day as ushers. For me, it is an industry that can be developed and it is also resting upon industries and businesses growing so we are back to government.
How different is acting now compared to that time?
You know we are very dogged in our industry. A model cannot model herself as herself, there has to be something – a product or service. We are service- oriented, creativity which means you can create content and sell content. It means that you can bring people together, employ labour. It means you can get money from your aunty, from your neighbor, the banks will give you at a high rate so you don’t go to them, you can go to church to raise money and create something and then look for a market which already exists. Whether you make enough profit or not, you have started something and opened a channel and consistency is actually what my industry thrives on. You do the first one, you are good and people begin to say ‘he or she has got something.’ It is a unique industry, if I have a good script, you can actually give it to a production house to use unlike a model, no matter how beautiful she is, without a product, her beauty is just her beauty.
How have you managed to stay relevant on the movie and TV scene through the years?
Relevant is just by His grace because I don’t think there is anything I do different from others. Aside that, I am just myself, I am a one-man squad and I try to just be at peace with my fellow man.
Is there any among the young producers/ directors in the so-called New Nollywod movement you would like to work with?
Truth of the matter is I don’t even know what new Nollywood or old Nollywood is; I just know there is Nollywood. In a family, if you don’t have more children, eventually that family will go extinct and anybody saying new Nollywood need to understand that if the old Nollywood can’t birth children who are great, they better begin to pray but I see they have great children but people or concepts shouldn’t come between them. What they need to do is mentor the new ones and learn something from them. The old ones are seen as very important in the scheme of things and there has to be a balance. Old producers, new producers, young actors or old actors, it doesn’t matter. I was new one time to also and I met people. Why didn’t those ones say I was new so these new Nollywood people will eventually also become old. It is an expansion and people are evolving, you cannot be king forever.
How have you been able to keep men at bay, not like they still won’t come now but especially in your younger days?
There is nothing you can do to keep men at bay. If they would come; they would come. What you need to do as a human being, whether you are a man or a woman is to know who you are and what your vision is. And always ensure you don’t lose focus. Sweet words can make your head big and swell and make you, if you are not careful, lose focus but you must know that flowers bloom, they blossom and they wither. With that consciousness, you tread softly.
Which movie or stage productions are dearest to your heart in your career so far?
One of the stage productions that really moved me is Iphigenia of Taurus, it was directed by Ben Tomoloju for Goethe Institut and Aetu which was written by Professor Ahmed Yerima and directed by Niji Akanni. Those two plays, I am still looking forward to doing them again. For film, it would be the one by Uncle Jimi Odumosu that perhaps has seen the light of day for some reasons despite shooting it almost 10 years ago. It was titled This Is Lagos and it was around the time that Fashola just became the Governor of Lagos, it’s the story of the first Oba of Lagos, Ajaye and the man who discovered Eko. I played the role of Ajaye and it is a movie depicting the rich history of Lagos but for whatever reason, whether it was political or not, it wasn’t shown in the cinemas or anywhere else.
It is a film I would have loved the world to see. That, for me is one of my favourite. But if looking at one of the movies that would made the younger ones discover you a while back, I would mention Aramotu? That is a different story altogether. I was supposed to pay a lead role in Aramotu as I learnt but sometimes tribe is much more powerful. Perhaps or the director can have a vision but the production house who are bringing the money, might decide to want a different person. I have no idea what happened but I know I would have been in Aramotu and it would have been great to work again with Niji but it didn’t happen.
How would you like people to remember you in form of a legacy?
As an actor, I want people to be curious enough to ask what my techniques are. As a human being, I want people to remember that I had always said I want to be the light anywhere I go. Where people are gloomy and sad, I want to be remembered as that woman who would say a nice word.