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Monday, 5 May 2014

'Amaka Igwe: In Praise of a Teacher and a Friend' - Chris Ihidero

I saw this article here and I just had to share it. This particular line caught my attention. "At the beginning of every class, she would, unfailingly, utter these words: Ask me anything, don’t be shy and don’t be intimidated. I will teach you everything I know so you can add to what you already know and be better than me."  Therein lies the true greatness of Amaka Igwe: her selflessness; her willingness to make others better, her conviction that knowledge is best shared. Truly Inspiring!!!. Read parts of the article below:

Sometime in March 2007, a young man approached one of the leading lights of film-making and television drama productions in Nigeria and asked for assistance in order for him to go to a film school in London, England. This most-respected film-maker paused and asked the young man: ‘When you are done with your film studies, where do you hope to practise?‘ The young man answered: ‘I want to practise in Nigeria.‘ 

The film-maker thought for a while and said: ‘Would you consider letting me train you first, before you go to film school abroad, learn how things are done here? You can go to film school afterwards. Think about it and get back to me.' That film-maker was the creator of Checkmate and Fuji House of Commotion; the writer and director of Rattlesnake, Violated and Forever. That young man was me. I didn't know it at that time, but when I went back to her about a week later and accepted her offer, I was making one of the best decisions in my life. I did eventually go to Raindance Academy in 2008, but that was after 11 months of practical work with Amaka Igwe.

The body of work she has produced in her twenty-two years as a major player in the entertainment industry speak for itself. You will travel far to find a more respected writer, director and producer in Nollywood, in spite of the fact that she has released less than 10 films in her career so far. Her television drama classics like Checkmate and Fuji House of Commotion have spawn stars for over two decades. 

Some of the most respected actors in Nigeria today, people like Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ego Boyo, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi, Kunle Bamtefa, Ngozi Nwosu, the late Toun Oni, Sola Onayiga, John Njamah, Jude Ororha and many more made their names from her productions. Great as all of this may be, Amaka Igwe biggest contribution to the development of the creative industries in Nigeria goes beyond the films she has made or the actors her works have made famous. Her greatest contributions, perhaps, remains her willingness to share all that she knows about filmmaking with anyone interested. 

In 2007, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) gave Amaka Igwe a licence to run a vocational institution for the film and media studies. This was done in recognition of her personal efforts at training Nollywood practitioners in the diverse areas of film-making, something she had been doing since 1997 at a personal cost. In 2008 the Centre for Excellence in Film and Media Studies was born and she handed it over to me to run, staying in the background and guiding my hands.

 In 2009, alongside Highbury College, Portsmouth UK we won a bid for the British Council Education Partnerships in Africa (EPA) project and gave, for free, 80 Nigerians the skills needed to make radio documentary packages. Some of those trained under that project have gone on to become screenwriters and directors. In the past one year, the centre has trained over 60 young film-makers in screen-writing, directing and producing. All these young film-makers have had the opportunity to make short films, with equipment and post-production facilities given to them free by Amaka Igwe Studios.

In a few weeks from now, we will première ‘Big Daddy‘, a short film on rape. This short film, written and directed by this writer, was only possible because we got immense support from Amaka Igwe. I like to sit in class at the beginning of a new workshop at the Centre for Excellence in film and Media Studies.

At the beginning of every class, she would, unfailingly, utter these words: ‘Ask me anything, don’t be shy and don’t be intimidated. I will teach you everything I know so you can add to what you already know and be better than me.‘ She uttered these same words to me 5 years ago and she has been true to the last word. Therein lies the true greatness of Amaka Igwe: her selflessness; her willingness to make others better, her conviction that knowledge is best shared. On behalf of all those you continue to inspire; on behalf of all your students; on behalf of those whose careers you have helped to nurture, THANK YOU!!

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