A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

literature
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

AKIN OMOTOSO (article first published : 2006-12-25)

Akin Omotoso, the Nigerian-born actor/ director/ producer had high aspirations as a teenager to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he traded his pen in for a camera and chose to explore the field of film. This proved a wise decision: his film career has taken off and he has been recognised as the 2007 Standard Bank Young Artist Award-winner for Film. He was excited to be honoured with the award and said, "I know people who have previously won this award and they are people I highly respect. It is great to be grouped with these people."

Born in Nigeria, Akin Omotoso was grew up in the university town of Ife where he found his first love, writing. He says that he can remember writing to his father from boarding school and suggesting that he drop out of school since he had already decided on his career path. His father flatly refused and he continued his schooling using his sharp tongue to escape the punches of bullies. His fast comebacks and argumentative nature spurred his peers to suggest that he consider law as a career path. Writing became a secondary focus and he says that he started to think of it as a hobby rather than a profession.

In 1992, his family moved to South Africa after his father accepted a lectureship at the University of the Western Cape. Akin Omotoso completed his A-levels in South Africa but struggled to get into university without a matric exemption. He enrolled for the only course at the University of Cape Town that did not require a matric exemption, the Performers Diploma in Speech and Drama. "My plan was to get in and do drama for a year and then transfer to law. I used to tell my classmates 'I am only here for the year'." However, he entered drama school and has never looked back.

His career plans were completely turned around after he was cast in Sunjata, a play directed by Mark Fleishman. He says that this acting experience changed his life, particularly when he won The Fleur du Cap Award for Most Promising Student in 1995 for his role in Sunjata. While he had by this time consciously abandoned his law aspirations, he was still questioning the field of drama because he knew plenty of unemployed actors. "I needed another area to explore and felt that directing was close to writing so decided to work at that," he said. He didn't know anything about film and laughs when he recalls the first film he made: The Night Time, was totally dark (and I don't mean the subject matter!) I remember my mother watching it and saying, 'Akin, we can't see anything.' I thought they added the lighting in post-production," he admits with a smile.

He has come a long way from those formative years, and using money he made from acting to subsidise his directorial feats, he completed three short films, The Kiss of Milk, The Nightwalkers and The Caretaker. In 1999, he felt ready for his first feature film and wrote God is African. He struggled to find funding and at the suggestion of his leading actor, Hakeem kae Kazim, he made it a low budget film. Shooting was done at night because everyone on set had day jobs. Akin Omotoso is still humbled by the sacrifice everyone made for this film, "I wouldn't be where I am today if it was not for the people that sacrificed their time and energy for me. I am forever in the debt of the crew and cast of God is African," he says.

As God is African," came to the screen, Akin Omotoso was struggling with personal loss after his mother died from cancer. He decided to reprioritise his life and started a production company, T.O.M Pictures with Robbie Thorpe and Kgomotso Matsunyane. The company's first project was producing Craig Freimond's Gums and Noses, which went on to win Best South African Film at the New York Independent Film Festival in 2004.

Akin Omotoso directed another short film called Rifle Road which was selected to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. He also made a documentary in tribute to his mother called Gathering the Scattered Cousins, selected for screening at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival in 2006.

He is a familiar face on the South African small screen having starred in Isidingo: The Need, Generations and Big Okes but his acting also extends to international experience. "I acted opposite Nicolas Cage in Lord of War, and in 2006, was cast in the role of Paul Kagame, in the soon to be released Shake Hands with the Devil - a film about the Rwandan genocide from the point of view of the UN General Dallaire," he added.

Akin Omotoso is excited and optimistic about the future, "The company continues to grow and I continue to grow. A lecturer used to tell me our work is like digging for gold. We never find the gold but the digging is the reward. I look to continue digging."

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to recognise emerging, relatively young South African artists who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their chosen field. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in three to four arts disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Winning artists, as part of their award, are given the opportunity to perform, direct or exhibit on the National Arts Festival's main programme. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and have presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 23-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards.




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart