Two years after my accident, sex felt funny—Ann Njemanze
Ann Njemanze is not your average run-off-the-mill actress. Apart from acting, she is one of the most patronised voices on radio. She does voice-overs for products and lends it for plays.
A Visual Art graduate of the University of Lagos, Nzemanze is also a wonderful painter. But at the celebrity hot spot, O'Jez, in Surulere, Lagos, venue of this encounter, the atmosphere is somewhat alluring. It is, therefore, more of a conversation than an interview.
Delectable Ann, better known as Domitilla, the exceptional character of a prostitute she played years ago, stops at nothing to put the records straight, as she relives memories of her ugly past. Ann is an actress you would ignore at your peril. She has not had it all rosy as some other actresses readily claim.
A few years ago, not long after her marriage to actor, Segun Arinze crashed, she was involved in an accident in Calabar, Cross River State. That incident almost removed this Owerri , Imo State-born actress from the big picture. For years, she remained on clutches.
She still carries the scar from that accident on her chin. Njemanze takes the questions as they came.
Even when we tilted to the angle of her failed marriage, she has all the good words in the book to say about her enstranged husband whom she had a baby girl for.
You have been scarce for sometime, where have you been all these years?
It's simple. There is nothing to celebrate about for now.
Actresses of your rating will give anything to be celebrated in a national newspaper, like Vanguard?
I always want to wait until I'm involved in a project, otherwise there is no need for such media attention. And, moreover, I am not in such a mood right now.
Why are you not in such a mood?
You fans have been waiting all this while and I can't remember watching you in a recent movie?
It's because the scripts are not forthcoming for sometime now, and I don't know why.
Where have you been all this while?
I have been around. I've just finished shooting a new movie with Foluke Daramola, and that was a month and half ago.
And you don't think you are idle now?
You think every actress goes on set everyday. It's not like that. You have to engage yourself in other things to keep body and soul together.
Is it because there are no scripts to work on, or that you are not considered good enough anymore to go on set?
You are in Nigeria, and you are familiar with the challenges the industry is facing at the moment. It's either that or I am not sure whether we have very good scripts around.
The financial constraints in the country today are frustrating both the producers and the artistes. I doubt if we still have good movies as we used to have them in the past.
Now it's established that scripts are not forthcoming, what are you presently occupied with?
I do my writing and I paint. That's what I studied in school.
Yes, I paint. I studied Visual Art at the University of Lagos. That's what I do when I am not acting.
You relegated this part of you to the background.
Everybody is chasing the bad news.
What kind of bad news?
Whatever statement you make is turned to bad news. It makes headline in major newspapers.
At a point, you went back to school.
That was a very long time ago. Immediately after my accident, I went to school, and I'm done with my studies for now.
Did you start with studying Visual Art at the University?
No, no…. I did a diploma course in Theatre Arts, at the University of Port Harcourt. Monalisa Chinda was one of my course mates. After the diploma programme, I came to Lagos.
And because I had the zest to do something, I went for some auditions, a lot of auditions.
Somehow, I came across Kenneth Nnebue and Amaka Igwe and that's how I got roles in their productions, Rattle Snake 1 and 2, True Confession, etc.
I stayed back and didn't go back to complete my studies because I had good jobs coming my way.
There was this job I did in South Africa. That opportunity came, and then, my baby too.
So, I didn't want to go through that stress, the stress of nursing my pregnancy and pursuing my studies. Hence, I decided to stay back and embrace what I loved doing- drawing and painting.
At a point, I asked myself, Why shouldn't I obtain a degree in Visual Art? That was how I went to the University of Lagos to pursue a degree programme in Visual Art. But while I was studying, I was still acting. So, I started acting before I enrolled to study Visual Art.
Would you say Visual Art is your first love?
I think, it's acting.
Your accident certainly took some tolls on you?.
I don't understand what you mean by taking a toll on me. I know that I couldn't walk for two years. It was a bad experience for me really. But I think that bad aspect of me is gone.
Can you share some of your bitter experiences with our readers on the accident: how it happened, your loved ones that cared, and those that did not, the pains?
For those who showed care, I thank and for those who didn't, I felt aggrieved. It's an old wound that I wouldn't want to scratch again. It happened about eight years ago. It will amount to over-flogging the issue. I'm just happy that, that part of my life is gone forever. I'm still breathing.
It was a motor accident.
Were you driving?
I wasn't driving. But somebody was driving. We were returning from a location.
Were you sleeping when it happened?
Yes, I was asleep when it happened. I woke up in the hospital.
How did you feel when you eventually woke up to find yourself in a strange environment?
I was unconscious. Suddenly, I just realised there were pains all over my body.
I also suffered temporary loss of memory. May be, I'd say the only part I enjoyed very well was having to forget too many things on my mind. I don't break my head over those things anymore.
And I don't make excuses anymore for those things. It has happened… it has happened.
Then, it was a feeling of not knowing where I was, and why what happened to me happened. Why me and not somebody else? I don't need to recount such experiences again in my life.
And you were confined to your hospital bed for two years?
It was annoying, very irritating. You got annoyed with everybody around you. It was as if the whole world was passing you by, and you were just there watching, helplessly.
I'm one person who does not ask people to assist me in anything I want to do. So, when I found myself in that situation, it was frustrating. I hate to relieve memories of that sad experience.
After the accident, some parts of your body, especially your legs were affected, permanently. Do you still dance and rock like before?
I still dance, anyway. And I now have a beautiful K-leg, which is much more defined. It's not as if the K-leg was not there in the beginning. And they don't stop me from putting on skimpy things, or tight clothes. But I want to also point out here that, that part of my life is dead forever.
After two painful years, you bounced!
Yes, I went back to school to continue from where I stopped.
At that trial period, according to your narration, when the world seemed to have come to a halt, did you ever contemplate suicide?
I had few of my friends who were around me. And my family too. One thing I really appreciated was the fact that they didn't allow me to talk too much. I needed a quiet life then and I did a lot of thinking. So, many things were passing through my mind.
But prayers from well -wishers was a of sort therapy for me.
Did you feel abandoned, especially by your male lovers, admirers or even husband?
How? I told you that my friends and my family were there for me. I know I had a boy friend then, who at a point was no longer interested in continuing the relationship. That was it.
A boy friend or your husband?
Boy friend, I said. I think he was no longer interested in being part of my situation then. So, he didn't bother coming to look for me. That was how the relationship ended.
And it didn't hurt ?
I never felt hurt, anyway.
Didn't he send words to you?
No, he never did. And he never visited me while I was in the hospital. But I ran into him shortly after I was discharged from the hospital in Calabar. One cool evening, my friends took me out to a night club, and behold, the bobo was also there. And when he tried to chat me up, one of my friends gave him a hot slap across his face.
Was he that heartless?
I don't want to believe he was heartless. May be, I would regard him as a coward. Some people like him do not know how to handle such situations. So, most times, they tend to chicken out.
Did I hear you say boyfriend?
Yes, boyfriend. I had a boyfriend.
But Segun Arinze wasn't your boyfriend. I wasn't married to Segun at this point in the first place.
You had a baby for him?
Yes. But we were already separated before I had the accident. So, Segun was not in the picture then. I'm talking about a boyfriend I had during that trial period who chickened out.
Though Segun owed you no obligation, one would have expected him to have sympathised with your condition at that time ?
I guess he had his reasons. I wouldn't know.
What if he had visited you, would you have welcome him?
Why not? I was in pains and incapacitated. I couldn't help myself. Like I told you, I had my family and two of my girlfriends around me.
How were you going to the convenient?
I did everything on the bed.
And you didn't think about sex anymore?
I couldn't because I couldn't open my legs. My hip was crushed.
How many times did you go for operation?
Five times, and that's the last I would say about the accident.
After the accident, what did you do next when you resurfaced?
I did a movie with Charles Novia. I can't remember the name of that movie now.
Did your parents oppose your decision to make a career in acting?
No, my parents supported me. Initially, I wanted to study Law, or English Language. But my parents insisted that I should major in Theatre Arts. They were not opposed to my choice of becoming an actress.
How would you describe yourself as an actress, considering the number of movies you have featured in?
I think, I'm good and talented. I wouldn't know. I try to be better. It will be very difficult for me to look at the works I have done. But when I do, I am very critical of those works.
Are you sometimes selective of the kind of films you would want to feature in?
Yes, I should be. But there was a time in my life I couldn't select anymore. And it was the time I went back to school.
But for the sake of my name and posterity, I try to be selective of the kind of movies I would feature in.
How do you live your normal life?
Just like this. I am a realist. I do not want to be in limbo, and pretend that I am a superstar. I want to live a simple life, devoid of chaos. But nobody dare take me for granted.
How's your popularity at home?
People tend to see you as a demi-god. They want to see me like that, until you are able to demystify all of that.
And your friends too?
I don't think I have a lot of friends because I really value the word, friendship. I think it's my personality that attracts people to me. But I have learnt how not to get stupid about certain things.
Years back, I was easily influenced. But not anymore these days because experience has taught me so many things.
How's life as an actress?
The undoing of any actress will be for her to assume that any man is crazy about her, simply because he genuinely claims to love you .
The truth of the matter is: most men that cross your path have a hidden intention to sleep with you and later abandon you.
It's crazy. Like I said, in the beginning, my parents taught me how to be disciplined, knowing your onerous task and not to be carried away by the frivolities of life.
I used to have a girlfriend who always wanted to use me. She would call up me only when she's throwing a party because she wanted to get some attention. And not only that, she would go as far as trying to introduce me to men, which I didn't like and had to call off the relationship.
How many times did you record heart break?
One major one. Just one major one.
Did he really break your heart?
Oh yes, he did. Perhaps, I was naive then, because I was very young. It happened years back before I got married.
Would you take that same step, if the opportunity eventually comes again?
I think I'm extremely being too careful. That's my fear. I try not to be extremely cautious when it comes to relationship. But I just can't help it. I can't help it. Because I love my heart, smile, happiness and my life. I don't want to compromise my happiness for anything.
Is it as a result of your unforgetful past?
Not really. I came from a sheltered home. I was not exposed to a lot of things.
He broke your heart because you were not good enough for him?
He had a relationship that he had been keeping for a very long time.
He didn't put you in the know?
No, he didn't tell me. I really gave up. But life must go on.
What happened between you and Segun?
Are we going to talk about that?
Yes, did he walk away?
No, he didn't. But I did.
I told you my happiness matters a lot to me.
And since then, you have stayed off men?
I told you I have a relationship that has been going on for some time now.
I thought you said you were going to be more careful now than ever?
What if I did?
When you resumed having sex again after your periods of pains, did you feel the same?
No, it wasn't funny at all.
How challenging is the life of a single mother?
It's very challenging, yes. Even when you don't have a steady job that puts food your table, it becomes terrible. But when you look at your children, you tell yourself “I have to provide for them like their mates out there”.
But the pain is not as much as the joy the children bring to you when you watch them grow up.
If your experience is anything to go by, is there something you would want to wish any of your friends?
Never. Instead, I'll advice that you get a regular job that will help you pick your bills.
And how many children do you have?
I have more than one child. In fact, I just had my last baby recently. I'm not a married woman, but a single mother.
Why do you prefer to have children outside wedlock as a role model?
Do you know the circumstances that surrounded the birth of the children?.
Okay, can you let us into the circumstances?
Sorry, I can't. That's another painful thing, I wouldn't want to go through again. I insist I 'm not telling you anything.
When I'm done with having my kids, then, I may decide to spill the beans. My kids have their lives to live, and I'm not going to drag them into my world.
Would you say, you are a victim of failed relationships?
My marriage didn't work out. I will tell you that my greatest desire is to see my first child graduate from the school. That's what is uppermost in my mind right now.