I’m yet to make monsters out of screen actors
Actually, only a few people are aware that behind those glamorous faces on the tube are professionals whose duty it is to enhance the natural looks of those on set. They call them costumiers, or better still, make-up artistes.
To this class of professionals belongs Iyen Agbonifo, a decendant of the famous Agbonifo-Obaseki family of the Ancient Benin kingdom.
To say the least, costumiers are as important as actors and actresses are to film production. To say that they are creative is to be saying the obvious, as they create beauties out of nothing. Alternatively too, they can make monsters, vampires, or achieve a deep gash in the flesh or wounds spurting blood and other horrid looking creatures.
The self-effacing but inimitable Iyen Agbonifo is busy shaping the image of screen personalities, adorning the popular faces in the movies.
In addition, Iyen has been creating a whole new look for movie stars and all fashion conscious women. Inspite of that, the artiste says that she is yet to learn new tricks, although Agbonifo's dream is to move from being a freelancer to owning a studio of her own.
Meanwhile, Agbonifo's break as a make-up artiste came in 1998 when she was assigned the duty of making up the artistes that featured in the award winning epic movie, Igodo. It was the same movie that gave her the THEMA 99 Best Costumier and Make-up Artist award. Ever since that time, there has been no going back in her career. .
I was born in Benin City, Edo State into the Agbonifo/Obaseki family. I was artistically inclined me but my passion for the languages made her study French Language at the former Bendel State University, now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. I am currently pursuing a Masters degree at the University of Lagos and I have featured in the production of movies, like Ighodo, Izaga, Evil Thing, Real Love, Missing Angel, Cindarella, Deep Secrets, Brave Soldier, Prisoner of Passion, among others. My stage plays include Obaseki, Azagidi, Idia and so on. My presence in the industry as a costumier is not a product of university training.
As a primary school pupil, I handle the costuming for the end-of-the- year cultural events. I made some of the clothes. In fact, my mother and I used to assist my elder brother Don-Pedro Obaseki in costuming his productions as a university undergraduate. This background and my interest in the theatre have probably helped me in the business. As a way of re-training myself on the job, I attended the ITPAN Training School, where I specialised in costuming and make-up.
Coming to an industry like this is not something that you just wake up one day and start doing. Before I got involved in mainstream costuming and make-up, I discovered that most people that were already in the business do come to me for assistance and I oblige them. In 1995 I asked myself this question, that since people always come to meet me, why can't I too go there and find out what happens and find a better work done. I didn't go looking for people, I just found out that the few jobs I did made good impact on the people.
Starting an outfit
I.Y. Touch was coined from my name. The outfit is into costuming and make-up for different occasions. I have a label and I have clients here in Lagos and outside. I also export especially African fabrics to Europe and the U.S.A.
Making up monsters
I can do that. But locally, I would not say that I have done quite a number of that because it is the script that tells you what to do. I wouldn't say Nigeria hasn't grown to that level, but I have not handled such scripts. Costuming is all about creativity and I believe that I have the creative mind to do all that. Meanwhile, I have not come across a script that offered that kind of challenge. Most of the jobs I handle, I will not collect the scripts and the next day jump on set. I have to read the script and understand it very well, and if it is the one I am supposed to conduct a research on, to know exactly what a monster looks like, there is no way I can give a replica of that. Most of my colleagues don't bother to do that; they get the scripts and on the next day jump on set.
Job at hand
I am supposed to be on the set for Real Love Part 2 and Fear of the Unknown Part 2. But I am involved in the work by Alpha Vision titled Learning Process.
There are different forms of training that one could undertake. I can be an apprentice or learn on-the-job. But, most people would just wake up one day; because their brother wants to do a movie, some of them feel that the only way they can assist is by handling the costuming and make- up. After one or two jobs, they would be feeling too big to go and learn under someone. Let's get training and retraining so that we can be better for it. I don't need to go abroad for training because we have a lot of institutions here that train people in that area. ITPAN is one of such organisations.