Clarion Chukwurah: Single but not searching
Constantly hailed as one of the leading lights of the Nigerian motion picture industry, Clarion Chukwurah, has no doubt paid her dues as a seasoned and tested actress.
In a very successful career spanning over two decades, she has traversed the stage, television and the movies, to the delight of her teeming fans and critics within and beyond our shores.
The Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun State graduate of Dramatic Arts, is also a passionate child rights activist, with a mission to impact positively on the children and youths, using entertainment as an advocacy tool.
Chukwurah, a mother of two, is lobbying the government to institutionalise an annual grant that would cater for Nigeria's abandoned children through her Help line Project.
In an exclusive encounter with Saturday Sun, she told us the story of her life, failed relationships and the pains and set back that come with stardom
Children's colours of innocence?
The Colours of Innocence project is a series of promotional productions designed to lobby the federal and states governments to improve the standard of living of the less privileged in our society. These productions will be bringing into every Nigerian home those innocent ones who due to no fault of theirs are rejected, abandoned and totally forgotten. Even though they are disadvantaged, we see myriad of colours and, in their helplessness, our hearts go out to them a lot. Prior to this, I had already set up a community-based theatre group in 1998. In 1999, I introduced a TV Network programme on parenting. The former was initiated for the promotion of youth education and entertainment initiatives. In 2000, we did the Educational Malpractice Symposium and in 2001.We did the HIV/Youth Prostitution documentary.
That same year, the Clarion Chukwurah Help line Project, which is targetted at promoting events that would benefit the less privileged ones and homes. The help line project gave birth to Colours of Innocence last year. And for five years running, my help line project had been organising Xmas parties for the less privileged homes.
In the course of realising the dream of this project, I will present a bill on the less Privileged Care Homes Annual Grant, which I'm optimistic that they will pass.
Need to reach out
I have never been a victim or had an experience while growing up. Deep down, I just have this burden and it has always been a part of me to reach out to people, especially the less privileged ones. It also astonishes me when I reach out to people for assistance and they don't reason the way I do. That is why I say that my values are different from that of most people.
Let me quickly add that the Star Trick is going to be an annual thing and we must strive to visit at least, four less privileged homes every year.
Involving the government
No, I can only use my contact in high places to lobby for the state and Federal Government to institutionalise an annual grant for the less privileged homes. Setting up just one home is just like a drop in the ocean. It might take time, but I am optimistic the bill would definitely sail through.
Diversifying into clothing
Actually, the dream has been on for long and the idea. It is not for people to know. It is Clarion Chukwurah's idea called SHADE.
The original plan was to have my own range of body products but extensive feasibility studies showed I would loose massively from the imitators. We eventually settled for the shirts because we wanted something that is home based. In case, you are wondering why Shade, its my Yoruba name.
Coping with the challenges
Well, my career began from the stage and TV, later celluloid and then the home video. It actually started from Ibadan, Oyo State to Lagos, England and other parts of the world. Sincerely, it's not been easy; the greater part of the disappointment has come from the slow pace of the growth of the industry.
Then, the misconception that people also have about entertainers and also the lack of economic empowerment in the areas of the fees we earn. Though, it has not been easy but by and large I have had, a good outing as an actress.
Secret of my success
Let me start by saying that being focused has remained my first secret. You must know where you are going and be focused, you also need determination and resilience and also persevere by enduring long suffering. Mind you, winners take all, quitters take nothing. Also, have it at the back of your mind that its never going to be a bed of roses, even if it becomes, let it be a pleasant surprise. Aside being part of my secrets, I want the above message to also serve as advice to all the up and coming acts out there.
My family's love and support is another great secret of my success. Unknown to many, I have a very strong and close-knit family behind me.
Single again, mum
I'm still Miss Clarion Chukwurah, because I have gone back to my single status. Does that mean you are done with the marriage institution, based on the failed attempts?
Sincerely, I just want to remain single for now…
So, how are you coping with life as a single actress and mum?
The length of time I have been single is more than the length of time I have been married. And it's not a big deal.
Your failed marriages, do they make you feel bad, do you also regret those sad episodes of your life sometimes?
Regret? Regret is a very strong word, some times; felt it would have been nicer or different.
Currently, is there a Romeo in your life?
Agreed, I'm still single, but with the way I am glowing, do I look like someone who is searching? I'm single because I want that aspect under wraps. Right now, there is nothing like marriage on my agenda. Mind you, being single does not mean I'm searching. I'm not.
Since you have tested marriage twice, what kind of a man would appeal to you now, based on your current single status?
I just want a friend, someone who can be my friend.
The two men in your previous marriages, were they not friendly enough?
There is more to it when you say a man is your friend.
But how did your family react to the shocking news of your two crashed marriages?
Point of correction, I was legally married just once, the other one you are referring to never sailed through. My family is my strength and we have been together right from the beginning. They always share in my pains and happiness. They also praise and scold me when necessary.
Speaking from your heart of hearts, has the game of love been fair to you?
From my heart of hearts, my own perception of love is very un-Nigerian and that is why I'm having problems. My perception of love is more British than Nigerian, which has never been fair to me.
But does that make you feel bad?
Yeah! Sometimes, it also makes me feel that may be, I should spend less time here.
Despite all these challenges and hiccups, do you still believe in love?
Yes, I cannot stop believing in love and that is me for you.
So, in a sentence, how would you define love?
For me love is simply to give, and give and give…
In your views again, are Nigerian men the loving type?
The Nigerian man of today is trying. He is gradually coming out from what I call the utility value psyche.
How old is Clarion Chukwurah?
I was 44 in July 24 precisely.
Do you have any regret in life today?
This question is very personal. I won't talk about it.
You have spoken so passionately about your family, say more about this your wonderful family and background to us?
My family is basically my brothers and kids – they are Clarence Peters, my nephew, Robert by name, and Bode Abiola. I am from Enu-Onitsha, the proper Onitsha, from Anambra State. My mother is Yoruba, from both Ogun and Ondo States, while my dad is Igbo.
I lost both parents very early in life. I lost dad when I was 11 and mum when I was 30, loosing my dad early and the death of my only daughter hurts me most as a human being. I lost my daughter in 1996, when she was seven weeks old. I grew up with my family in Lagos and Onitsha. But I read Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun State. I later went to London for a Refresher course in Speech at Leeds University.
Thank you, the next level is my reality show called Colours of Innocence Reality Talk show Programme. We are starting this year, but it will go on air next year. It is going to be a general interest, people oriented and family based programme. I will be hosting. We will be visiting different parts of the country, to see how the less privileged live and fare.
Your son, Clarence, is fast taking after you, especially in the music industry, as a director, how does that make you feel?
As a mother, it makes me feel great; at least, he is taking after both parents. He also runs Capital Hills records at just 25.
What major objective do you intend achieving with the colours of Innocence Project?
My singular objective is the less privileged care homes bill; my dream is to see government pass this bill into law as soon as possible. I want the bill to be institutionalized nationally.
Is Clarion romantic?
Yes, every body knows I'm romantic and seeing others in pains can easily move me to tears.
Can you still recollect the title of your first film?
Ola Balogun's Money Power was my first film in 1982, my first Yoruba movie was Birthmark by Dudu Films, while True Confession was my first Nollywood Movie. I have done over 100 movies.
In recent times, your famous face has been very scarce in major Nollywood movies, what has been responsible for this development?
First and foremost, I have been busy doing other things apart from acting. In other words, I have not been totally absent from movies; it's only that I have not been doing movies like before. The reason for that is because the movie industry right now is experiencing some hiccups and movies are not selling.
And because the movies are not selling, its affecting the fees of real professionals like us. Personally, I cannot go down on my fees, it's not worth my while to earn less because I want my face to be on posters, jackets and movies.
That is one reason. Another reason is that the scripts have lost their challenge. The same old stories are being recycled. Mind you, for me there are no challenges because I have been acting for 28 years. I have also paid my dues and in the industry and even beyond. Everywhere, I have always been celebrated as one of the icons of the Nigerian motion picture industry. As a core practitioner, how do these challenges facing the industry make you feel? Sincerely, it makes me feel terrible because people who should be concerned are not. For them, its just the meal ticket that matters.
Who are these people that are feeling less concerned?
Well, some of the actors and actresses that should be concerned are not. Also, the old school directors and producers that should be concerned are not. To them, if you are called to do a job, just go and do it in order to put food on the table. That is not right. But there are also those who feel like I do and have diversified into other things like me. Most people in the industry today do not even know the genesis.
So, what is the way forward, from your perspective?
The first thing that should be done as far as I'm concerned is that we should stop pretending that we are in-charge and are also running Nollywood. We should face reality that what we have are Igbowood, Yoruwood and Hausawood.
We should call for a convention with the full representation of all these Woods and reach on agreement after an extensive discourse, on how to move Nollywood forward. And under this agreed Nollywood, we will now have a single Actors Guild, one single Directors Guild, Producers Guild and all the order guilds that make up Nollywood The reason this arrangement looks impossible, is the same reason Nollywood is not moving forward. Greed, selfishness and narrow mindedness are the major problems facing the Nigerian motion picture industry.
Earlier on, you talked about some of your colleagues diversifying into other areas, based on the stagnation inherent in the industry. For you, what areas have you diversified into in recent times?
Long before my colleagues started diversifying, I had already registered and started trading with Clarion Chukwurah Company, which began operating in 1988. We deal in general goods and corporate gifts to organizations. And currently, my trading company has gone into shirt making with s label called SHADE.
Just Shirts, its unisex. They are basically African print shirts, which can be worn to the offices, occasions and other interesting places. We are currently working out the modalities for its launch, it will hold in London very soon elaborately.