It was 2008, I was 9 years old and sitting on the centre table of our neighbour. I was holding a disc box of Funke Akindele’s comedy film, “Jenifa,” because my friends, our neighbours, were about to watch the film. We didn’t own a TV because my mum did not fancy it. So I’d sneak out from our room upstairs to watch movies at our neighbours’ downstairs. That day, their father had rented “Jenifa” from a film shop down the road and we agreed to watch the film together.
I can’t remember much about the film anymore, but I can remember how Funke Akindele was in the movie, and I can remember how I kept on referring to her as “Jenifa,” instead of Funke Akindele, in several movies afterwards. It took me about three to four years to realise her real name was Funke Akindele. It is the same with Bukky Wright, whom I’d refer to as Motara Johnson because of her exceptional role in the eponymous movie.
I was not exposed to many movies in my childhood but the little memories of movies were mainly of Funke Akindele and some actors and actresses in that era. I have witnessed Nollywood take many steps to raise the bar higher and as eras come and go, we have witnessed actors and actresses come and go. In a dynamic industry like Nollywood, it takes a different kind of artistic brilliance to stay relevant. And as eras come and go, every generation seems to be Funke Akindele’s era. From the days of VCD to YouTube and now digital streaming platforms, Funke Akindele always has the perfect project for each generation. There is no way you’d tell me you didn’t want to become “Leftie” after watching her exceptional role in “Omo Ghetto.” The soundtrack of the movie, despite being distant from my upbringing, was stuck in my head. “Emi omo ghetto/ I was born in the ghetto.” To confess, I did want to become an omo ghetto. I could remember a couple of my friends and I mimicking her English idiolect in “Jenifa’s Dairy” and how that disrupted our understanding of English before we were cautioned. Eskuse me, Funke’s cultural impact is unmatched. Suliya kan, Ayetoro kan.
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16 years after Jenifa and many many many awards, Funke Akindele, a Nollywood hall-of-famer and legend already, is still showing us that age is just a number but class is permanent. “She Must Be Obeyed,” a Prime Video Original directed by her and JJCSkillz drops this month and the trailer had me wondering if Funke sometimes goes back to her roles in her old movies just to relive how brilliant she is in them. It takes more than fame and money and passion to stay relevant in the structure of how competitive Nollywood is, where young actors are also working tirelessly to attain stardom. It takes genuine artistic brilliance, and Funke Akindele has exuded that in several movies that do not even need to be mentioned because you already know them. She must truly be obeyed because she is SHE.
She is a beloved icon of Nigerian cinema and has left an indelible mark on both the hearts of her fans and the landscape of Nollywood itself. Through her timeless performances and unwavering commitment to her craft, she has transcended eras and platforms, consistently delivering exceptional entertainment to generations, old and new. Her ability to adapt to the ever-evolving industry while staying true to her unique artistic brilliance is a testament to her enduring relevance. As we eagerly anticipate her latest, “She Must Be Obeyed,” we are reminded that Funke Akindele’s enduring class and incomparable talent are the constants that continue to shine brightly. Please give her her deserved flowers. Ha, Aunty Funke, respect o.