Celebrity

Nigerian Hollywood Actor, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Makes Film About His Black Self-Hating Childhood

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is one of the most recognizable Nigerian actors in Hollywood. You might not know his name, but I guarantee that you’ve seen him in one (or two or three) of your favorite Hollywood movies or television shows. Don’t believe me? You saw him in one of my favorite movies, The Mummy Returns, in The Bourne Identity, Oz, and Lost. It’s clear to me that this actor’s star is just beginning to rise: he is immensely talented and electrifying in every role he plays.

Adewale, however, did not have a great start in life; that’s actually an understatement! Suffice it to say that he had a really terrible start in life. At the extreneky young age of only six weeks, his Nigerian parents, who were studying in London, handed him over to a white “working-class” couple to raise as their foster child. Thus, would begin a childhood of foster care, chaos and eventually hatred of his “Blackness.” AAA is making a movie based on his life called Farming; it is written and will be directed by him.

This is an excerpt of an article in UK’s The Guardian based on a recent interview with the actor,

“”It was a strange relationship,” he recalls of his feelings for his foster parents. “It was one of love because that’s all that I knew, and that’s what love is: you accept people for what they are. If I’m honest, it was very tough. My father was a lorry driver, very rarely at home. The house was run by my mother, and because there were 10 or so kids, there was no time for individual attention. It was about survival. It was about where the next meal was coming from. We had to go out and nick things to get it. So there wasn’t any love in the sense of hugs or anything like that …. outside the young boy was in constant danger of physical attack from local kids who, encouraged by their parents, nurtured a violent fear of blacks. He learned to feel the same way himself, running away from the black sailors who occasionally visited the docks from far-off locations …. Such was his eagerness to fit in that, although his skin clearly told another tale, he thought of himself as white. And if his sense of self wasn’t already damaged enough, he knew nothing of his African parents until one day, when he was eight, they turned up out of the blue and took him back to Nigeria.

“It felt like a kidnap,” he says, “and it rendered me mute for about nine months. I couldn’t speak the language, and if I spoke English I was abused for it …. I was so traumatised and afraid that I stopped speaking and my [birth] parents thought there was something wrong with me, thought I was possessed. They tried various indigenous ways to deal with it, and when they didn’t work they sent me home, back to Tilbury, but kept my sisters there.” ….

Reluctant to go out, he was issued with an ultimatum by his foster father: either he fight in the street or he would have to fight in the house. With little choice, he learned to defend himself and also to attack others. As he became a teenager he grew into a well-built young man with a reputation for violence. “It was a time of standing up and standing your ground or running, and there wasn’t anywhere to run in Tilbury. The local skinhead gang really ran the streets. They made my life – and anyone’s who was a shade darker than pale – a misery.” ….

He became a skinhead. He didn’t just adopt the haircut and clothes but the racist attitudes too. He fought alongside his new skinhead comrades, who treated him at first like some brutalised pet to be unleashed in battle. “I was like a little dog that followed them around,” he says. “When a child wants to be accepted,” he explains, “he’ll do anything. And if it means you’re getting a certain amount of notoriety from a fight, that’s what you’ll do. If all you’ve known is racism, abuse and persecution, then all of a sudden you’re getting some recognition, that’s your new drug. That’s what you want. By the time I was 16 I was someone to reckon with. I was so eager to repudiate any connection with any immigrant race I would go above and beyond. I was desperate to belong to something.””

{Be sure to read the full fascinating story at The Guardian UK.}

Adewale would eventually go to boarding school in Surrey and, then, to the university to study law. His education was paid for by his birth father who had a very lucrative law practice in Nigeria. Boarding school was his turning point: he attempted suicide at first and then, with the help of friends, learned to accept his heritage and study. He would go on to work at a clothes store before making his way into the modelling industry and, subsequently, the film industry.

Adewale has stated that his parents never apologized or took responsibility for the terrible repercussions of his childhood! Interestingly, I came across 2 excerpts from hugely successful Nigerian-owned international magazine, Ovation International, on Adewale’s father at his funeral. It struck me because they had all these great things to say about him; yet, he clearly failed in the area that counts most: as a father. Excerpt below (Words are bolded by me):

“By the time Otunba (Dr) Olusola Akinnuoye-Agbaje breathed his last on January 8, this year at the age of 73, he was already a contented man, a great lawyer, technocrat and family man whose landmark achievements is a reference point to the younger generation. As a silent philanthropist, he touched many lives; as an upright man, he endeared himself to many people who attested to his honesty and tenacity to uphold values he strongly believed in.

[In the] ancient town of Ondo, Ondo State, Nigeria stood still as the remains of one of its illustrious sons, Otunba (Dr.) Baronet Akinnuoye-Agbaje was brought into the town, in a carnival like funeral procession for burial.

It was a talk-of-the-town burial ceremony attended by many dignitaries from within and outside the country. The list of who is who is inexhaustive but remarkably, the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Victor Olasimbo Kiladejo, Jilo III played host ….”

All this talk of achievements and being a “family man”; yet, I wonder if anyone ever called to question his role as a father and how disastrous his son’s childhood was. This makes my heart ache. Deeply! We must do better!!

What are your thoughts?

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
https://www.codewit.com

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