The Undiluted Creative: Peace Anyiam Osigwe
As we journey through life, we meet people who change our perceptions of things and can boast of enlightenment. There are not enough words to describe Peace Anyiam Osigwe, founder of the Africa Movie Academy Awards. A woman that was surprisingly behind the first video of Africa’s sensational duo P Square; a lawyer and a pace setter in her time. Peace Anyiam Osigwe effortlessly puts everyone at ease as we select the dresses from her wardrobe. A little-known thing about her is that ‘Aunty Peace’, as we fondly call her, is a fabric lover and manufacturer. With the exception of a few brand names in her wardrobe, every outfit she owns was handpicked by her and sewn by her personal tailor.
Aunty Peace is a true leader and the embodiment of creativity and humility. She’s pretty minimalist about her appearance, but the undiluted creativity in the woman that is Peace Anyiam Osigwe has created a ripple effect locally and internationally. Using her position to put Nigeria on the map for films, there is no denying that her charisma, her charm, her personality and the ideology of what she wants her Africa to be has brought her this far.
So who is Peace Anyiam Osigwe?
‘ I am a film maker and that is who I am’ she giggles. Explaining the origin of the AMA Awards she says “The AMAA came out of the need to celebrate ourselves, basically.” After living in London for many years, and noticing the void in the African film industry, she decided to create something to celebrate the African Film Industry. It is also called by many the African Film Festival because of the amount of festivals during the year but it is still an award.
Peace Anyiam also spoke about the new initiative from the stables of the African Film Academy Initiative, #AFRICAONE – an idea which brings creativity together.
“In film all elements of creativity have one area within the making of a film,” she said. “From the makeup artist to the set designer to a creative designer, to photography to costuming, cinematography etc are all part of the film making process. AFRICAONE was the idea of evolving creativity into one thing. As part of the African Film Academy Initiative we decided we would tour with all the aspects of creativity which includes, visual arts, music, dance, photography as well as fashion design.”
Also in 2015, she announced her decision to step aside from the AMA Awards to enable her work in the creative industry and help improve on the economy of the African creative. Unfortunately, immediately she stepped aside, she lost her bother and that made it difficult for her to get into work flow in the way she wanted to. Nevertheless, she stands firm in her quest to improve the creative industry.
“It’s easier said than done”, she says, “when you step aside you are still there”.
Peace went further to detail how work has started on building the creative industry.
“I have started working with young people to encourage a new generation of film makers and creative people,” she said. “I am also working on the issues of piracy and distribution; I plan to find a way that does areas which would help all forms of creativity are restricted and develop a better creative industry. Piracy is a big issue for me and the other side of me, being a lawyer, has me looking at hat other enforcements that can be made to curb it, trying to make the government in Africa look at a bigger penalty for the issue of piracy is something we are working on.”
Globally, the AMAA has evolved to becoming the awards for black people of African descent around the world. How did this happen?
“It was by expanding its scope,” she said. “We have allowed films to come in from other parts of the world like Columbia, Haiti and Venezuela. It even takes us longer now to screen the films.”
Her hope for her brainchild is that creativity becomes mainstream, and not just something your mother or father let you do because you have become stuck in it. She started from being a writer at a young age, harnessing her creativity to becoming a producer to managing artists and now representing Nollywood internationally. She created the film training aspect for creatives to believe in their talents not cutting corners based on what they believe is the glamour gotten from the industry.
“I am still doing the work on African Film Academy Initiative side which means I am still doing the works for AMAA but in the backend,” she said. “I am doing more of the lobbying for government to support and recognize the institution”
She has left her footprint in the sands of time and generations would forever appreciate what she has done for the industry but she has her eyes on her future.
“I hope to do more in distribution of films,” She revealed. “I really want to go back to being a creative and make documentaries and films. I am mentoring my niece Tetsekela , she is the next big thing in the creative industry and I enjoy the mentoring aspect of my life, of working with young people and looking forward to a really interesting future for African creative where parents support their children and they make money for it.”
Running an institution like the AMAA and being in the African film industry is challenging and the greatest challenge that comes to mind when asked is support.
“Support and sponsorship,” she revealed. “The biggest difficulty for AMAA and any creative is to get the support of institutional support of Nigerian corporates. The funny thing is that they always look from the outside in instead of from the inside out. They criticize us for the things they say we can do better, but how can we do that when we have no funding for us to do it better? If we have the funding they give to other events, I am sure we can do better. Just like everything else, Africans always look down at their own, we need to learn to support our own and support our own initiatives.”
For Aunty Peace, her greatest achievement in the industry isn’t just the AMAA – her legacy which people would know her for – but also some of the other things she has done differently in trying to get people to respect Nollywood internationally. Being the first person to get Nollywood into a film festival as a proper film genre, was definitely an achievement for her, and a step in the right direction.
“After Irapada by Kunle Afolayan won an AMAA, it went on to go into a proper British Film Festival BFI,” she said. “We are still yet to break into something like Toronto, so I am hoping we do that this year.”
The African film industry is large, clearly unstructured and moving in circles instead of growing. Peace’s hopes for the film industry in Africa are all about getting the films out there.
“I want producers to be able to make money from their movies,” she said. “I don’t believe the hype that a lot of people are making a lot of money from their films because we don’t have enough cinemas for some of the figures that are being churned out to be real. Right now, I am looking at the business side of film instead of the show”.
She has been in the industry for a number of years and the AMAA is 12 years old and to her it has been “ 12 years of doing the glamour of film” and it’s now time to focus on the business. Aunty peace believes all effort should be put into things like getting distribution solved, getting more cinemas, cottage cinemas, rural cinemas and making it affordable for people to these movies.
“Then we can actually make those kind of figures, and when you see a film maker that has made a lot of movies, you also see that they have made the money that goes with making those films.”
It’s usually routine to ask what advice such influential people have for upcoming people in the industry, but Peace Anyiam’s warm attitude is in itself a lesson on how the change we expect to see in the world starts from one individual. Not the leaders in political positions or financial institutes but, from the life of the everyday person.
“Patience and humility,” she advices. “The best actor in the world is probably the most humble person who is able to listen to your advice when he or she is getting ready for film. Nobody knows it all, the idea of creativity is the circle, everybody is important. I don’t know it all, I can learn and I will learn. Here, especially in Nigeria, there is a big deal of creativity being a pyramid of people wanting to be on top, but there is no best. We need to understand that 70-80% of the population in this country are below the poverty line and their type of film differs from what the rest of us might expect. I advise people that creativity is a circle.”
Is this the end of the road for Peace Anyiam?
“I really hope it stops at AFRICAONE,” she said. “I hope, until my niece Tetsekela Michael Anyiam-Osigwe takes over. With AFRICAONE we have brought in dance, fashion, music, visual arts etc. For the next few years it would be the final frontier for the AFAI. It’s time for me to exhale, to be a creative, to express myself creatively. So I am working on my film and hopefully I would shoot this year.”
I am excited to see her movie, but the thing about being Peace Anyiam Osigwe is the fact that everyone would be expecting only the best and that is the difficulty for her at the moment. Her drive as a creative, is not just about the joy of the innate ability to create something but the fact that creativity changes every day.
“Every day you do something it is new, it is different, nothing is repetitive.”
Her love and the beauty of being a creative, even in the preparation and execution of the AMAA is the fact that it is different from the last one, it is evolving.
“Every day it is something different, there is no normality,” she said. “This year is 30 years of being in the business and when my mentor, Tunji Lardner, asked what the celebration is going to be called, he suggested the ‘Undiluted creativity of Peace’. I said the ‘Undiluted madness of creativity of Peace’. To her every day is a different story and that passion drives her, it is evident in her love for fabrics, spending 3 to 4 days in different markets picking fabrics, to designing what she wants the fabric to look like to the tailor sewing it. Everything she does is to set a pace and give a chance to the next generation without losing the essence of who she really is, in her words “creativity for me is a full circle”
I’m of the opinion that she has completed her circle as a creative, from building, to recognizing, to mentoring and giving back as a creative. She needs no introduction in the movie industry, she is the truth of creatives in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
Photography: Paul Ukonu
Hair and Makeup: Jumoke Tychus for Eyesome Beauty
Styling: Henri Uduku
Outfits by: Ibrahim Fad & Rainbow Fabrics
Location: Maison Farenheit