CHATTING WITH AMA K ABEBRESE
Ama K. Abebrese, is a British-Ghanaian actress who makes the main cast as Agu's mother on Cary Fukunaga's most anticipated war drama film "Beast of No Nation" alongside Idris Elba, which was released by Netflix on October 16 2015.
IN CONVERSATION WITH AMA K ABEBRESE
BY MUTIGANDA JANVIER
The African Academy Award Winning actress talked to Mutiganda Janvier in an Exclusive interview about herself, the experience of playing Agu’s mother on “Beasts of no Nation”, working with Cary Fukunaga, her key to success as one of successful African women in media, skin bleaching issue she campaigns against, and more.
Mutiganda: Can you please introduce yourself to Rwandans/Africans who don’t really know Ama K.
Ama K.: My name is Ama K. Abebrese. I am a female actor, TV presenter, I’m also the producer, and I have a degree in arts, media and drama from St Mary’s University. I was born in Ghana, but I spent a large majority of my life in London. I am currently based in Accra where I moved about 6 years ago.
Mutiganda: Can you share the experience you got from playing in Beasts of No Nation? Working with Cary Fukunaga, working with huge international crew, acting in this war film from being Agu's mother to losing him for civil war.
Ama K.: Working on Beasts of no Nation was a wonderful experience. And to work with the director as Cary Fukunaga was so great. He is so diligent; one thing I loved for being on this set, I was blessed on working with this one of great directors. He is in the class of those directors who you will see first on set, he is seated down with crew and cast, and he is very hands-on.
It was a huge international crew, we had crew which came from all over Europe, USA, there were crew from South Africa, and different parts of Africa and of course a large majority was from Ghana. And too, other movies that had international crew I have been in, were Sinking Sand the movie that I won Best Actress at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2011 had an international crew.
I’m used to work with international crew, but every team you work with is always different. For me, it was just like, such huge production; it was one of biggest productions I’ve been involved in. Cary is very diligent, is very hard working, you see him just, he doesn’t stop. Cary is a great director, he is Amy Award winning, and when you see him in action it makes sense. Because is not just sitting in chair giving orders, he is in, he is with actors, he is really following up, he is picking up the camera, he is filming, he is sure hands-on, very honorable to watch such a talent working.
Play Agu’s mother… if I say was easy I would be lying. It was a big film, big film in terms you know it had huge actions, a lot of actions, and you have always to be concentrated. And I didn’t have much of experience in terms of being mother; living in the country that civil war is really going on and trying to flee. I did a lot of reading to prepare myself to be a mother, trying to live in Agu’s mother shoes. As an actor, you have to take yourself there.
And working with Abraham Attah was lovely, Abraham Attah plays Agu, is a lead of the film, such a wonderful talent. He never acted before, he was selected for this film, when he auditioned they found him and he is a delight to work with.
It [Playing in this film] was a joyful experience, it was an eye opener, and for me, definitely it gonna be one of those films that mean a lot for me in my career.
Mutiganda: You are one of successful African women in media, appearing on screen of top TVs like BBC2 among many. Can you share what I can call advice on key to success, following your life experience?
Ama K.: The key to success… hmm, that’s the tough one. I don’t think there is a perfect formula. No matter how many books have been written, no matter what people tell you, to be successful as an African woman in media, one of the things you gonna need is you gonna have to be diligent.
Before, when I was living in London, I auditioned too many projects, and I didn’t get in. There is many times when you go to audition and answer is no, is no, is no... I wrote for many organizations, TV stations, and I’ve gone back with so many rejections. Like everybody else you have a choice when there comes to many rejections, do you stop or you continue?
Ama K. Abebrese is one of successful African women in media and have worked on range of TV stations in UK such as BBC2.
I also think that you need passion. For me it was the passion, I love the media, I love film, I love television, and I want to be part of it. I said, Okay, I’m no gonna stop. That’s one of the keys. Another, you have to improve your skills, don’t think; Okay, I have a degree in drama, so, that’s one I’m ok. I was always trying off extra alternatives I was trying to do when I had a chance, watch other talents… You always have to keep working, and don’t give up your dream, but also be realistic.
I think sometimes when they say don’t give up on your dream, you also need to know where you have to be realistic. And for me, prayer is one of my companions, just keeps me focused, and I would be lying if I said that prayers didn’t help me to carry on. When I was going to give up, when I was asking myself Oh my Goodness what’s happening, and God helped me focus and back on goal.
Mutiganda: You are one of African women who are proud of their skintone! This is explained by your cause of the 'I Love My Natural Skintone' campaign. Can you share your motivations, and advise those African women who are trying to run into skin bleaching?!
Ama K.: A few years ago, I, along with a few other people in media here, actresses in Ghana, started the campaign called “I Love MY natural Skintone”. Say no to skin bleaching and Skin toning. It was an important campaign to me to work on because as an African woman, so many of our brothers and sisters use those products to make their skin lighter.As an anti-bleaching campaigner, Ama K. is Dark and Lovely Lotion ambassador since 2014.
Speaking to doctors and dermatologists there are dangers they have. And it’s important when we evaluated the campaign, how far we have managed to get to; mainly in Ghana where we started we did realize how far we have reached. A week ago, FDA banned the hydroquinone product which is essentially a major component of skin bleaching products. And I was like wow!
One of the things we need to do is just not to be judgmental, I know different people choose to lighten their skin but as an African national, essentially we are known as Dark Continent. Yes, we are different people, love different moves of life, but this campaign was celebrated to differences. If you are naturally light skin embrace your beauty, if you are dark skin embrace your beauty. But the aim of this campaign was just to love your natural skin you are in.
And this is, after very dangerous factors of skin bleaching, my advice to my other African sisters is, if you are as dark just embrace your natural beauty, and at the end of the day, bleaching your skin will not make you more beautiful.
Mutiganda: And for my last question, I will ask you to tell me if you know RWANDA. If Yes, how do you know the country. If NO, are you willing to?
Ama K.: I don’t know much about Rwanda. Ahhh, obviously from the famous film Hotel Rwanda, the movie that I watched. I have a friend that has a father; they lived in Rwanda for many years. She is Ghanaian; she also lived in Rwanda after the civil war. And she said that being here was one of amazing experiences she has been in. How amazing people of Rwanda are, and she told me that how the media portrayed Rwanda was not how she saw for the majority of times she was there. So, I’d love to know Rwanda, I would love to visit it.
“Beasts of no Nation” is a 2015 American war drama film adapted from a 2005 novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. The film was written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Emmy award winning director for “True Detective”) who also worked as cinematographer on the film and the main cast comprises Idris Elba as a sadistic warlord, Abraham Attah who is taken away by militia when the civil war escalates to become the child soldier, and Ama K. Abebrese as Agu’s mother.
The film which is set in unknown country of West Africa earned positive reviews.