Nigerian actress Patience Ozokwo has become a classic in her own time by playing the “evil woman” in dozens of Nollywood films.
She is ever so malicious in her roles as the wicked mother-in-law, the dishonest servant, the witch doctor and crafty mistress. She is so good at her job that she occasionally is moved to tears when she watches herself on screen.
In one memorable scene the kind that wrenches viewers’ emotions — she snatches a baby’s food and throws it away. In another, she poisons a baby! But, off the screen, she is a cheerful family woman.
“You Kenyan men do not know how to greet women,” she said at the beginning of our interview. ‘‘You don’t just say ‘hi’. You need to make them feel warm and embrace them.”
That was last Thursday, the day after she arrived in Nairobi to attend the Tafrija Festival, a musical and cultural event held last night and sponsored by the Nigerian High Commission.
She is so well-known that it was not possible for her to sneak into the country unnoticed as fans who got wind of her arrival were waiting to catch a glimpse of one of Africa’s most famous actresses. “They welcomed me like a king. I have yet to recover from such a rousing welcome,” she said at her hotel suite at the Nairobi Safari Club.
She has no trouble explaining her dual character. “When I appear as the bad woman, I only see myself as the mirror of what should not be happening in society,” she said, breaking into laughter. “I use these scenes to minister to wicked souls filled with jealousy, hatred and envy.”
The widowed mother of four got into the movie business almost by accident. She was retrenched from Radio Nigeria in January 1985 and then went into business and later into movies.
Veteran Nigerian comedian Chika Okpala, popularly known as Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo, alias 4.30, jokingly invited her to play the wife of top Nollywood actor Pete Eneh in a TV commercial.
That became her ticket to fame. Some of her popular movies screened in Kenya include Old School, Love After Love, Fishers of Men and 2 Rats where she acted with the “two little boys” Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme. Unknown to many fans, both are adult men and graduates in mass communication.
The name Mama G stuck to Mrs Ozokwo after an unforgettable role she played in the movie Old School. The cast kept on singing “Mama G, Gee for General. General in all the Nkwobi and Odekwu joints in all Western Africa”
Mama G is involved in helping widows and other women to create job opportunities and hopes to be remembered for touching the lives of many people.
Mama G is a teetotaller, doesn’t smoke and loves going to church when she can. While in Kenya, she misses her favourite meal of pounded yams and onugbu or bitter leaf soup.