The first Motswana to make it in the Nollywood industry, 25 year old Yoko Ono Manowe has ascended to the summit of professional acting. Yoko Ono is a name that her mother gave her because of her love for Yoko Ono the music legend. She prefers to be called as a professional actor, movie director, creative director and founder for Local for Global known as L4G. In her own words ‘local for global’ is a phrase through which she challenges local artists to be Batswana first before they going global.
The odd one
She stands as the odd one in her family as the only one making a living from the entertainment industry. Her dream was built and nurtured from the age of 13 when she enrolled for Drama at Maruapula School. That was where she was discovered by the likes of Maitisong Director Gao Lemmenyane and Aldo Brincat who all encouraged her to pursue drama because of the immense talent they could see in her. “This is when I discovered my journey and that I have potential with regard to theatre arts. I started with stage acting. I love performing and I am very dramatic,” she said.
She was drawn to drama classes than any other and strived to be the very best in everything. Her first theatrical performance was Sarafina which was directed by Aldo Brincat, and that sealed her career in acting because the people loved it. She was thrilled when she got her first ever newspaper coverage from The Daily News. “That was when I declared that I wanted to be a movie star because the show was attended full house and I was very much celebrated,” she said. At that time The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency film was being launched and the film directors asked her to play a part. However, she ended up not doing it because she was very young then. She managed to finish top of her class in drama. One of his mentors encouraged him to go to Witwatersrand University to study performing Arts. Her momentum never stopped. At the university she remained top, winning overall performance award in her first year alongside her friend. This is the friend who introduced her to the Nigerian Pidgin English, and they ended up making a script about characters Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikedieze – the notorious and funny film stars that Africa fell in love with. They won best overall performance again for that.
Breaking into Nollywood
Yoko Ono said if one has passion and love for something, everything else often falls into place. For her to get into the Nollywood film industry, she met one of the big Nigerian film stars Desmond Elliot who made sure that her dream was realised after seeing the talent in her. After featuring in one of his first movies, she won an award and that opened many doors for her. At some point she even thought of leaving school to go and focus on acting, but her parents advised that she stayed in school. Even though she was making it in the Nigerian industry, Yoko Ono said she felt empty because she felt that she did not have Botswana identity since she believes well in the local for global concept. “When I was there I was fortified; mingling with the people that I always saw on screens and now acting with them. But then I said to myself this is wrong, and that was what birthed local for global,” she said. Hence, she decided purposefully to leave those industries and come to Botswana to build something here.
Boosting local film industry
At the moment she has taken a break from the movies until 2017 and is in Botswana to come and contribute to the industry here. She said this is only because of her love for this country. She said with her local for global team, they believe in the pulling up syndrome. They will soon be hosting an expo themed ‘Welcome to the global future’. She said this is because she has made a decision to struggle with her country. “I am here to shed light. The reason why Batswana are not progressing is because they like pulling each other down,” she said. The film and TV expo will take place in August where they will demonstrate how they can deal with the challenges that Botswana film industry is facing. They will have guests from film industries in South Africa and Nigeria. She decided to do this because a lot of people have been interested to know how she made it. To her networking and hard work is the ultimate card. She urged locals to master sisterhood and brotherhood relationships, something that she learnt in Nigeria.