Iya Awero: How marriage and pregnancy truncated my education
Veteran actress, Lanre Hassan Adesina, popularly known in the Yoruba theatre circle as Madam Awero, has paid her dues as far as acting is concerned. She was a pioneer member of the travelling theatre, and today, after over four decades, she’s still making waves. Born in the early 50s in Lagos Island, she attended St. Peters’ Primary School, Faji, Lagos between 1956 and 1963. Married to Aliu Hassan Adesina (late), she developed keen interest in acting at a very early in life. And thus joined the Young Stars Concert Party (drama group) at the age of 14, with the likes of Ojo Ladipo (a.k.a Baba Mero) and Adebayo Salami. The group later became Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group. But to give her acting an intellectual bite and spark, she attended the Lagos School of Dramatic Arts in 1970, run by one Chief Olude, a foremost drama scholar then. After the death of Baba Mero in 1978, the group was renamed Awada Kerikeri, under the leadership of Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello). AZUH ARINZE spoke with her at their Ebute Metta office and she talked extensively on her career, family, the movie industry and her dreams…
Some people call you Lanre Hassan while others call you Lanre Hassan Adesina. Which is correct?
If you call me Lanre Hassan, it is fine, if you call me Lanre Hassan Adesina, it is good. I was Miss Hassan before I got married. Coincidentally, my husband’s name is Aliu Hassan Adesina. So, if you call me any of these two names, I’ll answer you.
So, how would you describe yourself?
I’m a gentle woman, dedicated to my work, a good mother to my children and a good wife to my husband.
In your formative years, did you ever think you would become an actress some day?
Yes, because of the fact that I used to watch films a lot when I was small. And early in life, I had been attending the cinemas to watch veterans like Chief Ayinla Olumegbon and late Chief Hurbert Ogunde. My dream was to be like these theatre gurus. That was why I joined the Young Stars’ Concert Party at the age of 14.
How many of you formed the Young Concert Party?
Hmmm… We were many. But the group was headed by the late Ojo Ladipo. Myself and Adebayo Salami were part of that group.
Did you people have any academic tutelage before taking to full blown theatre?
Yes, most of us, like Adebayo Salami, myself, Ojo Ladipo, Ade Afolayan (late Ade Love) and a host of others were attending the Lagos School of Dramatic Art between 1970 – 72, headed by one Chief Olude, a renowned drama scholar.
What happened after this course?
After this course, we were given a direct entry to the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos to go and study Theatre Arts (diploma).
What happened at the Centre for Cultural Studies? How were you able to cope?
You see, I only attended for just few months and I could not finish the programme (laughs).
Why didn’t you complete the programme?
I got pregnant and I got married along the line. Ibi a pari iwe si ni yen (That was where we ended the course).
Your group started in the era of what is known as the travelling theatre. Now, it is no more. Do you in any way miss anything about the travelling theatre?
I miss it a lot. You know we started with stage performances. And the stage gives you the advantage of interacting with the audience directly. They instantly become vicarious participants in your actions, or inactions. It is life, and the experience was rich and fulfilling. But today, we have lost that culture. It is very, very sad. It’s now video (hisses). In Cotonou, next door, you can’t show video in their theatre halls; they only allow celluloid.
It seems you hate this video thing?
Not that I hate video, but I’m pained by a lot of thrash that we have in the market today, all in the name of videos. Though our group (Awada Kerikeri) has joined the video train, quality has remained our watchword. Let people know you for qualitative productions and not all the rugbe-rugbe (thrash) stuff.
You are the only female in the managerial cadre of your group, Awada Kerikeri Organisation. How are you coping?
I’m coping by the grace of Allah. Because, they (Adebayo Salami and Sunday Omobolanle) see me as their mother, they see me as their sister too. Moreover, Bello and I have been together since 1966. It’s not a joke to have known each other that long. We are like a family.
Some people believe you are a very tough woman. How do you react to that?
Am I tough? I’m not tough, I think the reason why some people are saying I’m tough is because when they (people) see a disciplined woman, they tend to equate being disciplined to being tough. As you see my face, she you see say I tough? (general laughter). At any rate, I play when it’s play time and work when it’s time to work.
How many children do you have?
Ki lo tun fe fiyen se (What do you want to do with the number of children I have?)
The audience, especially your fans, would want to know?
If you insist, I have three children (Two boys and a girl)
What are their names and their ages?
Please, let’s leave that out of it. Ti isu eni bata a ma fowo bo ni (There are certain secrets you don’t announce from the rooftop, but are rather kept close to one’s heart).
You lost your husband many years ago, how have you been coping with the upkeep of the three children, the fruits of the union?
With the help of Almighty Allah, I have been coping. When you put everything before him, he’ll support you.
At the onset, did your late husband support your idea of becoming an actress?
No, he didn’t. He did everything possible to stop me, but… There was a day he slapped me several times. That day, he had gone to the office and only returned and discovered that I was not in the house. I had gone for rehearsals. But later, he saw reason with me and let me be. The late Derin Ajijedidun and Chief Bank Olemoh, a former staff of NTA did help a great deal in talking to my husband to let me be.
At times when you miss your husband, how do you cope?
My children are grown-ups. I do call them whenever I want to take decisions on any vital issue. They have proved useful in this regard.
Do you intend to remarry, because you are still looking fresh and beautiful even at your age?
Remarry and do what? God forbid. My children are my husbands. I don’t think I need any husband again.
What if a man comes up now and offers to marry you?
No…No…No! What I’m concerned with now is to ensure a brighter future for my children. Another relationship? God forbid.
What’s your dream?
My dream is to be known all over the world.
What’s your life philosophy?
Don’t chase money first, when you work very hard, money will run after you.