BEYOND the mean looking face and wicked roles, she portrays in movies, Patience Ozokwor’s heart flows with kindness.
Her mien is mellow on the inside. A widow, who besides her biological children has adopted children and treats them like her biological children. She often takes them on vacations and movie locations, and still reaches out to the less privileged. She helps and mentors young female school dropouts. The revered actor is a bundle of talent that includes singing, among others.
The veteran actor is one of the biggest names in the African movie industry. Fans often call her by her stage name, Mama G, after her role as Mother General, MaMa G, in the movie ‘Old School.’ Her popularity endears millions of people across the African continent and beyond. Though Ozokwor differs in her make believe world from real self; the sought after actor is one of the few names in the Nigerian movie industry that has projected Nollywood beyond the shores of Nigeria.
Born in 1958, in Ngwo, Enugu State, Ozokwor attended Abimbola Gibson Memorial School in Lagos. She trained as a teacher at Teachers Training College, Afikpo, Ebonyi State. She later attended Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, where she obtained diploma in Fine and Applied Arts. Ozokwor, whose passion for acting started in primary school, acted in different stage plays, but did not go into acting immediately. She taught for four years, before delving into radio drama.
Her success in radio drama made give back to the society. She opened a centre to help and mentor young female school dropouts. She taught the girls hair dressing, skin care, and was able to help them open their own businesses. The government recognized Ozokwor’s effort and undertook to sponsor some of her projects.
One of the things that characterized Ozokwor’s life was her early marriage. She stated that her mother forced her to marry the man who she did not even know at the age 19. “It was not my decision to get married at 19. And if it’s not my decision, it means I was forced into it. I was forced into it many years ago, and I did not see any reason my parents were forcing me as I was still young. At that time, I had a lot of suitors, but my mom wanted me to marry as soon as possible since there were a lot of children in the house,” she said.
Ozokwor did admit that she didn’t find it easy as a young girl in marriage but did confess that she enjoyed her marriage but her world was turned upside with the death of her mechanical engineer husband, after 15 years of illness in 2002. “He was a true father and husband when he was alive, I missed my husband’s companionship and how we worked together to raise our children and gave them love as parents would. The unity, balance, love, and affection have all gone the day of my husband’s death.”
Her husband death was a difficult moment as she struggled to maintain her family and household finances. It was that period that she was furthering her education to learn graphic arts and mass communication. In order to earn money, she baked cakes and took on odd jobs.
By providence, she was invited to do a commercial by a comedian who was impressed by Ozokwor’s acting skills. As a result of the commercial, she was asked to participate a soap opera titled ‘Someone Cares’, a programme about rural women, for the Nigerian National Television Authority. Afterwards, she began to audition for acting roles.
On her stereotyped roles and how it has affected her life, Ozokwor stated, “I don’t owe anybody any apology for the roles I play, because I get paid for them and it is my job. It is only people who don’t understand that acting is make belief that perceive an actor to be living his or her life the way she acts on set.
“When I play the role of a bad woman, I see myself at that instance as a mirror through which I want society to see and appreciate the fact that it is not good to be bad. This is the reason I do it with so much passion that it becomes almost believable and by extension, I also see such roles as an opportunity to minister to lost and wicked souls that jealousy, hatred, envy and all the likes can only bring one to ruins.”
She reveals that watching those roles sometimes, move her to tears, “There are characters I’d played in movies and after watching them back at home, I just thanked God it wasn’t me- it was a character. Nearly all the movies where I played wicked roles made me cry because I remember what that character had done to somebody. I do these jobs to the best of my knowledge because I want to sit down at home, watch, and cry over what I’m doing to people.”
“There was a movie I did many years ago. It was titled ‘Prophecy’- what moved me to tears in that movie was that I was so wicked that I seized feeding bottle from the mouth of a new-born baby who lost his mother and I was supposed to be taking care of the baby. The baby was crying, I seized his feeding bottle and threw it away. I wept profusely, the director stopped shooting until I was able to control myself. Then I summoned courage to continue. If someone had done it in real life, I would have exposed the fellow to the world to see.”
For her creativity, Ozokwor won the Best Supporting Actress award at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards. She was among the 100 Nigerians honoured by the Nigerian Government to celebrate the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 2014.