Baroness Uba lwunna is a Nigerian born Canada based artist, actress and author as well as global humanitarian ambassador and philanthropist. Her global humanitarian work, pride in cultural heritage exchange through her music, movies, educational lectures and performing arts particularly in Canada and North America, as well as Human Rights advocacy and numerous other community charity works, particularly with youths in Africa, have earned her an award for Nigerian Goodwill Ambassador to Canada and Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the world.
Dr. Iwunwa lives through her quote ‘I am an African, not because I was born in Africa, but because, Africa is born in me and lives through me; believe in yourself’. In this interview with Olisemeka Obeche, the Imo born shed lights on her life, professional career and humanitarian activities across the globe, among other issues.
Can you tell us about yourself, your belief and professional background?
Well, I consider myself as an African cultural music ambassador; someone, who grounds her work on the truth that music is universal language for love that speaks only to the soul. I believe that exchange of cultures through music and performing arts open the gate way to deep understanding of each other’s soul. I also believe that deep understanding yields respect for human dignity, a person’s right for individuality, collective respect for humanity and human rights for all. I firmly believe that the amazing powerful healing gifts that come from music and cultural exchanges, imbedded in performing arts, makes the world a better place for all, especially the generation of the youth inheriting the world in front of them. Professionally, my award winning body of work earned me the face and voice of global peace as well as award for Nigerian Goodwill Ambassador to Canada and Nigerian Youth Ambassador to the world.
Looking back through the years, how would you describe your growing up?
My childhood was magical, it fashioned me into the woman that I am today. Growing up as an only child was a deep rooted memories. I was loved by my family and pampered by most people in my village. I am that little girl raised by a whole village with care and love. I was my father’s breath of life, the apple of his eyes till death. I look back to my childhood with so much gratitude to God. Without that solid foundation, I would not strive in my mission for World peace. Amongst your parents and siblings, who played key role in your life during your formative years and how? My father, Elder Josiah Achunulo Chinyere, of blessed memory, is my hero. He was the beacon of who I am today. Notwithstanding the fact that my mother gave him only a female child, he never loved my mother any less or treated her badly in a quest for more children or male children. My dad was very content with having just a female child and he raised me with pride and dignity. Every day of my life, his memory gives me strength to believe in everything that I could be. I was his goddess, his pride and joy. He gave me a solid foundation to believe in myself and strive for greatness. His spirit will abide with me all the days of my life as my spirit guide.
Could you recall any incident during your childhood formation that influence your life today?
Every birthday, all I ever wished for was a little brother or a sister. On my 8th birthday, my dad, in his wisdom, took me to a motherless babies’ home. It was the best day of my life. Kids were everywhere for me to choose from. I wanted all of them like a kid in a candy store. One little boy held me really tight as if his life depended on me and I held him with my life too. After the visit, my dad told me that all the children were the brothers and sisters that I never had. He gave me some money to stop me from crying because my little heart broke when we had to leave without taking any of the children, especially the boy that held on to me. On getting home, my mother helped me to put my money into use to hawk banana and ground nut after school to earn money for my orphanage visits once every month. From that day, I grew up making money to fend for orphans. My humanitarian mission is a passion well rooted from my childhood. I have a total of 88 orphans under my care; they are my brothers and sisters.
Majority of female children in Igboland and Nigeria usually experience one form of discrimination or the other in favor of the male counterparts. Do you have any such experience?
My father’s love overshadowed discrimination of any sort. Yes, our culture made it so; and I had my own share of tears and sorrows but when I look back to my growing up with a father, who idolised me, no discrimination that I encountered worth anything. When I was 10 years old, a man in our community decided to steal my father’s land. When my dad questioned him , he asked my dad who would you leave the land for when you are gone. He asked the question because, by tradition, a female child cannot inherit a land. When I came home from school that day, I found my dad in tears. Later, my dad told me what happened regarding his land. I asked my dad if a female child is not a child. I promised my dad in my innocence that I would be a 20 children in one. When I said that, my dad with tears and heart break, placed his right hand on my head looked up to heaven and called God to bless his little girl. He looked at me with tears and told me that I worth more than 20 male children. That particular day transformed a little girl of 10 years old into an old soul. I became an adult over night mentally, caring for my parents and did everything to make my dad very proud till this day. A quest to uphold a promise that I made to my father on October 24, 1989, as breath of life was slipping out of him on his dying bed, is the reason for everything that I am today. Discrimination did not destroy me; discrimination made me a lioness. The voice of the voiceless. A woman of purpose. My prayer every moment of my life is to be a blessing to every soul that I touch and an example to every female child. Nwanyi Bu Nwa.
Could you recall your journey to stardom in creative or entertainment industry and what made you to choose acting and singing?
Growing up, our family tradition was music. My mother was a cultural music singer years back. I used to help her to sing along during composition. I always sing and dance for my dad after supper every night, before he goes to bed. When my dad passed away, music became our soul tie, an unbreakable bond. The goddess in me comes alive whenever I sing and dance. My music albums are tributes in memory of my dad. As long as my music is out there, my father’s name lives forever. It was my own way to immortalise my father’s memory since I am not a male child to carry on the family linage. I hold that linage up through my talent and humanitarian work . My dad lives through me and in me, he is everything that I have become. I never rose to stardom; my father of blessed memory rose to stardom. He will be known in every nation in the world through my face. Acting and music is a craft engraved inside me by an unconditional love. When I sing, people shed tears because, behind every lyric, the memory of my late father lives on. And I play roles in movies that attributes to that same passion of creativity. Behind my success lies the spirit of my late father through my motto, “The daughter of a lion does not eat grass”.
What were the challenges you encountered during early stage of your career and how did you overcome them?
Living outside Nigeria and based in Canada, you are in a different lifestyle. Going into highlife music to me was an ancestral call. I have children, I wanted to give them the gift of who they are through my creativity. I wanted to give every African child, every Nigerian child being raised in a foreign country a gift to be comfortable in their own body. I took the stage in Canada in epic diversity, a showcase of my African cultural heritage across the miles. It’s been a long challenging journey since 2005 for Canada to embrace African cultural diversity. I owe no one any apology for being a black woman, I must get to my promise land. I look back with pride because I am an African not because I was born in Africa but because Africa is born in me, and breaths through me; I am the echoes of my ancestors from creation, an African pride.
…To be continued