My name is Tina Mba. I hail from Eziagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. I am the first daughter as well as the first child in a family of seven children. My father is late and my mother is a strong woman who is devout Catholic. I have two kids, a daughter and a son. I am a single parent but I have a relationship. It is not as if I am really single. The issues are a product of a relationship, not of marriage. I have never been married in my life.
How I started
It all started in 1984. But before then, I had watched a play- Elechi Amadi’s Isiburu, which was produced by Ihria Inakhimio. After watching the production, I made up my mind that I was going to be an actress.
I started coming to the National Arts Theatre where I saw Bassey Effiong and his drama group, Ananse Play House. I kept coming not as a member but just to watch what they were doing and the way they did them. That was a kind of understudying that I went through. With time, I told myself that from what I have seen, actors and actresses are not well paid. Even at this, I made up my mind to do my first play, William Shakespeare’s As you like it. To me, doing it was a risk. That was in 1989. We had good hands that acted in it; Okenedo Omokaro, Clifford Okoh, Kenneth Egbuna, Benson Odama, and the rest of them. We really had a good show. To me, that was the starting point. After this, it went on and on like that.
Having my babies/break in acting
I took a long break from acting to have my baby. I went to England to give birth to the baby. Later I came back to acting again. Since then I have been doing my best. While in England with my baby, I did not go into acting because I could not be attending to the baby and acting at the same time. At the same time too, I was in school. So I could not combine all these in addition to running my home and even the job I was doing.
I never thought I would make a fantastic actress initially, until events proved me wrong. This is because even in my secondary school days, I realised that any role I played in any play, people who watched me encouraged me. They would always tell me that I acted well and that I should keep it up. And in my place, if you are told to keep whatever you are doing up, it means you are really good at it. So, to some extent, looking back now and recalling how I have fared, I would say that it is possible that it was inborn in me. That is, I think I have a trait of it. All I needed was training to polish, solidify and consolidate this talent I have.
Artistes and marriage
I think the press has not actually helped the matter. The impression people have of artistes is not helping matters too. It is a product of the way artistes behave. You know we can be very careless. We think because of the kind of job we do, we are free people. It is really a mistake we make, thinking that people would understand us.
For instance, you see an artiste dressed in a pair of shorts and a scarf, people would certainly think she is mad. But they do not know she is expressing herself the way she is. My mum did not know when I started acting. At a point, she thought the profession was for layabouts. So, it is a problem caused by the society on one hand, and the artistes themselves on the other. Once artistes are able to remove irresponsibility from their profession and know that there is hierarchy, the perception will change. We should also know that there is an extent to which we should express ourselves. You cannot be going to negotiate for a loan or contract in a bank and as a lady you put on jeans. You see the artistes can do that. Then the women artistes, because of the nature of job where you can work into late hours, we hardly pay attention to ourselves, our relationships. You have to be very understanding for you to marry an artiste, whether male or female. We travel a lot and can stay for a month or more. A lot of people cannot stand these. So, you can now see why artistes do not get married on time.
It will surprise you to know that I did not actually study Theatre Arts. What I did in the school was Computer Science. So, you can see that I am very far away from the arts even though I am now a very dear member of the arts family. I studied in Cuban Polytechnic, England. But I want to say that even for you to act, you do not have to be in the academic environment to learn. It is like carpentry or singing. The thing is that you have to learn and train on the job.
If you are able to study it, fine. But even at that, you’d still have so much to learn. That is to say what any one gains by studying is a kind of consolidation, because studying for four years means a whole lot of time to gather much. Then as the person practises, he consolidates further. In my own case, I was trained on the job. I did not jump into it. I made sure I did not jump into acting. I had to act as an understudy for four years.