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Monica Davies, Smiling Coast of Africa Top Notch Stylish Actress

By Yunus S Saliu

Monica Davies, an epitome of beauty and one of the Gambian top-notch actresses in Gambia, and one of the sought-after actresses that are doing well in the Gambia film industry since she joined the industry about 20 years ago. She’s one of the faces in Banjul Cops, one of the popular movie series produced by the Vinasha Film Productions that hit the GRTS screen those days that people will rush home to watch.

Aunty Moni as popularly called has featured in dozens of movies and as well in stage shows which made her one of the movies and theatre icons in The Gambia, The Smiling Coast of Africa. She won her first movie award in the industry as The Best Actress in 2012 while other awards followed. In this edition, DTourisphere Entertainment anchorman, Yunus S Saliu chats with her about her life, career, her happy and bad moments in the industry, the discovery of her talent, and other issues.

DT: So how did you become an actress, which has brought you to the limelight?

MDavies: Wow, it all started in the year 2003 when I attended an audition at the Vinasha Production. It was there I first had my experience in screen acting and I’m very much grateful to Nana Ofori Oguntola with the husband and of course the Vinasha team – Mam Lisa, Amadou Sillah, and others that were also part of the crew/management of the Vinasha Productions.

Since then I have been doing some actings but what shot me to the limelight until people realized the talent in me was when I was on a set with the Gambia Youth Actors Association popularly called GAMYAA, led by Matty Jobe Manka, on the production of a film titled Child of Destiny which Alagie Manka the CEO of State of Mic was the DOP. Alagie Manka and Modou Musa Ceesay discovered my talent and recommended me to other people. That was how I got exposed to the industry. I give kudos to them because they saw the skill/talent in me fast (thumb-up to them).

DT: You started with Vinasha Productions back then, what movie did you start with them?

MDavies: It was their series titled Banjul Cops. I was featured in one of the episodes entitled Money Doubling. And it is the only one before they relocated to the UK. I featured along with Mary Goddard, Kobina Andrews, a Ghanaian actor but now based in the UK.

DT: Banjul Cops hits the wave in The Gambia and everyone wanted to watch it on GRTS. So how did you feel then to be part of the series?

MDavies: Oh My God, very proud, I was very proud of everything and most especially when it comes to payment. It was my first time going public like that amid so many people and I was young then. For me, it was the greatest achievement, especially acting alongside those big stars (Both Gambians and non-Gambians) then, it was really great. What I love about their productions too was their professionalism and respect for actors and actresses.

DT: Though you were a fresh actress then, do you ever think of such treatment/payment as at that time of your career

MDavies: As I said, I like their professionalism, in the film, I never thought of payment or that I will be paid for that job. The amount of money paid at that time and the first time, I received their payment even before my regular job monthly salary. At home, I told them to see what I have paid for my performance at Vinasha Productions. I wish and hope that this present generation of producers and so on can emulate Vinasha, though I might not compare them.

DT: I have met with some of the star actors/actresses featured in the Child of Destiny movie including you, in brief, tell us about this movie that is old but still talks of the town among the actors/actresses and who was the producer.

MDavies: Child of Destiny was produced by Gambia Youth Actors Association (GAMYAA), in which Matty Jobe was the president then, it was a good story about a young boy. I might not remember everything well, but I acted mother of the boy. Unknowingly to people that the boy who is the Child of Destiny is a child of the King the mother was raped and the child was born but the King has no knowledge of having a child while the child was somewhere for execution on the order of the King. Fasting it forward, the mother of the child appeared and let the public know everything that happened on the night the King raped her which resulted in the pregnancy of the boy.

DT: You started with the screen how manage did your face become relevant on stage performing at Ebunjan Theatre?

MDavies: When it comes to the stage I didn’t start with Ebunjan Theatre but GAMYAA when they staged a play called Lingure written by Gibril Jobe and directed by Gibou Saidy. I also acted on stage with Pan African Movies Productions led by the late Isha Jallow. But In 2013, I joined Ebunjan Theatre where actors or actresses can learn a professional way of stage performance. The proprietress who is the artistic director, Ms. Janet Bajan Young popularly called Aunty Janet is well known for her skills and adequate knowledge of theatre productions. I learned a lot from her and the members of the Ebunjan group they are very accommodating. They welcomed me when I joined and I met people that were trained by Aunty Janet purposely for them to be residence actors and actresses at the theatre they have been very supportive and respectful and I really appreciate them.

Ebunjan is like a home for me and some other colleagues I have performed many times on stage there both national and international.

I came to love the stage more than the screen though stage performing requires intensive training and a thorough understanding of what the director needs with perfect performance. With that, it is different from the screen. For the screen, you can always cut/stop the camera to allow the actors/actresses to realign with the script. But on stage performing, there is nothing like repeating the act though sometimes you might have prompters you cannot always rely on them especially when you are in the forefront. However, I prefer the stage more than the screen.

DT: You acted alongside some of the international actors and actresses in The Gambia can you name one or two of them?

MDavies: Well, Oge Okoye is the first Nollywood actress I acted with in a movie called Wrong Identity in 2009. That movie featured Desmond Elliot and also Ghanaian actor Gavivina and in 2011 I did two movies with Ali Nuhu, Lady Joy Tuti, Yemi Blanc in a movie named Diamond directed by Efe and the production house that brought Oge Okoye was T Plus Productions from Ghana. I also acted alongside the present Sierra Leone First Lady Her Excellency Fatoumata Jabbie in a movie titled Sarata. The film was produced by Ibrahim Ceesay of Mandingmorry Productions. And another Gambian UK-based actor Lamin Tamba and is also very good and VV Chris they are all amazing artistes.

Also, I acted along with beautiful and handsome actors and actresses in The Gambia which include Sheik Omar Sawanneh, Mariama Colley, Fatou S Bojang – my sister and darling, Ida Mendy, Sheriffo Kanuteh, JJ, Binta Boye, they are award-winning actors and actresses and many others.

DT: How do you manage acting with work?

MDavies: Well, I created time for both not to affect each other.

DT: Many people in this field sing only one song that acting in the country is not bringing enough money. Can you tell us why?

MDavies: In other countries where the sector is growing institutions and companies, even television stations are supporting the industry, the actors/actresses, and their works. TV Stations will buy content from filmmakers for airing which at least could bring income for those producers that spend so much money when it comes to the production of their movies and their crews. But here in The Gambia, it is the opposite the television stations will want producers or filmmakers to go out with proposals and bring sponsors themselves and if lucky to get any you will come back to work out the percentages with that TV station. And as a filmmaker/producer, it is not easy to get sponsors on your own to meet the financial obligation of the production.

DT: Are there any movie promoters in destination Gambia promoting the good movies from the Smiling Coast of Africa?

MDavies: In the Gambia, the movie industry lacks movie promoters to enhance the visibility of the industry and practitioners. It is just the filmmakers and producers that do everything on their own. I have even mentioned the issue of promoting movies to one of the music promoters in the country. He once featured in one of the movie series produced in The Gambia and I am very sure he can promote Gambian movies too if he sits on a round table with some of the producers. Meanwhile, one of the filmmakers called Sheku S Kamara, the Creative Director of Dynamic Audiovisual Studios is working with other filmmakers and production outlets to have very powerful movies or series that will be a hit or change the narrative of the industry.

DT: You performed on stage in a literature book called The Lion and The Jewel adapted to a stage play by Ebunjan Theatre Association for a better understanding of the final year senior secondary school students. Tell us how you find the role you played in the performance.

MDavies: (Laugh) It was very challenging. When I was cast for the role I was having an injury on my kneecap so I couldn’t interpret the role to the extent I wanted to or as the role demanded. Because the character, Sadiku, should be doing certain movements like kneeling full, dancing on stage and so on which I couldn’t do to an extent because of the injury on my kneecap. Though I did it in a little way so that the audience who had read the book could understand it was difficult because I was in pain. Performing on stage is challenging but it is best for anyone to go professional. I really love the role and many acknowledged my performance.

DT: Among all the stage performances you have featured, which one is your favourite that you like and admire most?

MDavies: Hahaha, if I am to single it out, it is the one that is most challenging, The Lion and The Jewel and my role and the character I played, Sadiku, I sincerely love it.

DT: You have a greater challenge in the play because of your kneecap, so why do you love it?

MDavies: (Lol) The words, lines of Sadiku, and messages she was sending as a wife of King Barooka. More so, I love the character Sadiku played. That’s why I love it.

DT: What’s the feedback from the play and the feel of the crews?

MDavies: We were really proud of ourselves, especially after receiving positive comments about the performances from the students and their teachers apart from other spectators. At each performance, students come on stage to commend us thus it increased their knowledge and prepared them for their examinations. During the play, you can see some of them with their books repeating silently the lines that we were saying on stage.

DT: In the opposite of the role you like, what role do you hate playing?

MDavies: Any nude role or role that will expose part of my body, I will not play such a character no matter what it will take.

DT: Have you ever been cast for such a role before

MDavies: Yes, there was a time I was cast for such a role. It brought up an issue between me and a director who had cast me for the role. He gave me the script when I got home I went through it and there is a particular scene that warranted the character to drop a towel tying. Immediately after I read it I called the director to register my disinterest in that scene. But the director bent on his decision saying then ‘You are not an actress that wants to be an international actress.” I replied to him sorry I can’t do that and I dropped the job.

DT: You had the opportunity to act along with other foreign artistes, do you think they are perfect that our artistes can emulate?

MDavies: Apart from Nollywood actors and actresses having the opportunity, and exposure, to different schools of Theatre and arts, most of them perfect their acting skills compared to us here in The Gambia. Apart from the theatre or some of us using our natural talents, there is no school or institute to polish our talents. Well, there are some actors and actresses here overacting to the demands of their roles in the script. Perhaps, they want to show off or impress people when acting. Or, probably to be the best but forgetting acting is a teamwork that brought lots of crew together to make interesting and fantastic performance/work. Although experiences differ, it will be good if we try to avoid overzealously and go by the script and the person we are acting with.

DT: Some movie pundits always realized the overzealous in some of the Gambia homemade movies. Do you think the Gambian artistes, directors, producers, and writers observe this when some of the movie are premiering?

MDavies: Yes, when you go for premiere it is easy to know. So, there is a need to be yourself when acting or doing your work without being a copycat or imitating other people. Though there is nothing bad in using them for guidelines but copying from the beginning to the end is not too good, especially when it comes to speaking. They can easily perfect it than us because they have the learning places which we don’t have. There is a need to check all the units of the sector to make our movies more Gambian.

DT: Different from acting in the English language, have you been acting in other local languages

MDavies: I have not been acting in many movies speaking local languages, perhaps some feel my Wollof is not strong or I am not too good at speaking Wollof language. I speak Wollof not a conk one and also I have acted in a few movies where Wollof was the language used. Even in 2011, Alagie Manka recommended me to Haddy Nyang and Wagan where I participated in their movie series titled Inspector Wagan, the thriller is on YouTube, too. In Ramadan, I always feature in drama series with Fandimah Multimedia which is produced in Mandinka and blended with Aku languages. More so, I do some advertisements in Wollof language.

DT: We have not been seeing more of the Nollywood actors/actresses in the Smiling Coast of Africa like it used to be in the past, what’s your view about this

MDavies: Of recent, I have seen an award event held in The Gambia that some Nollywood stars attended including Francis Duru, Monalisa Chandu, among others. But before some of them flocked to The Gambia because former President Yahya Jammeh used to like them and they are always here to attend most of his events. Even without giving you anything but just attending or presenting at any President’s Event is an honour. And also, the filmmakers that are bringing them to the country are funding them with their own money so it is not as easy as you have to pay for their tickets, accommodate them, feed them, pay them, and take care of their logistics and so on.

DT: Can you name a few of the movies you have featured to date?

MDavies: We have Sarata, Karma/Diamond, Monica, Pain of Sorrow, Feel My Pain, and Gift From Babylon and they are all on YouTube.

DT: Give one of the difficulties faced when shooting a film in some environments in The Gambia

MDavies: Oops, one of them there was a scene I acted a character of a mad woman and in that scene, you will need some people around but can you imagine many people, especially the kids that started running away from me? They were thinking it is real madness. And there are some instances you are doing the outside shooting and taking excuses to give chance for a short period they will not mind you. Because they feel you cannot come to their abode to command or tell them what to do or not to do.

DT: Going by some of the stories and movies produced in the Gambia, do you think we are selling the Gambia culture and the country enough to the outsiders

MDavies: I doubted it. Though I’m not a student of history I don’t think we are selling our culture enough instead we are helping others to sell theirs. But I think our writers need more research on this and let us do something reflecting and promoting our culture and the country because we have many rich stories to promote the country.

DT: Tell us your happy and sad moments

MDavies: I always have happy moments the fact that some people appreciated me, some feel motivated by me as a mentor, seeing me as guidance, all make it a happy moment for me, which I do appreciate from bottom of my heart. When it comes to the sad moment, I will say the negative thinking of some people, lacks of belief and trust especially when something happened and it affected my relationship with someone that we are close this really makes me feel sad today though it is not something that happened intentionally it is hard and very hard.

DT: Where can your fans find you on social media?

MDavies: Facebook@Prudence Monica Davies. TikTok@Scorpio

DT: Your words of appreciation to your fans out there

MDavies: I just want to say I love you all so much, and I appreciate everyone colleagues, fans, friends, and family they are the ones making me strong and keep going. Thank you all while wishing you a Happy Easter and Koriteh in advance.

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Yunus S Saliu

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8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Binta Touray

    April 5, 2023

    So proud of you my auntie Monica
    She’s such a inspirator and a motivator to many young people including myself

    • Avatar

      Yunus S Saliu

      April 5, 2023

      Thanks for your beautiful comments, always read, share, subscribe DTourisphere for more latest stories…

    • Avatar

      Yunus S Saliu

      April 5, 2023

      Thanks for your awesome comments…. Always read DTourisphere…

    • Avatar

      Biba Barry

      April 5, 2023

      We all call her mummy. Because she plays that iconic mother role in our lives. Whenever things go wrong she is there to advice. Straightforward honest but very very kind. She is funny, jokes A Loot, like a lot. But don’t cross her line i love her for that. You can never find a second of her in the movie industry. I feel safe around her.

  2. Avatar

    Alassan Njie

    April 5, 2023

    This is an insightful interview. It is a pleasure reading it. You are indeed a great journalist leading the way for many young Gambians in the field of journalism. You gave simple and straightforward questions.

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