Amina Muhammad, popularly known as Amina Amal, is a Cameroonian-born Kannywood actress. In an interview with Weekend Magazine, the 21-year old speaks on what motivated her to leave Cameroon to Nigeria, the role Adam Zango played in her acting career, and more. Excerpts:
Weekend Magazine: You were born and bred in Cameroon. What attracted you to Nigeria’s Kannywood?
Amina Amal: I have some relatives in Yola of Adamawa state, but I don’t have relatives in the city I am currently living in, which is Kaduna.
While in Cameroon years ago, I was in my neighbor’s house and she was watching a Hausa film titled ‘Hubbi’. Before then I didn’t watch Hausa films. However, I stayed to enjoy the film because of the lead actor, Adam Zango. I used to watch his music videos on You Tube. That was how I fell in love with Hausa movies. I started imagining myself as lead actress in the film. I soon began to think of how to become an actress. But I realised there was no film industry in Cameroon.
WM: What triggered your decision to come to Nigeria?
Amal: The day I finished watching the movie titled ‘Hubbi’, I went back home and was unable to sleep that night. I was thinking of how I would convince my parents to allow me come to Nigeria to act. I couldn’t find an answer that night, but for almost a month I kept dreaming that I was acting.
I later spoke to my mother about my intention. She wasn’t happy and asked if I was mentally ill so they could take me to the hospital. When she told my father, he too didn’t agree.
WM: So, you came to Nigeria without their permission?
Amal: No, I finally came to Nigeria with their approval. But I had a bumpy ride before I convinced them. It reached a stage where anytime I was conversing with my parents, it would be on Kannywood and my favourite actor, Adam A. Zango.
After series of meetings, they finally agreed to allow me come to Nigeria. Their approval sparked outcry from my relatives in Cameroon. They said I would tarnish the image of their family because the industry is for wayward people. But I promised them that I would behave well and wouldn’t do anything that would tarnish the image of our family. It was after the meeting that my parents gave me money to come to Nigeria.
WM: What was it like when you finally arrived Nigeria?
Amal: It was hectic and quite challenging. I knew nobody. To make matters worse, I don’t speak Hausa. Communication was a herculean task. My first destination was Abuja where I communicated in English. I then boarded a commercial vehicle to Kaduna, because I wanted to join Kannywood through Adam Zango. I know Zango was living in Kaduna through his songs, because in his songs he used to mention Kaduna. So, I searched for Kaduna on the internet and understood it was a city in northern Nigeria. The irony is that most people in northern Nigeria speak Hausa.
WM: How did you learn how to speak in English?
Amal: In Cameroon the official language is French and my native language is Fulfulde. When I started thinking of coming to Nigeria, I enrolled in a linguistic centre that teaches all languages of the world. I didn’t enrol in Hausa classes because I didn’t want to lose focus. I wanted to be able to communicate in English before I learn how to speak in Hausa.
WM: How long did it take you to meet Zango in Nigeria?
Amal: I spent about three months before I met Zango.
WM: What transpired between you two when you met?
Amal: The first day I met him, I was excited. We met through someone close to him. That day Zango was in Kaduna and ready to see me. I was taken to him. When I saw him, I asked him if he was Zango and he said, “I am the one, are you not seeing me?” I apologised and said it was due to excitement. He laughed and asked me the purpose of my visit. I told him I left Cameroon to Nigeria in order to act and he was the main reason I came to Nigeria. I told him I am his number one fan in Cameroon. I communicated with him in English and he said since I don’t understand Hausa, how can I act in Hausa? I urged him to give me five months to learn Hausa and he promised that if I learn Hausa within five months, we would act together in my first film.
WM: Were you able to learn Hausa within the stipulated five months?
Amal: I learnt how to speak in Hausa in less than five months, but not fluently. But now I can speak fluently. Zango was happy when I spoke to him in Hausa when I met him again.
WM: How would you describe your first day on-set?
Amal: My first film was ‘Amal’, and that’s where I got the nickname ‘Amina Amal’. I acted the film together with Zango, as he promised. The script of the film was given to me six months before the shooting commenced. The day the script was given to me, I didn’t sleep. I was happy and excited. I read the script and rehearsed at home. I did that for almost six months, so I knew more than half by heart. My first day onset was perfect.
WM: How many films have you starred in so far?
Amal: I starred in about eight films. They include ‘Amal’, ‘Hisabi’, ‘Matan Aure’, ‘Abu Hassan’, ‘Basaja Gidan Yari’ and ‘Ramlat’, among others.
WM: Out of these, which is your favourite?
Amal: ‘Amal’ is my favourite, it was my first film and it was the one that announced my arrival in Kannywood. It shaped my acting career and I got my nickname in the industry from the film.
WM: What is your reaction to the rumour that you are having a love affair with Kannywood producer, Abu Sarki?
Amal: No, I don’t have any love affair with producer Abu Sarki. In fact, Abu Sarki and Adam Zango are my godfathers in Kannywood. Abu Sarki treats me like his biological sister. He gave me shelter and comfort when I needed it the most. I know a lot of people were thinking we were lovers but we aren’t lovers. We are professional colleagues.
WM: Now that you are one of the most sought-after actresses in Kannywood, can you say that you have realized your dream?
Amal: My dream of becoming an actress has been achieved, but I still have a long way to go. I want to write my history in gold like Hadiza Gabon and Fati Muhammad.
WM: What are some of the challenges you are facing in Kannywood?
Amal: So far, I don’t face any challenge. I have people like Abu Sarki and Adam Zango that have my back anytime and any day.