Uncle Jimi Solanke is a man of many artistic parts – teacher, actor, singer, writer, fine artist, dramatist, multi-instrumentalist, children’s television presenter, film director and a key minister in the government of Professor Wole Soyinka in the Autonomous Republic of Ijegba.
We arrive his place.
It is typically like everything else about him – a free spirit, simple, very basic but functional structures, no frills. Everything here is some work of artistic expression, everything.
The large walled courtyard is uncompleted. A big stage with a background built with tree trunks and the scraped backs of trees is the first structure into the expansive compound. The theatre coming ahead of home. That is vintage Jimi Solanke.
Like the popular Coke advert, He eats, drinks and sleeps the Arts.
Tunde Kelani whispers to me, and I agree immediately, that Jimi is a man gifted to the world by the heavens, with the Creator of the Universe spending extra time making up this man without an ounce of the love of materialism in his veins.
He is contented with the simple things of life, and….Ipara is his new world. Uncle Jimi Solanke has no time for frivolities, luxuries and vain things. Give him the simplest things in life, give him the stage and he is fulfilled.
The man has one of the richest voices on earth.. He can speak and he can sing. He is a born actor made for both film and theatre, and a multi-instrumentalist to the bargain. He paints. He writes. He teaches.
Inside his uncompleted house the tables and benches are made from tree stumps and tree branches, with one or two plastic chairs complimenting the lone classic wooden Rocking Chair that surely is Baba Agba’s throne.
The whole place is strewn with books, and his art works litter the long, unpolished shelves of flat wood.
He tells us: ‘ I have been asking myself since I fixed the few things in this place what more is left for God to do for me?”.
He runs a quick look around the sparsely furnished room and declares: “God has done more than enough for me. This Coronavirus period has been a blessing. I had the time to come, stay here and build this place, with money I can’t claim to know where it came from. My wife supported with all her earnings here. It was like squeezing water out of stone. But see where we are now. Although there is no electricity yet in the house, I sleep here. Come and see”.
He shows us around the single furnished room, a tour that lasts only a few minutes at most.
Uncle Jimi learnt well the spartan way from his mentor and boss, Kongi, the man he refers to fondly, and with reverence, as ‘Iwin’.
That’s it. Our visit is complete. I have seen the great man and ‘drank’ my inspiration-portion from his simple words of wisdom and gratitude.
That’s the charge I needed in coming to see him again, and accept TK’s challenge to dare to conquer Nollywood as I have conquered the world of sport?
Jimshow, in his usual benevolence, presents TK and I with gifts of 3 of his original art works.
He then sees us to the car, and we are soon back on our way to Abeokuta to start the filming of a movie that has been threatening to put some butterflies in my stomach.
I am happy and ready. I look at TK as he concentrates, deep in thought on the exciting challenges that lie ahead.
I am reassuring myself. After Ipara, I am ready now! Nollywood, watch out!