He is an actor and one of the few people in this country today who absolutely need no introduction. Yet the name by which he is known does not belong to him. Waakye.
Prince Yawson lost his real name when he started acting many years ago. Recounting how he got the name ‘Waakye’ which is the name of apopular rice and beans dish, the man who has also come to be known as ‘Baba’ in recent times following his role in the popular series Chorkor Trotro said that he adopted the name himself as a stage name.
‘At first, I chose the Hausa language name for groundnuts but the pronunciation sounded like the name of our President then, Busia. So my colleagues Station Master and Maame Dokono suggested that I took a different name and I chose Waakye and since then, I have been known by that name by the public’, he said.
For many people who are familiar with the comedy scene in Ghana, the name Waakye is not only synonymous with comedy but also with a person who has carved a niche for himself for his potrayal of a local watchman on stage and on television.
Especially his ability to mimic the accent of a Northerner made him the toast of many TV theatre lovers in the past.
After taking a break from comedy acting for some years now, Waakye is both happy and sad about developments in the art. He regrets that a good number of the new crop of comedy actors have adopted insults as their way to make people laugh.
Waakye told Showbiz last Monday that even though he is impressed by the recognition that has been accorded comedians in recent times, his only worry has been the use of insults as part of comedy.
‘I am really happy that the younger ones who came after me are really raising the bar but my only worry is that, it seems that if you are not able to insult very well, then you are not a comedian,
‘I am not disregarding anybody’s talent but during my active days, I hardly saw the use of derogatory remarks or comments about people as part of comedy. But now, the situation is different.
We seem not to know what to say to please our audience.
‘ Anytime I watch a movie and I see some of the young people insulting others in the name of acting, I regret how we have thrown our culture away because of acting. Yes, I know insults are demanded in some situations but it gets bad when it gets to the personal level. That is what I am against’ he said.
Looking back on his career, Waakye said that he never dreamt that he would come this far but after almost two decades, he can look back to the years of toil, pain, hunger and smile at the outstanding measure of success comedy has achieved.
Waakye is one who would rather not discuss his age. ‘There is a lot of mystery around the Waakye character that I am not ready to let people find out. I hear so many things about my private life which are not true. I am sure the myth will be broken when my children tell my story after my death. For now, I just want to be known as forever young’.
Until he was featured in Chorkor Trotro, most people didn’t know that Waakye could speak flawless Twi. ‘Many people thought i could not speak twi well because they thought I was of Northern descent but I guess that was one of my myths that has now been broken’ he said.
Asked of his educational background, Waakye who spoke the English language fluently was rather hesitant to comment on it. ‘It is another of my myths but the only thing that I can say is that, I have ‘tasted’ the classroom both as a teacher and student for many years’.
For now, Waakye’s major worry as far as the development of theatre in Ghana is concerned is over the lack of investment in the creative arts particularly in drama and theatre.
‘If we want the new generation to get to appreciate our cultural heritage and values, it has to come through drama. But we have allowed foreign movies to take the better part of our entertainment sector and now; you can even hear a Member of Parliament say ‘tofiakwa’ instead of ‘Nyame mpa ngu’. We are blindly copying foreign culture because we have relegated drama and theatre to the background.
‘I don’t want to sound political but I think after Nkrumah, no government has given much recognition to theatre and its development but I can say that, if we really want to develop as a nation, then we need to pay attention to theatre. Apart from its entertainment value, we can also use theatre as a tool to educate and inform the public on various issues’ he said.
A native of both Ekumfi Otuam where his mother hails from and Winneba, Waakye shot into fame during the popular TV Drama series ‘Obra’. Then the face of TV comedy, he later starred in movies like Ogboo and Man Woman. He has also featured in most of Harry Laud’s productions and series like Jagger Pee series and the Living Arts Show.
Surprisingly, he practiced journalism for a while where he served as the regional correspondent and Marketing Officer for Kumasi based radio station Kess FM.
What of family? ‘I am a divorcee and have two lovely girls and now, I am learning the act of producing a boy’ he said amidst laughter.
He said though he took a break from movies following his busy schedules, he is ready to treat viewers to his own TV Comedy show which is in the offing.
By Gifty Owusu-Amoah
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