“So many things have happened in my past life. It’s been like a movie and if I dwelled on it, I would not be here today.”
His name is Oluwaseyi Smith Bashorun, he is from Nigeria. We are in the same intake at Versatile School of Photography, he is studying Videography while I am learning Photography. Our paths hadn’t crossed until the field day where a friendly chat ignited a sharing of life’s’ unfolding.
“What kind of background would be so dramatic as to make you want to get into film?” I challenged him.
Honestly speaking, I was not prepared for what he would then share with me. He left me feeling every emotion that one could feel; from anger, hurt, disappointment to eventually hope and an insatiable belief that indeed, the best yet to come. Each one of us has building blocks that have shaped us into who we are and our most vulnerable blocks are not pretty. For Smith, they really do read like a movie. Now follow along to see if you agree…
With a different father from the rest of his siblings, Smith tells me that growing up was hard because his mum never gave him the same love and acceptance as the rest of his siblings. She seemed to project the pain that his estranged father had caused her to him. His mum’s militant upbringing also did not help the situation, the punishment was corporal and this brewed a hardening of heart inside him. He tells that his mum would beat him so much that he would sleep outside just to get away from her. At an early age, he was forced to hawk and was traumatized by all the unkind words he would get n the streets. Over time, a serious rift ensued between them as Smith felt as though he was all alone in the world, while his mum felt that he wouldn’t amount to much.
When he got to high school, a chance meeting with the Cinematographer of a local show in Nigeria called ‘Super Story’ saw him cast for a supporting role. He was ecstatic. During this time, he began to develop an interest in cameras and being shown in camera. One day, however, when shooting an episode that required him to be hanging around a dump site, he accidentally stepped on a sharp piece of broken glass and was badly hurt. Bleeding profusely, he was rushed to the hospital and though the production company compensated, apologized and paid all the preceding medical bills, his mum forbade him from taking part in acting ever again citing that he was only doing it for selfish reasons.
After high school, Smith tells me that he wanted to study media but, out of a blend fear of his mum and a desire to please her, he choose to study political science. Unbeknown to him, the tough, violent and corrupt higher learning environment in Nigeria would catch him right in the middle. He tells me that it was all about gangs and this would lead to violence and people killing each other. As a political science student also, he saw first-hand how older politicians fueled the riots through bribery and hiring of goons as a strategy to maintain loyalty. The lack of opportunities for youth in his country, Smith tells me, had only escalated the already bad situation. As fate would have it, one day after a casual college drinking spree, he found himself in the middle of a gang battle and was mistakenly shot at by a certain gang. He tries to explain to me the confusion, pain, and shock of the moment and I am only left to try and imagine. Incredibly, he muscled up the strength to get away from that situation and a Good Samaritan rushed him to a hospital. Seven bullets were later removed from him and he considers it a miracle that he is healthy and well today. A miracle, he muffles, that his mom doesn’t seem to recognize.
Now, Smith up till this point had a best friend who had, in her own way, preserved him, defended him and motivated him to keep going. That was his elder sister. “She would defend me from my mum,” he tells me. She was quite dear to him. His sister had always wanted him to study media and would provide for him when the need arose. Then one weekend she came home with a bad headache, Smith had wanted to leave but something seemed to keep him from going anywhere that weekend. She went on to die that Sunday. It left him shocked and distraught. He suspects it was suicide but he is never sure.
After that incident, nothing was the same again. An angry, wounded and fed-up Smith left home and university to hustle as he figured his next move. It was then that he reconnected with a high school buddy-of-his who was from a well-to-do family and who had moved to Ghana. His friend, Sly, invited him and helped him get finances to go to Ghana as well as employment while in Ghana. Sly brought a new lease of life, and Smith grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He also tells me that he only informed his mum of his intention to leave Nigeria at the night before leaving because he had grown tired of her discouragement over the years.
While in Ghana, he first enrolled in the National Film & Television Institution- Accra Ghana. (NAFTI), but found it was very expensive compared to Accra Film School. So he transferred there. He radiates a genuine smile as he tells me of how happy he was when he got the admission to join Accra Film School where he decided to study production as a whole. Life in Ghana was relaxed and wonderful and he managed to pass all his exams. There was a lecturer, Jeff Kuba, who inspired him a lot. He encouraged students studying cinematography to consider further learning out of West Africa to gain more exposure. It was from him that Smith learned about Versatile School of Photography and decided to contact them.
After a back and forth and a treacherous time gathering the needed finances, Smith was here in Kenya, expanding his knowledge, experience, and exposure. He tells me that since being here, he has learned a lot and gotten access a lot of additional valuable information. He has already been offered an internship after the course to which he is grateful for. Smith has a YouTube account by the name SPATAR-TV. He tells me that the name comes the word Spartacus, which he was nicknamed because he is very brave. He tells me that he finds Nairobi life slow compared to Lagos. He had received warnings about getting robbed when he came but he doesn’t think that it comes close to Lagos.
The accumulated time apart from his mum has allowed him to reflect and accept her for who she is. He hopes that one day they can patch up the broken pieces, for now, he is looking straight ahead and is working on going global.