Joke Silva (born 29 September 1961) is a Nigerian actress, director, and businesswoman. A graduate of the University of Lagos and Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, she began a career in film in the early 1990s. In 1998 she had a major role starred opposite Colin Firth and Nia Long in the British-Canadian film The Secret Laughter of Women. In 2006 she won “Best Actress in a Leading Role” at the 2nd Africa Movie Academy Awards for her performance in Women’s Cot, and “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” at the 4th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008 for her performance as a grandmother in White Waters. Silva is married to actor Olu Jacobs. The couple founded and operate the Lufodo Group covering film production and distribution assets and the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts, where she is Director of Studies. She is the also the pioneering managing director of Malete Film Village, in association with Kwara State University. On 29 September 2014, Silva received recognition as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, one of Nigeria’s National Honours Awards, at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
Silva was born in Lagos, into a family of four children. Her mother, Adebimbola Silva, a pioneering female doctor, died in July 2015. Her father was a lawyer. She attended Holy Child College in Lagos. At university she was part of a cultural group that included the playwright Bode Osanyin and the singer Stella Monye. Silva took a year off from her studies, during which time she began working as an actress. Silva then relocated to England, studying drama at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Initially her parents were opposed to Silva’s decision to go into the theatre but they soon began to support her, happy at the success she made of her career. During a slow period of her career, she returned to school, studying English at the University of Lagos.
Earlier roles (1990–2004)
Silva has starred in numerous films and television series in both the English and Yoruba languages. One of her earliest roles was in the 1990 English film Mind Bending. In 1993 she appeared in Owulorojo, followed by Violated in 1995. In 1998 she starred opposite Colin Firth and Nia Long in the British-Canadian film The Secret Laughter of Women, in which she portrayed Nene. Author Finola Kerrigan noted than Silva stood out as an exceptional actress in the Nigerian film industry after mentioning her role.
In 2002, Silva starred opposite Bimbo Akintola in Keeping Faith. Akintola later cited Silva, whom she refers to as “Aunty Joke”, as a major career influence, adding, “Silva has done a lot, but it’s not even about the things that she did, it’s about the things she didn’t realize that she did”. Also in 2002, Silva co-produced and starred in The Kingmaker with Olu Jacobs. This was followed by roles in pictures such as A Husband’s Wife (2003), Shylock (2004), and A Past Came Calling (2004).
Critical success (2006–present)
In 2006, Silva was awarded the “Best Actress in a Leading Role” at the 2nd Africa Movie Academy Awards for her role in Women’s Cot. Later that year, Silva starred opposite Genevieve Nnaji in Mildred Okwo’s action thriller 30 Days, which received 10 nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008. She also narrated for Jeta Amata’s Anglo-Nigerian production The Amazing Grace, which was shot in Calabar. The film was lauded by the critics, and was nominated for 11 African Movie Academy Awards. The News noted Silva’s “song-like voice, [which] provides insight to the actions”.
In 2007, Silva starred opposite Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Michael Okon and Fred Essien in Ndubuisi Okoh’s To Love and to Hold. Silva won Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for her “methodical portrayal of a grandmother” in White Waters (2007), though she was not at the ceremony to receive her award in person. In a November 2008 interview, Silva professed that “whenever she had to play an evil character in a film, she would pray and use Jesus as her ‘hedge'”. Silva is also the recipient of an EMOTAN Award from African Independent Television (AIT) and the SOLIDRA Award for Visual Art.
In 2011, Silva starred alongside Nse Ikpe Etim, Wale Ojo and Lydia Forson in Kunle Afolayan’s romantic comedy Phone Swap. Lauded by the critics, and one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year, it received four nominations at the 8th Africa Movie Academy Awards, including a nomination for Best Nigerian Film. It also won the award for Achievement in Production Design. In 2013, Silva took to the stage to appear in the Thespian Family Theatre and Productions staging of the “Mad King of Ijudiya” at the Agip Hall of Muson Centre of Lagos at Christmas. Two shows were put on at 3pm and 6pm on 21, 22, 28 and 29 December, which Vanguard described as a “rich blend of folklore, traditional dance and music that naturally transports the audience to a typical African village setting”.
UNITED NATIONS GOODWILL AMBASSADOR
In October 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime appointed Joke Silva a goodwill ambassador. In accordance with the UN policy of enlisting prominent figures in art, music, film, sport and literature to assist with their campaigns, Silva’s role was focused on her participation in the fight against human trafficking in Nigeria. Work fighting human trafficking was part of the “I Am Priceless” campaign, which had also received support from the Nigerian authorities. Silva’s appointment was for a period of three years.
Silva is married to veteran actor Olu Jacobs with two children. The couple met in 1981 at the National Theatre, Lagos during the 21st Independence anniversary.
Silva is Director of Studies at the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts, while her husband chairs it. Lufodo Academy is one of several assets the couple own as part of the Lufodo Group, including Lufodo Productions, Lufodo Consult, and Lufodo Distribution. Silva has curated for the Bank of Industry (BOI) in Theatre, Film, Documentary and Poetry and the 2012 London Olympics, and is also the pioneer managing director of Malete Film Village, in association with Kwara State University.
In addition to her work as an actress, Silva is a philanthropist and a strong supporter of women’s emancipation and empowerment, contributing to their education, training and progress.
On 29 September 2014, Silva was honoured as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, one of Nigeria’s national awards, at the International Conference Centre in Abuja. In September 2016 she was unveiled as the brand ambassador for AIICO Pension Managers Limited (APML).