Isabella Akinseye is the CEO and Creative Director of Yellow Tamarind Production, a television production outfit. She is also the host of the TV show, Africana Literati. Africana Literati is an art, book and culture magazine show produced by Yellow Tamarind Productions which premiered in April 2016 on Africa Magic.
Prior to establishing her company, she was under the employment of Nestle, but she quit the job to follow her passion.
For Creative Girls: Hi Isabella, it’s so cool to meet a woman steering the Television Production stream. Can you tell us how you came into Television and every part of your story that has led to this moment?
Thank you. I grew up watching great TV and wanting to be on TV. As a child, I thought I would have to literally enter the television set to be on TV (laughs). There were so many shows both local and international that left an impression on me. You know we did not have the internet and social media and TV started in the evening on week days in Nigeria. I remember watching ‘Speak Out’ on TV and asked my mom to take me to NTA and she did. I never got on the show but it was only a matter of years when the opportunity would present itself. I represented my secondary school, Vivian Fowler Memorial College in competitions that were televised and the rest they say is history. I have had the opportunity to work in front of the camera as a presenter and behind, as a writer and producer. I have been in and out of television due to education and work commitments but in 2016, I set up Yellow Tamarind Productions and there is no turning back. Our flagship production, Africana Literati came on air in April 2016 and Season 2 is currently airing every Saturday at 11 am (WAT) on Africa Magic Family (DStv ch. 154; GOtv ch. 2).
Yellow Tamarind is an interesting name. What is the big picture behind and for Yellow Tamarind?
Thank you. The plan is to become a media conglomerate; TV, radio, print, online and education. World domination! We believe that content makes the world go round and our job is to create and promote great content for different media. In the next five years, our goal is to set up a TV station that will be focused on edu-taining content.
We love the Africana Literati concept. Why did you start Africana Literati and what are your plans? In your own view, in what ways can African Literature become widely read and imbibed into pop culture?
Thank you. I started Africana Literati to fill a gap. How many literary shows are out there? Very few. Africana Literati is not just a TV show, we are curating and documenting our history as it happens. My plans is for Africana Literati to be reproduced in different forms such as app, board game, merchandise, magazine, radio show, reading materials and so much more. African literature can become widely read if we had more shows such as Africana Literati. We have to market it just the way you would market a product. Then we need our writers to also step up and just the way it happened with our music, it would happen with our literature. We also need to erode this preconceived notion that literature is only for the elite. That is a lie from the pit of hell. We won’t stop till we are able to make it more accessible to every single person.
What does Television Production entail? What does every day look like for a TV producer?
That is a great question! A lot of thinking, researching, running around, emails, phone calls and of course, watching TV. You are constantly looking for ways to improve each production and coming up with ideas for new productions. TV producers are like project managers, they ensure that everyone plays their part and things go according to plan. I am also a presenter and writer so I think that has helped me as a TV producer because at least, I can control certain things and make sure the final product stays true to my original vision.
For anyone starting out in Television, what skills should the person acquire and what habits should they assimilate?
First of all, you have to like TV! And watch a lot of TV. That being said, you have to be hard working and have an open mind. Anything and everything can go wrong especially in Nigeria where you have to contend with power issues, so, you have to be able to think on your feet. Then it is important to watch your own work and listen to feedback both positive and negative. Finally, you have to have fun because creating content, especially for a TV audience can be a magical experience.
Storytelling is an interesting and massively open book. What holes have you seen in Storytelling, especially in Nigeria that you think people need to fill?
A lot. I think people expect a particular form of storytelling because that is what they have been used to. The idea of reality TV has disrupted that especially when the viewers get to contribute in one form or the other to the eventual story and how it is told. I think sometimes we like to dumb things down for our viewers but the Nigerian viewer is very intelligent. We also need to take risks and experiment. Who says they aren’t going to love it? You won’t know till you try.
What’s your definition of Creativity?
Authentic self-expression. Creativity is you. There are no rules. We are all different so my creativity is different from the next person’s and that is perfectly okay because we are all different!
We like to understand how creative women explore productivity, and we’d like to know how you stay productive every day. Do you have a routine you stick to?
I wish I did! As a creative, there are so many things you want to do. Honestly, every single day is different. I am attending a course at the Entrepreneurship Development Centre as a participant of the Diamond Bank Building Entrepreneurs Today (BET) 6. We have been taught that if our businesses are to be successful and outlive us then we have to put structures in place. So I am working on developing a routine so that when others need to step into my shoes (which hopefully, will be soon), it will be easy for them. I do try to write things down and work through a list but sometimes, a job comes up or a situation that needs to be attended to, and out goes the list! I do try to spend each day researching, writing, watching TV, learning and answering emails.
Do share your favorite websites, books and TV shows/productions.
That is hard. For websites, I love Bella Naija, YNaija, OloriSuperGal, Sabi News and my sites; Nolly Silver Screen and Africana Literati. Books, it will have to be the Bible. I do like reading a lot and I enjoy non-fiction especially books that help me improve in a certain skill or craft as well as fiction preferably African. Growing up, I was hooked on Enid Blyton, Sweet Valley High and historical romance novels (the thick ones). When it comes to TV, I’m a junkie because I am constantly getting ideas from different TV shows; watching TV is like going to school for me. For now, I am really into Hush (the show can do no wrong) and Sons of The Caliphate is growing on me. I love food shows like Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, Kitchen Casino, Kitchen Inferno… Okay let me just stop here before I start writing a dissertation.
3 women that inspire you?
Bola Atta, Biola Alabi and my mother, Mrs. Ndidi Osakwe.