Famalam’s Actress, Ikulemo, Brings Blackness to Screen


By Vanessa Obioha

The year started well for UK-based Nigerian actress and filmmaker Gbemisola Ikulemo who won a British Academy Television (BAFTA) award in the category Short Form Programme for her mini-series ‘Brain in Gear’.

Apart from clinching the award for the series which she starred in, Ikulemo was nominated in the Best Female Performance category for another creation of hers, ‘Famalam’.

‘Famalam’ brings to the screen a delightful mix of characters that transcends cultures and celebrates blackness.

“Famalam has often felt like a black British, African Diasporan, Caribbean Tapas of comedy,” says the actress, adding that: “There is a unique sense of humour running through a collective of African Diasporic voices drawing from their roots whilst also giving it a uniquely British spin. For me, my Nigerian influences are a part of me. And so those things that are inside of us, can’t help but make their way into our art.”

Born in Ondo State but migrated to the UK as a child, Ikulemo connects with her heritage even miles away from her place of birth.

“Even in the UK, the Nigerian community is a prominent one and I always find myself surrounded by Nigerian friends.”

Starring a host of black actors such as Tom Moutchi, Vivienne Acheampong, Samson Kayo, ‘Famalam’ celebrates blackness with its multi-layered themes that shed lights on misconceptions about the continent. With the rise of black sketch comedy on UK screens, Ikulemo who starred and co-directed the TV show notes the importance of bringing blackness to the small screen.

“It’s important for black joy and black laughter to light up our screens. It’s important for the world at large to experience that. To see that blackness can also equal to joy, can also mean excellence and fun. That blackness is not just one thing as so often shown on our screens. It’s also important that we get to tell our own jokes just like other groups get to. That we get to reflect on our own experiences and critique them or shine a light on them which is what I believe to be a gift of comedy.”

‘Famalam’ is currently streaming on Showmax.