One of the strongest voices in the Nigerian movie industry, Joke Silva is a Nollywood veteran who is regarded as one the most influential women in Nigerian cinema. Currently a 59 year old woman, Joke has been in the industry for over 30 years, having kick-started her acting career since the early 1990s. Over the years, she has endeared herself to so many people and has risen to become one of the most popular Nigerian faces on TV.
Joke Silva, alongside other veterans like Patience Ozokwor, is widely regarded as one of the greatest Nigerian actresses of all time. She is a well-grounded actress who has starred in dozens of Nollywood movies since her career began. She is also a theatre actress, having also done a lot of acting work on stage. She has helped in grooming many aspiring actors and actresses to find themselves and become more confident with their acting skills. She is also the recipient of many awards and recognitions for her incredible work in the film industry. Joke has further demonstrated her undying relevance in the industry by remaining very visible in Nollywood more than three decades after her debut as an actress in the 1990s.
Joke Silva’s Parents Were Eminent Nigerians
Joke Silva was born on the 29th day of September 1961 in the city of Lagos. This was also where she grew up with her family and had her education. Silva’s parents were eminent Nigerians who were highly respected in society. In fact, her mother was the distinguished Dr. Adebimbola Silva, a medical practitioner who was actually the third female doctor in Nigeria. Joke Silva’s mother was so eminent that she was honored with an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) title in 1979.
Also, her father was Chief Emmanuel Afolabi Silva, a very reputable lawyer who was also the then Babajiro of Lagos. Apparently, Joke Silva’s parents were well to do and this meant that she was well catered for as a child and was given the best opportunity to thrive in the city of Lagos where she lived. It is noteworthy that Joke Silva is an adopted child.
Silva Never Knew She Was Adopted Until She Was 10
Joke Silva is not a biological child of Chief Emmanuel Afolabi Silva and his wife, Dr. Adebimbola Silva. She was adopted. However, she didn’t know this until she was about 10 years old. And she only found out by accident because her parents were protecting her from knowing these facts.
The actress first revealed that she is an adopted child in December 2017 at the first Annual Conference of Heritage Adoption Support and Advocacy Group (HASAAG) in Lagos. According to her, she was adopted from a foster home that was run by the Red Cross in Lagos. She was about 5 years old when she moved in with the Silva family and she immediately became drawn to them. She recollected some really fond memories of her childhood days when she would read from newspapers to her father and making them proud when she took part in school plays and they came to watch.
She also told the story of how she found out she was adopted. It happened when her mother’s sister wanted her (Joke) to travel with her to Kenya when she was about 10 years old. So, she asked Joke to get her passport to enable them to travel. Incidentally, her mother was not around at the time, so Joke Silva was asked to go and get the passport from where her mother kept important documents.
When she got to the big suitcase that had all the important documents carefully kept by he mother, Joke Silva found her passport there, as expected. She also made an unexpected discovery; her adoption certificate. The revelation she made shattered her. She was very young but she was also a very smart girl and she understood immediately that she was not a biological child of the Silvas. However, despite the revelation, her relationship with the Silvas was not in any way touched.
Even though she felt very vulnerable and shattered at first after making the finding, she later warmed up to her parents. She also revealed that the Silvas made sure that they protected her. Even in their wills, they protected her by inserting a clause all their children whether adopted or biological should be treated equally.
Who Are Her Siblings?
It is also noteworthy that Joke Silva is not the only child of the Silvas. Chief Emmanuel Afolabi Silva and Dr. Adebimbola Silva actually had four children and Joke Silva is one of them. However, not much is known about the rest of the children as Joke is the only famous one among them. Joke Silva has occasionally talked about how much she was shown love by the Silvas and how much she was given space to operate as freely as anyone could.
Silva once revealed that she is the first daughter in the home of the Silvas and that even when she was a lot younger, she carried the responsibility of a first daughter. According to her, everybody in the family could not take any decision until she had come around. She also explained that even though she knew her parents adopted her, she can’t call them her adopted parents because they are parents.
Even though not much is known about Joke Silva’s siblings, we, however, do know that she lost a sister called Bisi Silva to cancer on February 12, 2019. Bisi was in her mid-fifties. Also, Joke Silva’s mother passed away on July 19, 2015, at the age of 89 years.
Joke Silva Began Acting Drama In Primary School
Joke Silva has always had a flair for acting. In fact, she began to act on stage when she was still very little and in primary school. She revealed that she attended the St. Saviour School in Lagos. While there, she took part in school dramas and got quite good at it. In fact, her parents used to come over to the school to watch her act. She was so good that he parents, who were usually there in the audience to watch her, would be congratulated by other parents over her acting skills.
Eventually, when it was time for her to go to secondary school, her parents insisted that she had to attend Holy Child College, a catholic secondary school for girls in Lagos. This was mainly because Holy Child College was where some very prominent Nigerian actresses, including Julie Coker, Pearce Olusola, and Ibidun Allison studied. They felt with the kind of acting talent that Joke Silva had, she should attend a college that other great actresses also attended.
Her Parents Didn’t Want Her To Act Professionally
Interestingly, even though they were very excited that she knew how to act, Joke Silva’s parents did not want her to act professionally. They only wanted her to act as a hobby. When she told them of her plans to act professionally, they didn’t like it at first. But they were considerate and asked her to take a year off after her A-levels in order to think and really get a grasp of what she wanted to do with her life.
So, after she finished Holy Child College with a Senior School Certificate, she took the year off as instructed and got more involved in acting. She got to meet fellow aspiring actors with whom she began to land acting gigs on stage. This period was a defining one for her because it helped increase her resolve to take acting as a profession. During that one-year gap, she landed some acting gigs both on stage, on television, and on the radio as well.
When her parents realized that this was what she really wanted to do with her life, they accepted it and decided to send her to England where she would train formally and become a better actress. Subsequently, she relocated to England and enrolled at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London where she studied drama.
While she was still in London, Joke Silva occasionally landed some acting gigs, especially during the holidays. She took part in some BBC radio plays and also took part in stage plays. In fact, she actually landed a role in a play at the Royal Court theatre in England during her final year in school.
Joke Silva’s Earliest Nollywood Roles
When Joke Silva returned to Nigeria after her studies, her journey in Nollywood properly started. One of her earliest roles was the 1993 drama movie, Owulorojo. In 1995, she scored a role in the movie, Violated. The same year, she acted in the movie called Silent Night.
At first, things were working just fine for Joke Silva, however, in the mid-90s, she suddenly stopped landing roles. She was not getting any jobs and this surprised and worried her. This was at a time when the industry transitioned from celluloid to video. However, she still got jobs at the National Theater and was taking part in stage plays but TV and film were all gone.
During this period, she decided to go back to school. So, she enrolled at the University of Lagos for a Bachelor’s degree in English. Incidentally, while she was at the University of Lagos, the jobs began to come back and she started landing roles again. In fact, it was the money she got from these jobs that she used to see herself through school. Soon, she was fully back in the movie business in the late ’90s.
In 1999, she scored the role of Nene in the comedy/drama film, The Secret Laughter of Women, alongside popular American actress Nia Long and English movie star Colin Firth.
Her Breakthrough Came In The Early 2000s
Joke Silva got her big break in the early 2000s with thrilling appearances in popular Nollywood films. In 2002, she made some waves with her work in the drama film, Keeping Faith: Is That Love? The next year, she starred in The Kingmaker before landing a role in Last Wedding in 2004. At this time, she was gradually becoming quite a sensation around Nigeria with her stunning acting skills.
However, she became a really big deal in 2005 when she appeared in the movie, Women’s Cot. The same year, she reprised her role in Women’s Cot 2 and Women’s Cot 3. Joke Silva’s acting in the Women’s Cot series was so appealing that she ended up winning the Africa Movie Academy Awards for Best Actress in a leading role for her work.
In 2006, she played Maria Davies in The Amazing Grace, a British Nigerian historical drama film written by Jeta Amata. Her role in the movie got her a lot of praise. The movie itself did very well. It was hailed by critics and was nominated for 11 African Movie Academy Awards. The same year, Silva starred in Mildred Okwo’s action-thriller 30 Days alongside Nigerian screen goddess, Genevieve Nnaji. The movie did so well and even received 10 nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008.
In 2007, she starred in White Waters, a drama movie that was so popular it won four awards at the 4th African Movie Academy Awards. Joke Silva won so much praise for her work in the movie and ended up winning the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress award in a Supporting Role. In 2009, she played Georgina in 5 Apostles before landing the role of Lola’s Mum in Tango with Me in 2010.
Why Joke Silva Is Not Going Away Soon
By the turn of the decade in 2011, Joke Silva had already spent more than 20 years in Nollywood. She was already a veteran in the business. However, it appeared she was just getting started. In 2011, she starred in Kunle Afolayan’s romantic comedy Phone Swap, alongside other tops stars like Nse Ikpe Etim, Wale Ojo, and Lydia Forson. The movie was highly anticipated and did very well, bagging as many as four nominations at the 8th Africa Movie Academy Awards. The next year, she appeared in Married but Living Single.
In 2013, Silva demonstrated her flawless ability to act in theatre productions after she took to the stage to appear in the Thespian Family Theatre and Productions staging of the “Mad King of Ijudiya”. The show took place at the Agip Hall of Muson Centre of Lagos at Christmas and was hailed by lovers of theatre. In 2017, she played Mama Egba in the TV series, Battleground: Africa Magic. The same year, she appeared as Mrs. Wilson in Potato Potahto and as Augustina in The Royal Hibiscus Hotel. In 2018, Ms. Silva made quite a lot of waves with her performance as Lady Kay Beecroft in Chief Daddy, a comedy-drama film alongside top stars like Nkem Owoh, Funke Akindele, Kate Henshaw, Richard Mofe-Damijo, and many others. The same year, she played Grandma Nadia in Kada River and Mrs. Doherty in Bandits.
In 2019, Joke Silva played the role of Aisha Dalhatu in Diamonds in the Sky before bagging the role of Mrs. Elesho in The Set Up that same year. In 2020, she starred in one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Citation, which starred top names like Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, Ini Edo, and Sadiq Daba. A year later in 2021, Silva appeared in another huge production, Namaste Wahala, a Nigerian cross-cultural romantic comedy film that was hailed as the first major collaboration between Bollywood and Nollywood. The movie starred many top stars, including Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ini Dima-Okojie, Ibrahim Suleiman, Osas Ighodaro, and others.
Joke Silva’s most recent exploits have shown that even though she has been in the industry for more than 30 years, she is not about to leave the scene just yet. Many more great projects are expected to come from the woman who has given just about everything to Nigerian cinema.
She Has Bagged Many Awards and Recognitions
As expected, Joke Silva has won several awards for her work in Nollywood. Below are some of the awards and recognition she has received over the years.
- In 2006, she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in Women’s Cot.
- In 2008, she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in White Waters.
- She is also the recipient of an EMOTAN Award from African Independent Television (AIT) and the SOLIDRA Award for Visual Art.
- In 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime appointed Joke Silva a goodwill ambassador.
- In 2014, the actress was honored as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic, one of Nigeria’s National Honours.
- In 2015, she was honored with the City People Movie Lifetime Achievement Award
- In 2016, she was honored with the Africa Movie Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement
- In 2018, she won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Potato Potahto
Joke Silva Is Married To A Nollywood Legend
It has always been said that birds of a feather flock together and this can be said of Joke Silva and the man she is married to. The actress is not just a Nollywood legend herself, she is also married to another Nollywood legend called Olu Jacobs.
Joke Silva’s husband is one of the most admired Nigerian thespians ever and is regarded to be one of the greatest actors of all time. He has starred in more than 200 movies and has assumed the status of a godfather in Nollywood. He has been in the industry for over 50 years and is a widely respected African actor of his generation. Olu Jacobs is widely regarded to be a national treasure and a cultural icon.
How They Met Each Other
The story of how Joke Silva and Olu Jacobs first met is quite an interesting one. The couple first met each other in 1981 at the National Theatre, Lagos. It was during the 21st Independence anniversary and actors were converging to enact a play on stage. Talking about how it happened, Olu Jacobs once explained that he had just returned from England where he had spent many years starring in British TV series and other movies. He was at the National Theatre and was having a management meeting with other actors for the play when Joke Silva walked in. For the record, they were preparing to stage Wole Soyinka’s play, Jero Metamorphosis.
Olu Jacobs said he was so taken by Joke’s beauty, charisma, and pure class that he just knew she was the one to be his wife. He quickly told the people around him, including the director. He explained that he was not in any relationship at the time because his heart had just been broken by a woman and he was taken some time off relationships to feel better, but when he saw Silva, he couldn’t help but desire her for a wife.
Eventually, he got to talk to Silva and one of the first things he told her was that she was going to be his wife. Joke Silva didn’t like this very much because she felt no man should just profess marriage to a woman on first meeting. However, they became friends and got really close as they worked together on plays and in movies.
Eventually, Olu Jacobs proposed to her and she agreed to marry him. He proposed to her in Tunisia where he was shooting a movie. She had come to join him there on her way to England so he used the opportunity to propose to her. Eventually, they tied the knot as husband and wife in 1986 and have been together ever since.
The Road Has Not Always Been Rosy
Today, the union of Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva is a shining example that celebrity marriages can indeed stand the test of time. However, just like every other couple, they have also had their own storms and trials. Their marriage has largely been filled with peace and joy but it has not been a rosy journey all through.
During an interview with PREMIUM TIMES in 2018, Joke Silva explained that she and Jacobs have had their issues and that they have had weather storms from time to time in their marriage to keep things going. She revealed one instance when she had to pack out of his house. According to her, they had just had their baby and she was at home but Jacobs was on location shooting a movie. When he returned, he was still in the character that he had just played on set so while they were talking, he suddenly began to shout at her. This enraged Silva so much that she packed her things and moved to her parent’s home. They eventually made up. She also revealed that this was not the only time she moved out of the house but each time she came back.
According to her, despite the minor challenges they have faced one time or the other, her marriage to Olu Jacobs has been generally filled with pure bliss and they have grown to become best friends over the years.
They Run Their Own Company Together
Joke Silva and her husband run a company together called the Lufodo Group. The couple established the company in 1985 as a stage and film production company. As the years went by, the company grew and evolved into a media company. It was eventually incorporated on the 25th of September 2000 as a full-fledged media and entertainment services company.
Today, Olu Jacobs serves as the Executive Chairman of the Lufodo Group while Joke Silva serves as the Executive Director of the company. The Lufodo Group now has several companies under it, including the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts, Lufodo Consult, Lufodo Productions, and Lufodo Distribution.
It is noteworthy that Joke Silva is also the pioneer managing director of Malete Film Village, in association with Kwara State University.
Who Are Their Children?
The marriage between Joke Silva and Olu Jacobs has produced three children. Their first child was a daughter called Dayo Jacobs. Sadly, Dayo died when she was just about 10 years old. The girl was in a coma and on life support for some time before she was removed from the machine on the approval of Silva’s mother.
Their second child is a man called Olusoji Jacobs. He is now a General Manager at his parents’ company, Lufodo Group. Their third child is another male called Olugbenga Jacobs. He graduated from the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in July 2021.