Dancing for three days non-stop put Kafayat Shafau-Ameh, popularly known as Kaffy, in the Guinness Records Book in 2006. In this interview with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS, the Nigerian dance queen shares the memories of her record dance, concerns for the dance industry, reasons she married a younger man and struggle to become successful in life.
Were you a tomboy while growing up?
I am naturally a tomboy. But when I want to dress like a lady, I do and people see me.You can see me tomorrow wearing ‘iro and buba’ and see me on another day in a mini skirt.
Do you think you can repeat the act that earned you that acclaimed record in the Guinness Book?
Yes, if my son is dying and they say it is the only way he could survive. I need an incentive that is stronger than money to attempt it again. The incentive cannot be breaking it again to prove that I can break it.
At the time, dance was nowhere and Nigeria was getting bad press because of the regime. I had reasons to nearly die for something, I nearly died. It was not funny and the recovery stage took weeks. Remember, I danced forthree days.
During the competition,people were dropping I must not lose seven members of my team and I did not know their abilities and fitness levels.We formed dance competitions andmany things just to engage everyone. The moment you take a break, they would count a few seconds for you to continue or go out. It was Ramadan period; I fasted for the first night but no way could I have continued unless I wanted to die. During the exercise, the time also became slow.
How was the recovery stage?
It was terrible. After the competition, I did not feel my legs again. We left the floorlike zombies; you know we all had to leave at the same time.When I went home,I got a nurse to come giveme vitamins but they couldn’t see my veins.
I couldn’t sleep for three weeks. Even days afterthe competition,IrealisedthatI was still dancingunnecessarily.Theday sleep came, I was on a motorcycle in Victoria Island, Lagos. On the bike, I slept off; I was seated in-between. They had to stop and we took a taxi.When I got home,I sleptfor almost three days. I was only able to sleep well a month afterthe event. The organisers didn’t help us too; they only gave us lucozade andother energydrinks the thirdday.Theygaveus coffee thefirst day. Some people who took drugs started reacting funny, which made them to be disqualified.
Marrying an older person for a woman is not fashionable in Africa. Were you worried about this when you met your husband?
He did not toast me. We were just friends; he was in my friend zone before we developed feelings for each other. I noticed that I began to feel jealous when a random girl sat on his laps. I cannot say I was complaining, but it happened.
Do you want to tell me maturity comes with age?My husband displayed character that I expected from an older man. I never knew his age until we started dating because he didn’t act his age. A lot of younger men do better in relationships with older women. The relationship is better managed because some men cannot align with the thoughts of younger girls. Mostly, older women are on the same level with them mentally.
The Bible says he who finds a wife, finds a good thing. Finding means that you are seeking for certain things and you are looking for a way to find it. When you find it, you obtain favour. For me, God never defined it from the angle of age, but from the angle of companionship,mind-set and what makes us become one.Knowing yourselves has nothing to do with age.
With your busy schedule, do you still find time to cook?
As far as I am home and I am not too tired, I cook. Whenever I am tired, my nanny does the cooking. But when my husband wants me to cook,I do it. He does notlike any other person cooking for him. Why do you love tattoos? I do not love tattoos; I have just two of them. One symbolises the tough times in my life when I really fell low and deep. I had to battle with life to be appreciated and be myself again. After feeling like a warrior who conquered and won a battle, I wanted something symbolic for that victory. I do not need to tell you; it is personal. The otheris my philosophy to life – dream, believe, dare and do it.
Looking at your growth as a dancer, would you say you are talented or lucky?
I would choose the word – blessed and filled with grace. My talent is not nearly as good as some people’s neither is my luck the best in the world, but I am filled with grace and I can identify God’s hand in my life. If the little I know can make me take over the world,it tells you that it can only be God. For me,I am just blessed and filled with God’s grace.
Why are dancers divided? Truly, dancers are not unified because there are no structures in place. That is why it was stupid of a boy to standupagainstme whenI spoke bitterly about Davido last year because I was fighting a cause for dancers.If he had a personal beef with me, he should not come on air and speak against me when I was fighting for a general cause. Davido insulted his industry and he backed him up.
I have not forgotten about the boy; I am waiting for him. He would reap what he has sown. He lacks understanding; if he understood what he did, he would understand that he spat on the face of an entire industry. We need to protect each other even though we do not like each other.
With the forthcoming dance workshop, we are trying to portray unity as well. If the elders are untied,it would help the young too because some of the problems are from the top. All because we like to gather followers on time, we talk against one another. If you are fighting and you are rich, it is okay. When you are fighting and you are poor,itis bad.Despite being the almighty Kaffy, I don’t have money to buy a Prado Jeep of my choice and you expect me to be fighting the younger ones? So, I think the beef is uncalled for. The fight for supremacy is just about one person trying to tell someone that he or she dances better. We need to understand that the progress of a brand has nothing to do with your skill ortalent. It has everything to do with your attitude towards work.
What went wrong between you and Davido?
When I hired American-based dancers for Davido and he unprofessionally treated them,I had to voice out. I had no personal problems with Davido and he had no mind to disrespect me personally. But he disrespected a business transaction, which got me annoyed.
Are there no dance associations?
There is Guild of Nigerian Dancers and there is one I plan to establish too. Having an association does not mean it has been functioning enough to unite dancers. But I think things will change soon. If one dancer is blacklisted for misbehaving, nobody should be able hire him or her, if there are structures.
You seem to be so passionate about the dance industry…
Yes, I do.And the truth is that if we don’t start to put things in place,we might fade out of existence in the next decade and Nigerian dancers might not be getting jobs again. People abroad are very aware of afro-beats and some even dance it better than we do. Before we know it, our artistes would begin to hire dancers abroad. Nigerian dancers need to realise that this is a job and they should stop the self-entitlement and take every job seriously like it was their first, for continuity sake. We need to understand business management and development. The Dance Workshop would enable dancers evolve into dance brands. You need to give back to your craft, industry and people. Don’t just beef Kaffy because you believe you can dance better than she does? There are a lot of people that can dance better than I can, but how can they develop into brands? This is one of the tools I want to use to expose our dance culture to the world