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I Was Once A Cobbler – Yoruba Actor, Sanyeri Opens Up On His Journey To Acting

Olaniyi ‘Sanyeri’ Afonja, a prominent figure in Nollywood, recently opened up about the challenges he faced before achieving recognition as an actor. In an interview, Sanyeri shared the hardships he endured, shedding light on his journey from secondary school to becoming a well-known Yoruba actor.

Sanyeri revealed that after completing his secondary school education, he initially struggled to find a job. Turning to the world of theatre, he faced financial difficulties, not receiving payment even when he assisted theatre groups by carrying their costumes.

To make ends meet, Sanyeri learned the trade of shoe repair and became a cobbler. Despite these efforts, he continued to face challenges and decided to seek better opportunities in Lagos. However, his acting endeavors were still not yielding income.

Undeterred, Sanyeri became a mobile cobbler, carrying his materials in a wooden box on his shoulder. He traversed Idumota, hitting the wooden box to attract attention and offer his cobbling services. In order to overcome stereotypes and biases, he covered his face with a handkerchief, concealing his tribal marks.

The actor recounted how he faced skepticism from Igbo individuals at Idumota, who preferred Ghanaian cobblers. Sanyeri’s tribal marks led them to perceive him as a potential troublemaker seeking money for shop-related issues.

Realizing that his cobbler identity was affecting his acting career, Sanyeri made the pivotal decision to quit cobbling and focus wholeheartedly on his acting pursuits. Fortunately, his dedication paid off, and he expressed gratitude for the positive turn of events in his career.

Sanyeri’s story serves as a testament to resilience, determination, and the pursuit of one’s passion even in the face of adversity. His journey from a struggling actor and cobbler to a celebrated figure in Nollywood showcases the transformative power of persistence and commitment.

He said: “The suffering I endured was really extreme. After I finished my secondary school education, I did not have a job so I delved into the theatre world. I did it for some time but I was not being paid even when I went everywhere with the group and was helping them carry their costume.”
“I had to learn how to repair shoes so I became a shoe cobbler. Eventually, I left Oyo town and came to Lagos to find greener pastures but still I was not earning anything from acting.”

“I became a mobile cobbler. I would put my materials in a wooden box, place it on my shoulder and start hitting it as I walked the length and breadth of Idumota.”

“I would constantly hit my wooden box as I walked about to call the attention of people. Then nobody knew me so I kept hitting my box all over Idumota.”

“I remember I had a handkerchief I used to cover my face because of my tribal marks.”

“The reason I concealed my tribal marks was because the Igbo boys at Idumota had the belief that if they did not give their shoes to a Ghanaian cobbler, no one could do a better job.”

“If they saw my tribal marks, they would think I was one of the touts that would normally come to disturb them for money for shop and they would not give me their shoes to repair.”

“When I saw that being a shoe cobbler was affecting my career as an actor, I had to quit and face acting squarely. I thank God that good fortunes have come my way.”