The AMVCA 2024 Diaries: Celebrating the lead actresses behind the magic

As we countdown to the grand evenings of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards on May 10 and 11, 2024, we celebrate the trailblazing women who have dominated this year’s nominee list and reshaped the narrative of African cinema. Join us in our exclusive mini-series, ‘The AMVCA Diaries,’ where we delve into the journeys of these outstanding women. Today, we spotlight the AMVCA 2024 lead actresses whose powerful performances have left an indelible mark on audiences and sparked vital conversations across continents.

Stay tuned, share your thoughts, and tell us who will take home the coveted trophies!

The AMVCA 2024 lead actresses are:

Segilola Ogidan as ‘Jumoke’ – Over the Bridge

Still from ‘Over the Bridge’ via Instagram

Segilola Ogidan’s portrayal of ‘Jumoke’ in Over the Bridge offers a profound exploration of devotion and resilience as Jumoke navigates the turbulent waters of her husband, Folarin’s mental health declines, marked by alcoholism and the emotional strain of fertility challenges. Segilola’s performance adds depth to the character, transforming her from a supportive spouse to a pillar of strength and complexity. Her portrayal sheds light on the often-overlooked emotional labour of women who support partners facing mental health issues.

This role highlights her exceptional acting skills and sparks a broader conversation about the representation of African women in cinema who are more than their struggles—they are the unrecognised backbone of their families. With the film receiving 12 nominations, it’s clear that Segilola’s compelling depiction of Jumoke resonates widely to earn her a nomination as one of the AMVCA 2024 lead actresses.

Lucie Debay as ‘Alice’ – Omen

Omen movie stills via Movie Web

In the film Omen, Belgium-French actress Lucie Debay portrays Alice, the adventurous and expectant partner of ‘Baloji.’ Their journey from Europe to Baloji’s native Kinshasa, Congo, exposes them to a tapestry of cultural elements, from exorcism rituals to polyamory and challenges surrounding sorcery and religious stereotypes. Lucie’s portrayal of Alice provides a lens through which the audience can explore the nuances of cultural intersectionality, particularly how Western perceptions of African spirituality are navigated and negotiated. Her role does more than traverse geographic and cultural borders; it questions and sometimes confronts the complex layers of gender and cultural identity, especially through the eyes of a pregnant woman in unfamiliar spiritual landscapes.

As Omen has already achieved accolades at Cannes and as Belgium’s entry for the Best International Feature at the Academy Awards, the question remains: will Lucie’s performance resonate deeply enough with viewers on African soil to clinch the ‘Best Lead Actress’ award? Her portrayal offers a unique opportunity to discuss how cinema can bridge diverse cultural understandings and challenge the stereotypes often associated with African traditions.

Omowunmi Dada as a romantic interest – ‘Asiri Ade’

The talented Omowunmi Dada graces our screens once again as a romantic lead in Asiri Ade. This pre-colonial era film, set in 1895, weaves a complex tale of politics, love, and intrigue against the backdrop of two kingdoms contemplating a royal union for divergent reasons. Omowunmi’s character must navigate a web of romance, assassination plots, and power struggles that reflect the film’s rich blend of epic, romantic, and thriller genres. Her portrayal illuminates women’s nuanced roles in historical settings—often wielding influence in love and politics from the shadows, embodying resilience, and challenging expectations of passive female characters. This character challenges historical stereotypes of women being relegated to the background and actively participates in and influences the political landscape of her time.

Asiri Ade’s nuanced narrative challenges the typical portrayal of women in pre-colonial settings by emphasising their agency and influence, encouraging viewers to reflect on the often underrepresented contributions of women in history. The film provides a fresh lens on how historical women have been portrayed in media, inviting viewers to question and rethink preconceived notions about women’s roles in different eras.

Ireti Doyle as ‘Mother Superior’ – The Origin: Madam Koi Koi

If you’re familiar with boarding school lore from the ’90s to mid-2000s, you’ll recognise the chilling tale of ‘Madam Koi Koi,’ a ghost from Nigerian and African urban legends known for her haunting presence in school dormitories and corridors at night and even toilets during the day. Traditionally depicted wearing a striking pair of red heels, or sometimes just one, Madam Koi Koi is a figure steeped in mystery and fear.

In 2023, Netflix revisited this eerie folklore in its series adaptation, featuring the formidable Ireti Doyle as ‘Mother Superior,’ a Catholic school administrator with a dual nature. Her character is deeply complex, embodying the nurturing role expected of women in her position and a darker, more sinister side. This duality challenges traditional notions of femininity and authority, particularly in horror genres where women are often portrayed as either wholly innocent victims or malevolent entities. Mother Superior’s actions, especially her cold denial of young Idowu’s death to protect the school’s reputation, add layers to the character beyond the typical horror trope. This portrayal invites viewers to reflect on how such roles can empower and disempower women by challenging societal expectations while reinforcing certain stereotypes.

Ireti Doyle’s performance, marked by ruthless professionalism and a chilling detachment, brings a nuanced critique to the fore. She demonstrates how women’s roles in horror can transcend simple scares to address complex societal issues. Her ability to encapsulate this complexity makes her a standout candidate for recognition at the awards, prompting a broader discussion on women’s empowerment through diverse roles in African storytelling.

Adaobi Dibor as ‘Oyinbraekemi’ – Blood Vessel

Lead actresses - Adaobi Dibor as ‘Oyinbraekemi’

Adaobi’s portrayal of ‘Oyinbrakemi’ in Blood Vessel is a poignant reflection on the resilience and determination inherent in the fight for love and survival amidst socio-economic pressures. Set against the backdrop of the Niger Delta, a region marred by oil pollution and its resulting economic disparities, Oyinbrakemi embodies the struggles of many women who confront both environmental degradation and rigid societal norms. As the pregnant girlfriend of Abbey, she faces severe repercussions from her community and her own father upon the discovery of her pregnancy. Her decision to elope encapsulates a profound act of defiance and empowerment, navigating the treacherous waters of personal choice versus cultural expectation.

As the narrative unfolds, Oyinbrakemi and Abbey, now stowaways on a ship bound for Brazil, encounter a microcosm of societal challenges. This journey is not just a physical relocation but a metaphor for the broader journey of women who seek autonomy over their bodies and futures in similar contexts. Blood Vessel does more than evoke empathy and fear; it highlights the enduring spirit of women fighting against oppressive circumstances. Through Oyinbrakemi’s journey, the film invites viewers to consider the intersection of environmental justice and women’s rights, emphasising how the exploitation of natural resources directly impacts the social and economic stability of the communities living there.

This multifaceted portrayal prompts a broader discussion on how such narratives can inspire action and awareness regarding the intertwined issues of gender, environmental justice, and empowerment. Adaobi’s character navigates these harsh realities and illustrates the potential for personal agency and resistance, providing a powerful example of how women can reshape their destinies despite overwhelming odds.

Evelyn Ily as ‘Prisca’ – Mami Water

Lead actresses - Evelyn Ily as ‘Prisca’

Prisca’s role in the internationally acclaimed spiritual folklore film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was longlisted for the Oscars, embodies a nuanced depiction of femininity and spirituality in African culture. As the adopted daughter of Mama Efe, the intermediary to the Mami Water spirit, Prisca’s character contrasts sharply with her more traditional sister, Zinwe. While Zinwe adheres closely to the community’s spiritual expectations, Prisca embraces a more liberated, free-spirited approach to life, focusing on personal joys like dancing and romantic pursuits rather than the communal faith in their spiritual guide.

This portrayal is significant as it subtly challenges the conventional roles often ascribed to women in spiritual narratives within African cinema. Prisca’s indifference to the traditional spiritual duties and her engagement with more earthly pleasures highlights a shift from the typical depiction of African women as custodians of spiritual and moral norms to individuals with personal agency and desires. Her character brings a refreshing complexity to the portrayal of spirituality, presenting it not as a rigid, all-encompassing mandate but as one aspect of a more multifaceted existence. This approach not only diversifies the representation of African women in film but also prompts audiences to re-evaluate their perceptions of femininity and spirituality, questioning the traditional boundaries that define them.

Prisca’s character does not merely exist within the spiritual framework of the story; she challenges it, offering a portrayal that resonates with contemporary discussions about women’s autonomy and the evolving interpretations of spirituality in modern African societies. Her role invites viewers to reflect on how women navigate their spiritual identities in ways that honour their individuality and personal growth, making her a compelling figure in the narrative and a strong contender for awards.

Kehinde Bankole as ‘Asari’ – Adire

Lead actresses - Kehinde Bankole as ‘Asari’

Kehinde Bankole’s portrayal of Asari in Adire offers a powerful narrative that resonates deeply with themes of liberation and identity. The character’s journey from a marginalised position in society to one of creativity and autonomy serves as a compelling metaphor for women’s empowerment. Asari’s story begins in a brothel in Lagos, where she’s trapped in a cycle of exploitation. Her escape to her hometown of Oyo marks the start of a transformative journey. In Oyo, she redefines herself as a lingerie fashion designer, carving a creative path that challenges societal norms.

Her character’s journey embodies the spirit of liberation as she transitions from a life dictated by others to one of self-determination and expression. This transformation reflects a broader narrative of women breaking free from traditional roles and expectations to find their voice and place in society. Asari’s provocative dressing and interactions with the local men highlight not just her independence but also the tension between traditional expectations of women and contemporary notions of self-expression and empowerment.

The mantra “You may be called wife, mother, but never forget to see yourself as a babe,” taken up by many after the film’s release, encapsulates the spirit of Asari’s journey. It symbolises reclaiming identity beyond societal labels, emphasising the importance of personal empowerment and self-worth. Asari’s journey from marginalisation to creative autonomy mirrors the struggle many women face in pursuing their aspirations while challenging societal norms. Kehinde Bankole’s portrayal of this character underscores the potential for transformation through determination and creativity, making her a deserving contender for the AMVCA 2024 lead actress and a symbol of women’s empowerment in contemporary African cinema.

Funke Akindele as ‘Jedidah Judah’ – A Tribe Called Judah

Lead actresses - Funke Akindele as ‘Jedidah Judah’

Funke Akindele, already renowned for breaking box office records in Nigerian cinema, continues this trend in A Tribe Called Judah, which grossed N1.4 billion and is the highest-grossing Nigerian film. Her portrayal of Jedidiah Judah, a resilient single mother of five boys, powerfully highlights themes of healthcare accessibility and familial responsibility that resonate deeply with audiences. Jedidiah, a pillar of leadership and empowerment in her community, faces a critical challenge when she develops kidney disease. The film’s narrative poignantly captures the financial burden of healthcare as her children struggle to raise N18 million for her operation and N400,000 weekly for dialysis, a sum made even more daunting by her eldest son Emeka’s recent job loss.

Akindele’s portrayal sheds light on many families’ stark realities when navigating healthcare systems that lack adequate support for serious illnesses. Jedidiah’s struggle is a personal journey and a broader commentary on the challenges of healthcare access and equity in Nigeria. The film provokes dialogue on how societal safety nets can better support families during health crises, emphasising the importance of policy change for better healthcare funding and more comprehensive support systems.

Jedidiah’s situation underscores the importance of familial bonds in the face of adversity, highlighting how illness can impact entire families financially and emotionally. The film challenges audiences to consider the broader implications of health inequity, inviting discussions around improving healthcare accessibility, reducing the financial strain on families, and advocating for systems prioritizing wellness. Focusing on these real-life issues, Akindele’s role becomes a catalyst for reflection on social support systems and health equity.

It’s anyone’s guess who is taking home the award.

As the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards approach, we celebrate the remarkable women who have captivated audiences and reshaped African cinema with their powerful performances. This year’s AMVCA 2024 lead actresses include Segilola Ogidan, whose role in Over the Bridge explored devotion amidst personal turmoil, and Funke Akindele, who depicted a mother’s resilience in A Tribe Called Judah. Lucie Debay navigated cultural intersections in Omen, Omowunmi Dada portrayed a complex romantic lead in Asiri Ade, and Ireti Doyle gave a chilling performance in The Origin: Madam Koi Koi. Adaobi Dibor in Blood Vessel and Evelyn Ily in Mami Water also delivered compelling performances that challenge societal norms and celebrate empowerment.

These AMVCA 2024 lead actresses have transformed African cinema, breaking barriers and igniting discussions on gender, culture, and empowerment. Their stories extend beyond mere entertainment, prompting us to reflect on societal challenges and question established views. As the award night approaches, let’s celebrate these remarkable women and their significant impact on the film industry, acknowledging their achievements and the profound influence they have on African cinema.

Who of these AMVCA 2024 lead actresses do you think will shine the brightest at the AMVCAs?



  • ChiAmaka Dike

    Chiamaka is the Features Editor at Marie Claire Nigeria. She is a woman who is passionate about God, women, and top-notch storytelling in all formats. Send all feature pitches her way -

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