When Naira Marley released his track ‘Soapy’ sometime last year, he accompanied bit with a dance that was offensive to most people. One of such people was Kafayat Oluwatoyin Shafau, popularly known as Kaffy who didn’t waste time to condemn the dance move that suggested a sexual act. The Interview recently caught up with Kaffy, Nigeria’s foremost celebrity dancer who is presently making grand plans for her 40th birthday and 20 years on stage as well as her annual programme, The Dance Workshop and Conference. Kaffy aired her grievances with the artiste while sharing her passion for dance.
Going by your name, one will assume that you are a Muslim?
I was raised spiritually not religiously. I grew up with a dad who is a core Muslim and a mum who is a strong Christian. We don’t discriminate when it comes to God. So when I got married, my husband was comfortable going to church so I joined him.
Who or what has shaped your life professionally in your nearly 40 years of existence?
Spiritually, God. Literally I was raised by God because there was this stage in my life where I literally had nobody. Then physically on earth, I live my life around books.
I used to be an average reader, I’m not as average as I used to be but a lot of my application of knowledge and fluency came from reading books like John Grisham, Jeffery Archer.
I pick different things from different people. In dance, my greatest inspiration is the late pop legend Michael Jackson.
The essence of being Michael which is connected to God’s grace. I always marvel at that grace. And that freedom of how he becomes himself; that is what pushes me.
When it comes to global dominance, I look up to people like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. I also admire Aliko Dangote. I’m impressed by his calmness in the storm of running various businesses in an unfriendly environment like Nigeria.
Beyonce drives me mentally as a woman to own my space and dictate what I want from it. I generally choose mentorship based on the direction I want to take.
What I’m trying to point out is that not everyone can get away with the little things in their life that have the most impact in their future, such as parents not having money to pay for their children’s school fees
You talk a lot about your past, is it something you want to share?
My past is not really from a dark perspective.
What I’m trying to point out is that not everyone can get away with the little things in their life that have the most impact in their future, such as parents not having money to pay for their children’s school fees.
It looks like a small thing but the impact of that has caused some girls to go into prostitution and young guys into armed robbery.
In my own case, I need to look for a solution.
Since I had rich friends who were still in school, I decided to take their books and study. A major part of my secondary school, I was self-taught.
What I did was to photocopy my friend’s notebooks and follow the school curriculum.
When my mother finally took me back to school, I wasn’t lagging behind.
Even the teacher kept asking me which secondary school I attended before joining them in third term because he was impressed.
I was too embarrassed to tell them that I studied on my own.
When I say I had it rough, I mean that 90 per cent of what young people are experiencing today, I had gone through them.
I have experienced child abuse by a family member but thank God it wasn’t successful. I was in a situation where someone was touching me but I had the wisdom to scream and run away.
Do you teach your children sex education?
Yes I do.
God has been helpful in that department. When they come across some certain words or utterances, we don’t bark at them.
We just let them understand that these words are not meant for them and it is not the right time to use such words, and even tell them those words are bad for adults as well.
There are some terminologies they will hear and even if you say it to them, they will correct you that those words are not meant for a child so you shouldn’t say it to them.
When kids of their age use expletives, they correct them as well. It’s better we teach them from a point of knowledge than a point of repression because the information is out there.
How did the The Dance Workshop and Conference start?
The Dance Workshop and Conference started like a family conference five years ago and I had over 100 families attending it.
Back then, I had only N100,000 in my account but it costs about N12 million to do the event.
That was when I knew I had to continue.
I even thought I would do it differently but the workshop got really strong after I attended other conferences and I wondered why there is none for dancers. The dance sector is a multi-billion dollar industry.
What determines the kind of music you dance to?
It depends on the mood or the occasion and the message in the music.
I’m not good at expressing myself in songs that do not really have good messages.
If I dance to any song that doesn’t make sense lyrically, it means I have keyed in to something else in the music.
Is that why you had the spat with Naira Marley?
Naira Marley was not in existence when I started dancing so he cannot be the reason why I shut myself from negative sounds.
Except he is lying to himself.
People say I’m against him and that I hate him but I don’t.
I promoted his ‘Issa Goal’ track which garnered great views on my social media pages. The song is even included in one of my routines for ‘Ijoda’ workout.
I cannot be the advocate of anyone’s downfall but I will not promote what is against my philosophy in life, particularly when you veer into my lane.
My lane is dance and you declare an offensive dance that went viral.
I won’t take that. And if I don’t do that, I will not be protecting the kids because some parents were about to withdraw their children from my class.
They expressed concern that if the dance industry was going that direction, then they would withdraw their kids. Because I stood against it, they didn’t carry out their actions.
I don’t have a problem with Naira Marley.
He is protecting his daughter from what he is pouring out. It is not possible. It will tell in time.
You cannot eat your cake and have it. He did not insult me. He insulted an entire generation that will grow with his daughter.