Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Profile — David Dontoh

Ghana's finest actor
Acting  was never part of his dream. He  became one by  accident. Yet, he is currently one of the best actors the country has ever had, with many  awards under his sleeves.
 Just like every child with big dreams, young David wanted to become a medical doctor. Unfortunately his dreams were dashed when he failed to make the grades after Sixth Form to qualify  for  medical school.
Frustrated as he was then, David Tontoh, one of Ghana’s finest actors, decided to rewrite the exam to better his grades. It was during that time that he was contracted to do some illustrations  for a book called "Agriculture in the Tropics" for one Dr Olean Hess, who was then one of the directors of the USAID. He  recognised  his artistic talents  and commended him.
In a  chat with the Junior Graphic,Mr Dontoh said because he liked drawing, painting, watching films, musical shows and writing poetry, Dr Hess’ comments gingered  him to take acting seriously.
Mr Dontoh said it was just around the same time that the  then Ghana Film Industry Corporation (GFIC) put up an advert for people who wanted to train in film acting.
He went for the  audition and was one of the 40 successful applicants selected out of  150. That was  how he got into the acting profession.
The successful applicants were then trained at the acting academy of the late George Andoh Wilson, who had trained at the London Guild Hall School of Drama and was in charge of  the Osagyefo players for three years.
During the training, Mr Tondoh had the chance of taking part in a small play titled – GUS – the theatre cat written by T. S. Elliot.
The play was showcased on TV during the Mike Hagan show where Mr Wilson was being interviewed as a celebrity .He performed the lead role in  GUS so well such that, Mike Hagan’s praises   further convinced him that he could act well.
Today, the acting profession which he saw as a menial career when he was a student has opened doors to higher places for him across the globe.
Asked how he came by his household name "Ghanaman",  he laughed heartily and said in 1982  a theatre group was formed to replace Osofo Dadzie which went off air after the unrest. The group was known as "KETEKE," a drama group which was on air for about one and a half years.
"The name was later changed to Obra  and became a  very popular TV programme  which earned me the name Ghanaman which  I have accepted affectionately", he smiled. Members of the Obra Drama group at that time were Maame Dokono, Station Master, Dr Rokoto, Esi Kom among others.
He got the chance of  auditioning for a full feature film when King Ampaw of AFRO MOSES Ghana Limited shot their film, "Kukurantumi" – The Road To Accra." The film was the first Ghanaian film to be screened on TV in Europe.
It was after this film that he started working on radio programmes. On GBC  Two for instance, he started as a stringer on Carl Agyeman-Bannerman’s programme, "Solid Black".
He also took part in radio theatre with presenters like Tony Annan Forson, Charlie Sam, the late James Amartey and Gertrude Opare Addo.
Looking younger than his age, Mr Dontoh who loves wearing  African clothes disclosed that he would be celebrating his 60th birthday next year, in December.
He had his elementary education in Cape Coast, Winneba and Abakranpa, all in the Central Region. He then continued to Apam Secondary School from Form One to Upper Six. For the Sixth Form, he read Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
Though a science student, he loved the arts subjects as well so at the O'Level he studied nine subjects. "In fact, in 1975  I was one of  the best Geography students in the whole country and so had distinction. However, my biggest blow was when I was not selected at the university to read medicine. It is all good, because I don't regret being an actor. Actors just don't entertain but also heal people and impart knowledge as well," he explained.
Mr Dontoh, who loves to uphold the traditional beliefs and practices of Ghana, lamented that "children of today are not humble and ready to learn. They always want to have their way".
Sharing his childhood experiences, he said his mother was a fish monger so he also sold some of the fish to enable him to buy his textbooks for school. "My sister, I have done a lot of trading. I have sold vegetables, doughnuts, bread, fish, among others, yet I found time to study.
Along the line in his career, Mr Dontoh did  Drama and Theatre Studies (From 1985 to 1988) at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon. He majored in playwriting.
He and his wife, Rebecca, are blessed with two children, Jojo and Ewurama.
David Dontoh runs his own company "Golden Kauri" and an NGO, Kaurifire Arts Foundation. He founded three theatre groups that he works with. They are KOZIKOZI Theatre Company, Edzikanfo Concert Party and David Dontoh Cultural Ensemble (DADON CULEN).
Mr Dontoh currently hosts his own television programme, Agrofie, which is aimed at projecting African values.

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