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Nadhege Ptah: Crafting Caribbean roots in her films

By Esha Bargate

Nadhege Ptah is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, dancer, and director associated with films such as “DoDo TiTi” and Paris Blues in Harlem. She comes from a diverse background and has crafted her Caribbean roots in her films. She was also praised for her talent as a teenager by the United Nations. Bronze Magazine caught up with her where she shared her projects and her personal life.

Your name sounds beautiful. Can you please tell us the meaning of Nadhege?

My name is derived from French meaning “hope,” which itself has roots in a German holiday called “Neujahr.’

I read about your outstanding performance praised by the United Nations in your teenage years. That was interesting and inspirational. Would you share the story?

I attended high school in Brooklyn, where I understood my parent’s cultures through friends who were born and raised in Haiti because I was raised in the USA. They had a very deep knowledge of the culture. I was part of a Caribbean club where they wanted to create a play involving dance and drama. I was trained in modern ballet dancing.

One of my friends had experience with folk dance from Haiti. We combined modern ballet and folk dance in a unique way that was part of the Caribbean show at the school. It went very well, and we were invited to the university to perform for Haitian Flag day. One club that used to deal with the United Nations heard about us and they invited us to come and perform there.

You are of Caribbean descent. You produced the film Do Do Ti Ti under your production House “MAAT Films.” The story was about a dog and a Caribbean nanny. The Caribbean nanny was competing with the family dog for respect. Where did you get this idea for your story?

I got the idea for the film from an incident that happened to me in Harlem. When I first moved to Harlem, I had to go outside of the borough to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Basically, I had to go to the white area to buy organic food. One time when I was leaving the market and another woman who happened to be Caucasian was coming in with a dog. The entrance and exit to the market were the same, so I thought let me move a little bit over so that we don’t run into each other, but she wasn’t moving over at all! And I see that the dog was about to run into me, and I had no more space.

I was literally going to crash into the food and vegetable stand and knock it over. It was all happening simultaneously, and it would have been polite for her to move over a little bit, so we didn’t crash. So basically, the dog crashed into me and she said “Well!” And I lost it! Because of the meaning and significance of the word ‘Well”, the entitlement of basically saying that I needed to move out of her way. I was furious and I thought it would be interesting If I wrote something about a Caribbean nanny competing with the family dog for respect.

You also played the character of Roseline Senegal on “City on the Hill.” Would you share the experience?

It was an amazing experience; I played the role of a Haitian immigrant who lost control of her son. So that experience helped me to understand my mother’s and my father’s experience, or all the immigrants trying to sustain their cultural values that are up against the American values. It was a great experience to play a woman who’s

conflicted about her son who has turned totally against her values and her Haitian culture and the dream that she wanted for him.

You are an award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and dancer. You are the mother of three children. How are you balancing your life?

I call it juggling. It’s like you catch one thing while trying not to allow the other balls to fall on the floor and you’re juggling. If I’m totally focused on my roles as a mother, the ball on the artistic side may drop. If I’m totally devoted to my artistic side. I have to manage not to drop the ball on motherhood. So that’s why I called it juggling.

Which role is most interesting for you and why?

Some days I might be in an acting phase where I am doing a lot of that, but then I might feel like writing, and then I’m in a writing phase for a while. I would say being an actor is the most interesting for me because I could play an actor who’s writing, dancing, and directing at the same time. It shows the depth of my knowledge.

You have your own production house, MAAT films. You produced DoDo TiTi, Harlem Love, Paris Blues In Harlem, and No Matter What. As a writer and director, how were you authentic in all these films?

I always inject sensitivity, honesty, integrity, and truth in my stories.

Sometimes people reject honesty and truth. I get to approach the writing in the honest human way of what people cannot do in real life.

Would you share about the documentary “No Matter What”?

It is based on the life of Nana Camille Yarbrough. She is a well-known singer, dancer, writer, and activist. She grew up on the south side of Chicago. The documentary is about the obstacles that she had to navigate and how dance saved her life. She had a chance to travel around the world through a dance company. Dance exposure led to an acting and writing career. The documentary also shows how she survived her father’s abuse. We start to understand all the things around her, how she navigated her situation to become this artist, activist, and voice for black people. The documentary was about her and her personal life.

What are your plans for the future?

Under my production company I’m transitioning Paris Blues into a television series. So, it is in the development stage. I’m part of a team where we are writing about a historical black woman, named the first small-time millionaire.

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