Nollywood actress Rachel Oniga has died at the age of 64 years old. The Nigerian movie industry staple reportedly died from a "heart-related disease" according to her family, refuting rumors that the actress succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"She died in a Lagos hospital at the age of 64, on Friday, 30th of July 2021, at about 10pm," the family statement reads. "Contrary to diverse reports informing that she died from COVID-19 complications, we write to inform the general public that she died from a heart related issue; an ailment she battled with for a short period before her demise."
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According to the family, funeral and burial plans will be announced in the coming days. At the same time, a wealth of prayers and condolences flooded in shortly after the news broke. While not as well known outside of the Nigerian film industry, her career impacted her native country.
Oniga started acting in 1993, making a debut shortly after her marriage ended. She seemingly took the energy from that event and flipped it around into an acting career. Her first film was titled Onome and her debut Yoruba film, named for the language, was titled Owo Blow. Nollywood, a name created from Nigeria and Hollywood combined, covers the Nigerian film industry in its entirety, though the term does have some detractors.
Still, Oniga became a significant part of the industry in Nigeria. She appeared in the highly acclaimed Sango in 1997 and joined the TV series Super Story cast. Her final role is My Village People in 2021. Her 110 acting credits are impressive, keeping her in film conversations over two decades. Oniga also worked alongside Hollywood talents like Isaiah Washington and Vivica A. Fox in 2013's Bello.
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First and foremost for Oniga came her family, telling The Sun in 2014 that her three children were her priority. She also spoke about her regrets about leaving her husband but wanted to make a statement with self-confidence.
"I believe so much in myself, and when I got over the shock of the separation and all that, I made up my mind that I was going to make a statement without a man," the actress said. "I wanted to prove that a hardworking woman could make an impact and with God's grace."