In 2012, Dalton Ashikoto vacated his plush executive offices in Windhoek’s city centre, packed his bags and headed to the Big Apple. For him, it was a simple choice. He had to get to the USA and enrol in the New York Film Academy for a short course. For him it had to be done. Never mind the fact that he was leaving behind a thriving ICT business, his own business – leaving his fellow directors to run and manage the business while he take a jab at being an actor. An international actor, at that.
Cue to 2016, and Ashikoto is in the cast for one of southern Africa’s most recognised television series, and most running, Generations. Before that he was a support actor in Rhythm City, a good television series but not as big as Generations.
Looking back, 44-year-old Ashikoto says it has been a journey and recalls the many rejections he went through. “I’ve always loved how acting brings ideas and a story on paper to life and how the different characters allow one to momentarily transform into someone else,” he says.
When he graduated from the New York Film Academy and came back to Namibia the same year, he realised that the South African film industry was growing at a much faster pace than Namibia and got a reputable agent based in South Africa and started attending auditions.
“Initially, I had to travel back and forth between SA and Namibia to attend the auditions. I received a lot of rejections before landing my first major role in DSTV commercials. I then decided to reside in South Africa (as from 2013) and have been living here for the past three years,” says Dalton from Johannesburg, South Africa – his permanent base now.
But, we simply had to ask this: Surely, some did try to persuade you to stay and focus on your business instead of chasing “empty dreams” – how did you cope with such reactions?
“Of course, people always want safety and to be comfortable. I am hot-headed. If I want to go for something I go for it no matter what and no one can stop me. Acting has always been part of me, and there was nothing I could do to escape it. Some people tried to stop me but I was able to follow my dreams,” he says confidently.
His role in ‘Generations’ is that of Mr Gumbie. “My character is unlike any of the other characters on the series. I depict the character of Mr Gumbie, a highly successful investor with good moral business practices, who has some major investment interests with projects that involve the character portrayed as Jack Mabaso. My true character is revealed by the choices I make,” he says.
He adds that the audience will, however, be able to empathise with his character from the very beginning. His character will be seen on the screens early next month.
Ashikoto adds that in his new role, he would have loved to work with Connie Ferguson simply because he had “celebrity” crush on her. His other wish is to act along or work with Sello Maake ka-Ncube, who portrayed Archie Moroka in ‘Generations’. Ka-Ncube is regarded as one of South Africa’s most popular television stars and an actor with a wealth of experience from prestigious films to stage work.
Ashikoto’s big break into the South African film industry came in 2014 when he got the role of Stanley Gwala, a tax commissioner, in ‘Rhythm City’.
He went on to feature in a movie titled ‘Kite’, filmed in Johannesburg where he played alongside the Hollywood renowned actor, Samuel L Jackson. “Watching him was an acting school on its own,” he says of his experience working with Jackson.
“He was one of the hardest working Hollywood actors I have ever come across and it was an absolute pleasure working with him, possibly one of my best experiences ever,” says Ashikoto, adding that working alongside Jackson broadened his experience about the production industry and about acting as a whole.
After that, he has been featuring in different television series such as Hard Copy, Sonkulu and Partners. And he did a number of television commercials.
“As an actor, staying relevant is a challenge. Your skills need to be honed constantly, so I study, read, attend acting courses and workshops and network constantly,” says Ashikoto adding he usually keep pushing himself beyond what he think he know and tackle each role with a different technique. “I strive to deliver my roles truthful to ability,” he says.
But back to the business – why would you leave a successful business to go acting in films? “Acting has always been in my mind but I never have enough experience to put me on top. I needed a best training on a shortest period, since I am running out of time and my ages still going. That is why I chose New York Film Academy,” he says.
Ashikoto reveals that he still has interests in his ICT business although there are more partners involved in the business.
“That is why I have enough time to do my own things and I still manage my businesses where ever I am,” he says.
His other business interests are in agriculture, properties and of course the film industry. And his business interests are now operating simultaneously on either side of the Orange River – Namibia and South Africa.
Born Dalton Hashondali Ashikoto, young Ashikoto grew up in Windhoek’ streets of Katutura. After secondary school he went to study for an undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the Universal College in Kenya, Nairobi. It was in Nairobi that his passion for acting grew roots. He took part in the Romeo and Juliet play in Kenya – he was the Romeo.
Back at home, during his holidays, Ashikoto played a lead role as Martin Luther King in a play titled ‘I Have Been to the Mountain Top’ produced by Lazarus Jacobs. The play toured the whole country in 1994 to 1995.
Many older Namibians would no doubt recall the face of Ashikoto who acted in some of the locally produced series and short films that appeared on television between the year 1994 and 1995.
In 1995, Ashikoto acted in the television series ‘Ngoma and Click’ as Ngoma. He also did a feature film called The Naming and many commercials. He was also a host of the musical programme Penduka, which use to air on Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), before he took a break from acting for 10 years at the end of 1995 to focus on other things.
In acting, Ashikoto is inspired by Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Kevin Spacey and Daniel Day-Lewis.