Arts + Culture
NIC Kay performing PUSHIT! at 1-54 NY 2018. Photo by Brittany Buongiorno, courtesy of SUTTON.

1-54 NY 2018 Was An Exploration of Oppression, Women's Empowerment and Identity

A recap of the fourth edition of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair entered its fourth year in New York with a lively buzz that brought curious spectators—and rightfully so. Over 21 galleries from all over the continent, including Côte d'Ivoire, Tunisia, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco and Ghana, displayed strong works of art that drew on themes of oppression, women's empowerment and identity.


Director and founder Touria El Glaoui recently told OkayAfrica that this edition was a continuation of her mission to have a physical presence on the African continent and create channels of exchange between Africa, Europe, and North America. With a wide spectrum of practitioners, patrons, institutions, and audiences—the fair is widely attended in London and was well received in Morocco earlier this year. 1-54 NY welcomed over 9,000 visitors, including museum directors, artists, curators, and collectors affiliated with over 50 museums and nonprofit institutions.

A crowd favorite, Phoebe Boswell, showcased one of the most beautiful displays titled, I Need to Believe the World is Beautiful. The 36-year-old London resident hails from Nairobi, Kenya and studied at the Slade School of Art and 2D Animation at Central Martins, London. Her large hand drawings hung neatly on the wall as she explained the message and inspiration of her work.

From Phoebe Boswell's installation at 1-54 NY. Photo by Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy of SUTTON.

"This particular project was inspired by work that I did two years ago which was called Mutumia, which means 'woman' or 'the one whose lips is sealed.' A friend sent a photo of women back home lying naked in front of men in protest of land ownership which they made developments with," Boswell says. "This sparked a revolution in me that made me research how women used their bodies to question authority, political power, or make a statement within society. With the help of my mother, books, and an army of women, I was able to embark on a journey on what it means to protest using the female body and I wanted to document those emotions which I later animated."

Along with Boswell, several artists exhibiting at the fair makes one question their knowledge about the struggles black people face all over the continent. SPOEK 1 by Ralph Ziman, who reclaimed a Casspir military vehicle to symbolize the oppression in the townships and urban areas of South Africa, was also one of them.

Ralph Ziman in front of SPOEK 1 at 1-54 NY. Photo by Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy of SUTTON.

The vehicle took two years to complete, as it's completely covered in panels of colorful glass beads, arrayed in traditional patterns made by artisans from Zimbabwe and the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. "It was a time of horror because these big vehicles were driven by young men who paraded the streets of Joburg asking for IDs, which often led room for whatever terror they wanted to unleash that night if you were up past curfew," Ziman says, as he recollects his childhood during apartheid. "So, it's very symbolic of fear during that time."

Moreover, the fair was well attended with a variety of visitors from all over the world. The backyard was opened for a glass of rosé or two, which created a flux of people coming in and out of the space. The gallery's preview night followed with an afterparty down the street.

1-54 London returns to Somerset House this fall on October 4 through October 7.

Ezinne Mgbeahuruike is multi-media storyteller with an appreciation for pragmatic style and design. A fluent Igbo speaker, she is proud of her egusi and okra soup, enjoys walks during sunset, thrifting and yoga. To keep up with her, follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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Stop What You're Doing Right Now and Watch Falz's New Video 'This Is Nigeria'

The Nigerian rapper tackles his country's social ills in his very own answer to Childish Gambino's "This Is America."

Nigerian rapper, Falz has been known to use his sharp brand of humor to address social ills in his country. Today he's taken it a step further with the release of a new song and video entitled "This is Nigeria" and the outcome is an audacious, decidedly necessary critique of Nigerian society inspired by Childish Gambino's viral video "This is America."

Falz opens the song with a voice over of his father the lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana, discussing the consequences of rampant corruption and exploitation, before adding his own cutting criticism: "This is Nigeria, look how I'm living now, look how I'm living now. Everybody be criminal," he rhymes as chaos ensues all around him.

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Photo courtesy of Nike

The Secret Behind Nike's New Naija Football Kits are Nigerians Themselves

The story behind the bold new uniforms the Super Eagles will be wearing at this year's World Cup.

Partner content from Nike

The new Nigeria football kits are not even out yet, but they're already causing pandemonium with Nigerian press reporting that there have been already 3 million worldwide orders. And it's easy to see why—the designs are daring with a bold nod to Nigerian culture that is very in vogue right now. In addition, UK Grime MCs with Nigerian roots, Skepta and Tinie Tempah have already been photographed in the new jerseys causing a surge of social media chatter about the new look.

But while rock star endorsements and an edgy new design will certainly bring attention, there's no doubt that the real bulk of the demand is due to what is ramping up to be a significant moment in the history of Nigerian football—the 2018 World Cup.



If you don't already know, Nigeria is entering this year's World Cup in Russia with some of the most exciting young players we've seen in years. With youthful talent like Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho—all 21—and veteran Olympic captain Jon Obi Mikel ready to take the field in Moscow all eyes are on Nigeria to advance out of Group D and challenge the world for a chance at the cup.

The plan here is to outdo the teams previous international achievement, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal in men's football which is commemorated on the home kit with a badge recolored in the colors of the '96 gold medal-winning "Dream Team."

The home kit also pays subtle homage to Nigeria's '94 shirt— the first Nigerian team to qualify for the tournament—with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso. But if the allusion to the pasty is subtle, the new supercharged patterns are anything but.

The look of the kit feels particularly in touch with what's going on in youth fashion both in Nigeria and the world and that's no accident. Much of the collection comes in bold print, both floral and Ankara-inspired chevrons, ideas that we've seen entering street wear collections and on the runway in recent years. That's because African and Nigerian style has become a big deal internationally of late. And not just in style, the country's huge cultural industries from Nollywood to Afrobeats have announced themselves on the world stage. This cultural ascendance is reflected in the design.


Courtesy of Nike

"With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation," notes Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director. "We built this kit and collection based on the players' full identities." Along with other members of the Nike Football design group, Farron dug into learning more about Nigeria's players, "We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture."

In fact OkayAfrica has covered the team's love for music before—even dedicating an edition of the African in Your Earbuds mixtape to John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi & Kelechi Iheanacho's favorite songs to get hyped up before a game. When we asked the charismatic trio, they gave us list that included many of the huge Nigerian artists that we love, like Tekno, Wizkid, Yemi Alade and Nigerian-American rapper Wale and also, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, Celine Dion.

Nigerian culture has gone global partly through its infectious energy but also because of its vibrant diaspora populations that bring it with them wherever they land. Lagos-born Alex Iwobi whose goal in the 73rd minute to qualified Nigeria for this summer's tournament spent most of his life in London but still reps Naija to the fullest.

"I grew up in England, but Nigeria is my homeland," he says. "When I scored that goal, the players were dancing, the fans were playing trumpets and bringing drums…there was just so much passion and energy. It is always an honor to wear the white and green. To compete this summer is not just our dream, it is also the dream of our fans. Together, we all represent Naija."

This similar energy can be felt in Nigerian communities from Brooklyn to Peckham and even in China. Naija culture is truly global and no doubt the fans will embody the Naija spirit wherever they will be watching the games this summer.

If you're wondering, Nike isn't simply hopping on the Nigeria bandwagon. The apparel company has been sponsoring the Nigerian football since 2015, supplying kits to all nine of the Nigeria Football Federation teams at every level, including the men's and women's senior teams, men's and women's under-20 teams, men's and women's under-17 teams, men's and women's Olympic teams, and the men's beach football team.

So while the kit is available for purchase worldwide June 1, just know that you'll be competing with millions to get your own official shirts for the World Cup. If you are in New York, find the kit for sale exclusively at Nike's 21 Mercer store.

And please join OkayAfrica and Nike on June 2nd for Naija Worldwide as we celebrate Team Nigeria's journey to Russia in style.

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Listen to Adekunle Gold's New Album 'About 30'

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Adekunle Gold's much-anticipated sophomore album, About 30, has arrived.

The 14-track album boasts features from Seun Kuti, Flavor and British-Nigerian soul singer Jacob Banks, who appears on a remix to the popular lead single "Ire." The album sees the artist flexing immense versatility and range as he delivers emotional ballads, folk-Inspired cuts sung in Yoruba, and a few highlife-tinged summer jams.

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