Video

Laolu Senbanjo is Using His Voice (and a Powerful Video) to Challenge His Brothers & Sisters in the Diaspora to Vote

Nigerian painter and musician Laolu Senbanjo premieres a stunning 'Sacred Art of the Ori' music video for his new song, "Mama Africa"

In the past year, the Sacred Art of Laolu Senbanjo has taken off. From Beyoncé to Ibeyi, to Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats, to Jidenna and Black Coffee, the Nigerian-born visual artist and musician has become a painter to the stars, and in the process, a star in his own right.


It’s been just over three years since the former human rights attorney left Lagos to become a full-time artist in Brooklyn. Since moving to the U.S., Senbanjo says he feels blacker than ever.

“Whether you like it or not, as an African living in America, if you’re Black you kind of inherit everything that Black people go through here. You inherit everything Martin Luther King, Jr. said,” he tells me just a few hours before Americans will begin heading to the polls to elect their next president.

While Senbanjo has never been one to shy away from social and political issues, he’s becoming increasingly more vocal about it.

V O T E!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ? @thecannon5 Muse @skiinnyminnieproject

A photo posted by Laolu (@laolunyc) on

It was Jesse Williams in particular that inspired an unshakable civic duty in the artist. Senbanjo was in attendance at the 2016 BET Awards in Los Angeles, where the outspoken actor and activist gave his groundbreaking speech on racism in America. That was when Senbanjo made up his mind to use his voice as an artist.

“People are beginning to understand the fact that art can actually be used to translate ideas and tell a message. It’s a unique space to be in and it’s something that I cherish,” he says.

Through the popularity of his Sacred Art of the Ori, and with a little help from social media, Senbanjo sees himself as a bridge connecting African-Americans to Africa and vice versa. “Not everyone has that road to be able to live in both worlds almost at the same time,” he says.

It’s a bridge and road that he explores on his new song, a Yoruba-language hip-hop tune which we’re excited to premiere here today on Okayafrica.

Produced by the New York-based Simon Sez, “Mama Africa” opens with an excerpt from Williams’ powerful BET Awards speech (“Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real”) and those familiar notes from Beyoncé’s “Formation,” an obvious spiritual and political inspiration for the song and its accompanying visuals. (Incidentally, Senbanjo lent some spiritual and aesthetic inspiration to Lemonade.) In it, the painter-slash-rapper looks at his ancestry and roots on the Continent alongside the Black experience in America.

Now more than ever, Senbanjo feels it’s time to use his voice as a cultural ambassador of Africa. And while he isn’t able to vote in Tuesday’s election, he’s using his platform to encourage others to do so.

“Mama Africa,” he tells me, is a challenge to his brothers and sisters in the Diaspora—African-Americans that can vote—to use their voice and vote in today’s U.S. presidential election.

“Their voice speaks for those who can’t vote, immigrants like us that aren’t citizens of America.”

Today's election, he says, is important not just to America but the entire world. “As an immigrant, you hear some of the things in this campaign, and you’re like “What exactly is going to happen if Trump becomes president?”

Watch our premiere of “Mama Africa” above. Keep up with Laolu Senbanjo on Instagram and Twitter.

Featured
Courtesy of the artist

Meet Musa Okwonga, Poet, Musician and Activist Standing Up Against Xenophobia One Line At A Time

We talk to the artist about leaving London, being a migrant and resisting Germany's resurgent fascist movement.

A German TV channel recently announced a TV debate on whether Germans should still be allowed to say the N-word.

One of the announced panelists was Frauke Petry, the former leader of the AfD—a German far-right party that recently got 14 percent of the vote in local elections. Petry openly called for the return of Nazi-era terminology in public. This issue might have remained hidden for anglophones if it wasn't for the British writer, poet and activist Musa Okwonga who called out the TV channel on his Twitter account. Eventually, they cancelled the show.

Keep reading... Show less
Sports
Via CONIFA

At This World Cup, Players Risk Imprisonment to Compete

What you need to know about the CONIFA World Cup, the football tournament for breakaway nations.

The ConIFA World Cup, the global football tournament for unrecognized nations, and football associations not affiliated to FIFA, is about to begin its third edition. The championship will kickoff on 31 May in Sutton, Greater London, where the Barawa FA team will act as host.

Barawa FA, named after the port city of Barawa in southern Somalia, represents the Tunni and Bravanese people who live there, but it also represents the wider Somali diaspora in the United Kingdom. So, even though the tournament will be played in England, this will be the most African ConIFA competition to date, with not only an African member hosting and heading the organizing committee, but with two other African teams taking part in the competition: Matabeleland and Kabylia.

This will be the largest edition of the ConIFA World Cup so far, with 16 teams playing in 10 stadiums—seven in Greater London, two in Berkshire and one in Essex. In contrast, the previous edition, held in Abkhazia—a separatist region of Georgia—in 2016, featured 12 teams in two stadiums; while the inaugural edition, held in Lapland—a region encompassing parts of northern Sweden, northern Norway, northern Finland and north-western Russia inhabited by the Sami people—in 2014, only featured one stadium and 12 teams. It will also feature the largest number of African teams so far, as only two participated in 2014 (Darfur and Zanzibar) and 2016 (Somaliland and Chagos Islands).

The tournament has also raised its profile. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power announced it will be sponsoring the tournament, probably seizing the opportunity to take bets on the tournament, which will occur between the end of national European leagues and the beginning of the FIFA World Cup in mid-June.

Keep reading... Show less
Events
Photo by Farah Sosa.

Here's What Amplify Africa's Inaugural Afro Ball Looked Like

The awards event was a celebration of excellence and ambition in the African community.

On Saturday, May 19, the Los Angeles Theater Center in downtown LA became a mecca for idealists and dreamers from the African diaspora.

The casual passersby would've been greeted with an effusion of bold prints, intricate headwraps and color coordination—the likes of which had not been seen since their favorite 90s music video (or church, or a wedding for some of us). And though the festivities might have vaguely resembled a film set—as is all too common downtown—this moment wouldn't be rehashed months later in a movie or television show. Attendees were flocking to Amplify Africa's inaugural Afro Ball. With the support of BET International, Buzzfeed, OkayAfrica, the GEANCO Foundation and more, Afro Ball lived up to its name as a "for Africans, by Africans" awards event, celebrating excellence and ambition in our community.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.