News Brief

'aKasha' Is the Sudanese Comedy Headed to 2 Major Film Festivals Without Its Stars

Kamal Ramadan and Mohamed Chakado will be unable to attend the Venice Film Festival world premiere and TIFF due to Uganda refusing departure.

The two stars from Sudanese filmmaker hajooj kuka's comedy, aKasha have been forced to be left behind the celebration of the film hitting the big screen at Venice Film Festival and TIFF, Deadline reports.

Kamal Ramadan and Mohamed Chakado are still in Uganda after being refused departure. According to Deadline, the Sudanese stars arrived in Kampala at the end of April and applied for refugee status in June, but have yet to be granted the necessary documents.

Rafiki producer Steven Markovitz, who also produced aKasha, has written a letter to the United Nations' Refugee Agency and is still waiting for a reply.

Markovitz and kuka explain in a statement that Ramadan and Chakado were also involved in production along with being the two male leads in the film.

"They have been through incredible difficulty making this film and we were hoping to celebrate the first public screening with them," they continue. "It is important for artists to be able to share their work with the public and it is very disappointing that the actors will not attend the world premiere in Venice nor the North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. In this time of closing borders, it's crucial that artists' work helps to open up understanding of each other."

aKasha is an offbeat comedy following a love triangle between a boy, a girl and an AK-47 in rebel-held areas of Sudan.

The synopsis from TIFF adds:

After a post-coital argument with Lina (Ekram Marcus), Adnan (Kamal Ramadan) hightails it without grabbing his gun. With his pants barely pulled up, he runs into Absi (Ganja Chakado), a young man who's not keen on rejoining the fighting. He wants to dodge the "kasha," the annual round-up of soldiers. The pair then embark on a wild 24 hours—dodging their higher-ups, elders, and romantic rivals alike—to try and get back Adnan's girl, his gun, and his dignity.

Watch the trailer below.

Read More: 19 Films from Africa & the Diaspora To Check Out at TIFF 2018

Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei via Getty Images

How Nigerian Chef Hilda Baci Set a Guinness World Record

Now acclaimed for her record attempt, we spoke to the Nigerian chef Hilda Baci on what it took to prepare, almost giving up, and the sweeping support that saw her to the finish line.

Hilda Baci has had a finger on Nigeria’s culinary pulse for years.

She won the inaugural Jollof Face Off contest in 2021, has hosted cooking shows, organized cooking tutorials, and opened My Food by Hilda—the first outlet of her restaurant—in Lagos in 2022.

But last weekend, the 27-year-old chef, whose full name is Hilda Effiong Bassey, embarked on her most ambitious culinary feat yet: to break the Guinness World Record for longest cooking marathon. (Baci had originally set April 28 to kick off the cooking marathon; but it landed a new date on May 11 to allow for more attendees.)

Inside Lekki’s Amore Gardens in Lagos, her cooking station was a makeshift enclosed structure the size of a mobile home. With a see-through glass front, there was floor-standing air conditioning to chase out the heat. Beyond that space, tents, canopies, and recreational fixtures such as a snooker table took up space for the public.

India’s Lata Tandon held the Guinness World record for the longest cooking time (87 hours and 45 minutes) since 2019, and Baci was determined to break it. A modest crowd descended on Amore Gardens on the first day, and a live stream reached thousands of eyeballs online. After 24 hours, the crowd doubled.

Phones were out recording and live images and videos sent social media ablaze. The hashtag #hildacookathon found massive online support from Nigerians, including those who have never heard of her before. Preparing meal after meal, which was served to the venue attendees, Baci was egged on to smash the record.

By Monday, she had taken over Tandon’s record time but she didn’t stop. Ninety-six hours in, an afternoon announcement via her Instagram said she was pushing for 100 hours. The gigantic timer with red digits loomed at the venue until she reached her quest. The buzz of victory was infectious. Baci had made over 100 recipes, taking an accumulative hour-long break every 12 hours.

She’s already in talks with Guinness World Records, who had reached out via direct messages on social media and emails. “We are currently in the process of uploading the evidence,” Baci told OkayAfrica in a virtual interview. “It’s taking a bit of time because it’s a huge file. We are uploading the entire 100 hours, witness statements, all the cooking methods I used and several others.”

It will take five days for Guinness World Records to review the evidence and return with a final decision. In the meantime, Baci hopes to open a bigger restaurant, launch a cookware line, go on food tours to propagate Nigerian cuisine and work with brands and investors.

A Lifestyle Change

The journey to break the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking time was years in the making. “Five years ago, I didn’t have a brand, couldn’t afford certain things and I didn’t know the people that I know today,” Baci said. “I felt like I had to change some aspects of my life so that I could make this dream possible.”

Days into the cook-a-thon, an old video of Baci surfaced online that showed her in contrasting sizes. She had embarked on a weight loss journey that saw her drop from 110kg to 8okg in two years. The revelation stirred controversy online, granting ammunition to a pocket of internet users to be fatphobic to other women.

“I didn’t delete old images of myself online so anyone can see that I used to be much bigger before now," Baci said. "The cook-a-thon wasn’t the only reason I decided to lose weight. I just didn’t like certain aspects of my appearance and I intended to be a lot more active. But again, I knew that if I was going to be embarking on this feat, I need to do a much more intentional job about my fitness,”

She hired celebrity fitness trainer Kemen to keep her in shape, and to build mental and physical stamina. “During each break in the cook-a-thon, my vitals were taken by the health experts on ground in the caravan, including my father who’s a medical doctor," Baci said. "My pee was tested each time I took a leak and I was also on my cycle at the time, and it was imperative that I took a shower. Then I ensured I took a 10-minute power nap even though my body refused to shut down.”

A Rousing Public Support, Online and offline

While Baci did her part to get to the finish line, public support helped her get there, from the physical crowd cheering her on loudly to the staunch movement on social media. One of the first personalities to spearhead on-ground support was beauty and lifestyle influencer Enioluwa Adeoluwa.

Adeoluwa, who has posted videos of himself eating food on Instagram and TikTok, was a perfect presence. So were food bloggers like Gina Ojo and Ify Mojekwu. In a surprise turn of events, comic actor and hypeman Charles Okocha stormed the venue, working the crowd in support of Baci. “We are waiting for you to break that record,” tweeted Burna Boy on Sunday. Superstars like Wizkid and Tiwa Savage joined in, the former posting emojis on the live feed while the latter was there in person.

“I was expecting some form of support but I didn’t anticipate this magnitude from Nigerians and from those across the world,” Baci said. “I was told about the online support because, at the time, I didn’t have access to my phone and had no idea of what was happening. At the venue, I saw people stand in uncomfortable positions because the place was already full to capacity, still cheering and chanting their support. It was all mind blowing, every single one.”

Kaffy, the celebrity dancer and choreographer who set the Guinness World Record for “Longest Dance Party” in 2009 came around to show support. A group of Efik dancers thrilled in traditional costume, winking at Baci as an Akwa Ibom native. Over time, Nigerians have proved they can be relied on for support where it matters, and Baci’s historic cook-a-thon was no different.

A couple of politicians provided motivation for Baci to continue her cook-a-thon. One of such is present governor of Lagos Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who arrived at the location on Sunday. Viral videos of the governor tasting her food gave way to more political involvement. Former governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio, appeared himself in solidarity for the resilient chef. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who couldn’t make it to the venue, called Baci on the phone with cheering words.

Support from Baci’s assistant chef, Sunday Okwe

While Baci remains the woman of the hour, an under-the radar figure who deserves honorable mention is Sunny Okwe, her assistant chef. In most clips or images of the cooking marathon, Chef sunny, as he’s also known, can be seen hovering around Baci and ensuring she had supplies at a reachable distance.

More importantly, he can also be seen standing close to her, encouraging in moments when she appears visibly exhausted. A handful of Nigerians online have drawn attention to their dynamic, hoping his role won’t be forgotten.

“The images of us were all profound, even when he appeared sapped out, he was still supportive to the end. I had two kitchen assistants and alternated between him and Lola. Sunny was the first chef I employed when I opened my restaurant. And I guess it’s just a matter of familiarity between us and how I like things to be done," Baci said. "They were so willing to stay longer and it meant a lot to me. When I almost gave up, what kept me going was them, thinking of the time and effort they have put into the marathon because I had to make it worth something.”

Image courtesy of the artist.

The Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring new African music from Teni, Tyla x Ayra Starr, June Freedom x L.A.X, Obongjayar, and Beetrus.

Every week, we highlight the top Afrobeats and African music releases through our best music column, Songs You Need to Hear.

If you like these African music lists, you can also check out our Best Afrobeats and Best Amapiano of the month columns, plus our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

Read ahead for our round-up of the best new African music tracks and music videos that came across our desks this week.

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Cover art for 'Legend or No Legend' by Wande Coal.

Listen: Wande Coal Cements His Legacy With 'Legend or No Legend'

The Nigerian singer’s fourth studio album is a testament to his musical longevity.

Nigerian singer-songwriter and producer, Wande Coal, has finally unveiled his highly anticipated fourth studio album, Legend or No Legend, marking a significant milestone in his enduring career. The album serves as a testament to Wande Coal's versatility as an artist, incorporating a captivating array of Afrobeat sounds and featuring collaborations with industry heavyweights including Wizkid, T-Pain, Olamide, and Fireboy.

Despite his evolution as a bigwig in Nigeria’s music scene, Wande Coal’s signature vocals are stronger than ever, encapsulating the entire album as he delves into themes of love, loss, and the complexities that accompany fame. With this album, Wande Coal offers a deeply personal and introspective experience, inviting listeners into his journey of self-discovery. The artist himself expressed his sentiments about the project, stating: "This Album is a reflection of my growth as an artist and as a person, and I can't wait for my fans to connect with it."

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