An African Minute: 5 Questions with Artist Chief Nyamweya

Chief Nyamweya is an artist and writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is passionate about re-telling African stories through the contemporary power of art. He is also the founder of Emergency Webcomic, a comic based on the life and times of Kenyan National hero Dedan Kimathi that is set amidst the 1952 -1960 Mau Mau uprising in British East Africa. As part of Okayafrica's brand new series, "An African Minute," we asked Nyamweya 5 questions about what inspires him and how his work contributes to the changing global perception of Africa.

1. What is the "emergency" in "Emergency WebComic"? What is the idea behind this comic?

The "emergency" in the name of my first webcomic was a reference to the declaration of a State of Emergency in Kenya in 1952. I just wanted to tell a great story and, maybe, get young people interested in that little-understood period of our past. It wasn't meant as an encyclopaedia, but it contained enough fact to provoke the reader to want to visit more authoritative sources. Just as Asterix did for Roman history....Unfortunately, Emergency may have been ahead of it's time. In spite of it's popularity, there weren't any distributors who'd carry it, and I didn't have the critical mass online to sustain it full-time. So I had to park it for the time being.

2. What do you find you most challenging about being an artist, and specifically being an artist in Kenya?

Firstly, it's a challenge to find viable business models to make working as an artist sustainable, but not impossible. There are a lot of talented people out there who gave up trying and became accountants. I find this challenge exciting. Besides, I love what I do, so it's a bonus to make a living from what I would do anyway for free.

Secondly, there's not much of an established comic book industry in Kenya, so you find yourself make it up as you go along. Again, I find this to be a noble challenge.

3. How do you fund your creative projects?

There is soooooooooo much material all around us as Africans! The good thing about having our perspective ignored by the world for so long is that we're the one part of the world which has no shortage of content. And I'm not talking about NGO sob stories. I mean love, romance, crime fiction, science fiction, all with an African flavour!

4.What do you think will change about the creative economy in Africa over the next five years?

It will become a lot more entrepreneurial. In Nairobi this is already happening. Young people coming out of school in Nairobi have a new-found arrogance (and I use "arrogance" in a positive sense) and are taking charge of their future. They aren't willing to cow-tow to their inept predecessors, their government or employers. They are cheetahs. In five years, the energy around this generation would have made such a centre as Nairobi is very attractive to clients and distributors from around the world.

5.Lastly, your thoughts on changing the global perception of Africa?

I feel privileged to be growing up in these interesting times! We still have the negative stories out of Somalia, Ivory Coast etc, but for the first time, these stories are tempered by the verve of the Cheetah Generation. Asia responded early, but the world will catch up.

We also discovered other little unknowns about Chief Nyamweya. For instance, before he became Chief Nyamweya, "David" was on his birth certificate. He is independently self taught. He says that his country's future, and his role in it, as well as his continent's future and it's new place in the world inspire him. When asked what he would be doing if he wasn't an artist, he replied: "I'd probably go back to being the bored-to-death lawyer I was, and commit suicide after a year or so."

For more on Chief Nyamweya visit his latest crime fiction comic "Roba." We suggest you click the "enlarge" icon on the slide show below to get a better view of Nyamweya's incredible work.

Photo by Ned Dishman, courtesy of Pops Bonsu.

In Conversation: Meet Pops Mensah-Bonsu—the Ghanaian Former Pro Player Trailblazing the Front Desk of the NBA

We speak to the general manager of the Capital City Go-Go about his journey to professional basketball stardom, his hopes for the Basketball Africa League and more.

Nana Pops Mensah-Bonsu didn't take basketball seriously at first. For the now General Manager of the Capital City Go-Go and a former player in the NBA and European leagues, the game wasn't as exciting as other sports. "For me, I was impressionable," he says, "I was young; all my friends played soccer and ran track. That's what I really wanted to do."

Born and raised in London, England, the former pro with Ghanaian roots (whose name stems from his middle name, Papa—the equivalent to 'junior') grew up playing soccer and running track. His older brother started playing basketball, a relatively invisible sport compared to soccer, when he was about 16 in the early 90s and eventually moved to the U.S. on a scholarship. Mensah-Bonsu says that when parents witnessed his brother's experience, they took it as an opportunity for the rest of their children to do the same—allowing them to have a better opportunity to succeed.

Mensah-Bonsu's dad introduced him to basketball and took him to the other side of London where he started developing his skills. After juggling the three sports with basketball on the back burner, Mensah-Bonsu eventually realized his potential once he made the move stateside himself as a teen. Making a name for himself as a student-athlete at George Washington University, his work ethic led him to a professional career in both the NBA, playing for the likes of the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors as well as internationally—playing for clubs in Spain, France, Turkey, Russia and Italy, to name a few.

Retiring in his early 30s, Mensah-Bonsu is still a part of the game—but on the decision-making side. Currently serving as the Capital City Go-Go's general manager of the G League (the official minor league of the NBA) in Washington, D.C., he's trying to blaze a trail for more diversity and inclusion in the NBA front office. "I really want to do my best and succeed at this next level because I know how profound and impactful it can be if it's done well," he says. "I put pressure on myself to work extra hard to make sure I can get to this position where I can have that impact on these guys and show them a mirror image of themselves and show them how possible it is."

We caught up with Pops Mensah-Bonsu to learn more about his journey navigating basketball stardom to calling the shots behind the scenes, his hopes for the newly established Basketball Africa League and more in the interview below.

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25K. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

How a 3-Year-Old Song Earned SA Artist 25K a Deal with Universal & a Co-Sign From AKA

We interview 25K, the South African rapper poised to be the country's next star.

AKA was so moved by up-and-coming Pretoria rapper and producer 25K's single "Culture Vulture," he gave him a slot on his monumental Orchestra on the Square concert in March.

"The whole process when Kiernan (AKA's real name) reached out," recalls 25K, who will later admit AKA is one of his favorite artists, "that was like a dream come true for me. We were doing a gig, when I got home, I got a text, and it said, 'Yo, this is Kiernan, hit me back.' So, I saved the number, I was like, 'Yo,' then he FaceTimed me. He was like, '25K, I just had to reach you, dawg. Your song is great,' So, I was out of words. Just listening to him talk to me. He was like, 'Bro, we need to cook up something.' But eventually, time will tell. So the people will get to hear."

Thabiso Khathi, the respected hip-hop head & record label executive popularly known as Hip-Hop Scholar, as well as the newly appointed Head of Urban at Universal Music Group South Africa, lets the cat out of the bag. "I don't know if the world knows that AKA officially jumped on the remix for 'Culture Vulture,' which we will be bringing out in the next few weeks," says Scholar. Today, him and the label have gathered journalists at the Universal Music Group headquarters in Rosebank to witness the young artist's signing.

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News Brief
Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Nigerian-British Actor Susan Wokoma's First Rom-Com Feature Film Is In the Works

She's set to write and star in BBC Films-backed 'Three Weeks'—a rom-com drama about abortion.

Just two months ago, we got wind of Susan Wokoma landing a series regular role in CBS' new comedy pilot, Super Simple Love Story.

The Nigerian-British actor and 2017 BAFTA Breakthrough Brit honoree continues to make power moves in entertainment, as it was recently announced that she's in the process of writing her feature debut, Three Weeks, Variety reports.

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