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People at a Black Lives Matter protest rally outside the US Embassy in Dublin following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, US.

African Writers Show Solidarity with Protesting Americans in Open Letter

'We support the protests in the United States and across the world as our people demand justice for any and all racial killings whether by police or civilians,' writes Mona Eltahawy, Mohale Mashigo, Remy Ngamije, Mukoma wa Ngugi and more.

African writers across the continent have shown their solidarity with Americans protesting police brutality in the country with an open letter, Aljazeera reports. The likes of Mona Eltahawy,Mohale Mashigo,Remy Ngamije, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Lola Shoneyin, Zukiswa Wanner, Makanaka Mavengere, Chris Abani and numerous others have all co-signed the letter which fiercely condemns the continued killing of African Americans at the hands of the police and calls on African governments to do much more to address the crisis.


READ: 'Unity Is Strength': African Football Stars Show Support for #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd

Following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who was killed by white police officers, many Americans have since taken to the streets of Minneapolis to protest the continued police brutality against the Black community. The protests have now spread to other cities including Washington D.C., New York, St. Louis and Chicago with additional demonstrations in countries such as France, England, Australia and New Zealand as shows of solidarity.

Recently, African writers penned an open letter to the African American community as a show of support for the mass protests as well as a call to African governments to do more to seriously address a pandemic that has long preceded even COVID-19––racism.

The letter begins with, "As African writers without borders who are connected beyond geography with those who live in the United States of America and other parts of the African diaspora, we state that we condemn the acts of violence on Black people in the United States of America." The letter then goes on to condemn the killing of numerous African Americans including Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice.

The writers acknowledge the statement released by the African Union with regards to the protests but insist that it is not enough. Additionally, they call on African governments to offer "those who choose it: refuge, homes and citizenship in the name of pan-Africanism." Read the full open letter here.

While some Africans, including South African rapper AKA, have called on Africans to "return home", many others have rightly argued that America is their home and that they should not have to "return to Africa" as if they aren't rightful citizens with as many legitimate rights as their white counterparts.

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The Best East African Songs of 2022 So Far

From Kenyan drill to bongo flava and everything in between, here are the best East African songs of the year so far featuring Buruklyn Boyz, Zuchu, NJERI, Diamond Platnumz, Khaligraph Jones and more.

The first half of 2022 has seen many rising stars of the region cement their place in the charts with some exquisite bodies of art.

As the new generation of East African artists innovates their look and sound they’re gaining from the rest of the world every day. From the likes of Buruklyn Boyz, NJERI and Zuchu, we have seen some spectacular singles and projects so far this year. On the other hand, the heavyweights kept their fans happy with plausible releases that raised the bar for all artists from this side of the continent.

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Spotlight
Photo courtesy of Nurdin Momodu

Spotlight: Nurdin Momodu Is Using Animation To Share African Ingenuity

We spoke with the 3D artist and animator about his company Lotusfly Animations, Black excellence, and Africa's relationship with technology.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Nigerian animator and 3D artist Nurdin Momodu. The Founder of Lotusfly Animations, Lagos-based Momodu's work beautifully articulates his vision of a technologically advanced world where Black excellence shines brightly. The animator founded his animation company in 2015, and has since pushed the boundaries of how African stories are told and shared. Keen on developing how African children see themselves on screens, Momodu and his team of established 3D artists are currently working on a kids' show titled, "Time Tech Kids".

We spoke with Momodu about following your passions, expressing Black excellence, and the representation that matters.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your background as an artist and the journey you've taken to get it to where it is today.

I never dreamt of pursuing a career as an artist, however, I always had an artistic eye. Life and its circumstances forced me to look within and harness the gifts I was given. The lack of jobs after pursuing a degree in microbiology was a turning point, and eight years ago, I discovered 3D animation and taught myself everything I could.

What are the central themes in your work?

I like to explore themes related to Afro-futurism, technology, and science fiction. I also like to look into deep emotions, melancholy and Black excellence.

How did you decide on using a digital medium for your art?

The moment I discovered 3D animation, I knew it was the medium for me -- the possibilities were endless. It felt so natural, I always had a fondness for computers, so expressing my art with one was a no-brainer.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism’ and African technology?

I think we are inseparable. I produced my first proof of concept titled “Jagabaan” because I wanted to express Black excellence and its relationship with technology and the future.

I imagine a time, far into the future, where Black people -- our culture, technology, stories, struggles of the past and present, and how they shaped the future -- dominate. However, the realities of everyday struggles in Africa make it challenging to envision this future. If my portrayal of Afro-futurism can connect with people just enough to enable them to ponder and believe in a future dominated by Black excellence, I’ll find fulfillment.

Can you talk about your use of colors in your work?

Black and Red are my favorite colors, I find them to be a default palette in my arsenal of colors. However, I am drawn to orange and cyan when lighting a shot or an image, especially when I think on a cinematic scale. I love making darker-looking art, but with a stylized look.

Night shots are particularly my favorite, so I go for desaturated colors with the exception of the focus to enable it to stand out from the background. I have an unhealthy obsession with colored neon lights. LOL.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

With the exception of mass hysteria due to Covid, lockdowns, and the #EndSars movement that took place in Nigeria, not much of my lifestyle changed. I began working from home in early 2019, and have been since, so the lockdown didn’t affect me much. I had an influx of jobs, so I spent most of the year working and improving my craft.

Photo by LotusFly Animations courtesy of Nurdin Momodu

Featured
Photo Credit: Damilare Kuku

Damilare Kuku on How Real Life Inspired Her Hit Novel ‘Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad’

OkayAfrica spoke to author Damilare Kuku about her salient breakout novel ‘Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad.’

Damilare Kuku is new to Nigeria’s literary scene. But her short story collection, Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, came with a buzz. Released in October 2021, the book is a collection of twelve salient tales of young Nigerians in Lagos. Capturing the complexion of the city, it grapples with themes like love, sex, deceit, infidelity, companionship, and heartbreak.

The characters in Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad are women. However, they are not just any kind of women. They are people with whom Kuku shares certain connections with.

Some of these women are friends, close acquaintances, and relatives. "One of the aims of my work as a creative artist is bringing human beings closer, especially women," Kuku told OkayAfrica. "Because women need to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone. There are other people with the same thing happening to them."

Kuku, who loved reading books as a child, grew up between Lagos and Ile-Ife. Before her debut novel became a hit, Damilare played roles in movies. She’s made appearances in Africa Magic's television series Unbroken and Nollywood blockbusters like The Set-Up (2019), Chief Daddy (2018), and Love is War (2019). As her writing career enjoys attention and success, she landed her most important Nollywood role yet — in the Biodun Stephen-directed drama The Wildflower, released in May.

OkayAfrica caught up with Kuku on Zoom to talk about this anthology work, its inspiration, and her most important role in Nollywood yet.

Damilare Kuku book

How did you come up with the title?

The title of the novel came to me after a prayer session. I'm an unapologetic child of God, which means I rely heavily on God. I was actually in between projects and remembered I was in my one-room apartment in Yaba, Lagos — a very cute little place. I liked it, and I was so proud of the space.

Whenever I am not working, I pray. Somehow, somewhere, I was praying, inspiration came and was like, "how about you write a novel titled Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad?" It wasn't even the inspiration for the stories; it was only the title. So immediately, I sent the title to a very well-known Nollywood actor's assistant. I never got a response, which discouraged me a bit, but I thought maybe it wasn't the right time, so I let it go. This was in 2019. A year later, I submitted a book to my publisher. This was the publisher who later published Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, and they were like we see potential, and we'd love you to come in for a meeting. So I went in for a meeting and they wanted to sign me on the spot.

Your book deals with themes like deceit, companionship, infidelity, social class, friendship, and heartbreak. Was there any of these themes you wanted readers to pay more attention to?

All stories in the novel are as personal as they can be. I don't have a story in the book, but each story was carefully written, which is interesting because I had all of these things written out, hoping anybody reading the book would get the message. When the message was clear, it was pretty comforting. Every particular story was of clear intention. The same thing with any of my work has always been clear. I'm always delighted when people see my message's clarity. Each story is a love letter to some woman I know.

In the story “Beard Gang” from Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad, you explored how Gay men use marriage to straight women to conceal and hide their sexual orientation. Do you think Nearly All The Men in Lagos helped in any way to pinpoint how this is problematic?

Firstly LGBTQ+ community is very precious, and I'm cautious with what I say. I believe my work mirrors what is going on in the society. Take from it what you will. I tell most people I'm not here to educate you, and I'm more of a timekeeper. That's what I am as a writer. I'm saying this is what is happening. As Damilare, I believe people should be who they want to be. People should learn to accept people for who they are. That's my phenomenon; that is my theory about life. When a person shows you who they are, accept them, but on the other hand, I'm not doing that in this book. I'm simply saying that this is where our society is. Read it and then take from it what you will.

Because it would be foolhardy of me to say this is wrong or right. I'm not here to teach anybody, I'm just here to mirror the society and say how it is. I've had many reporters ask me what my view on queer people is. I don't have an opinion, and that's not because I'm trying to play it safe, but this is what society is.

Damilare Kuku green shirt

"I'm very intentional with my work, and I feel like, as a woman, I can only share stories about what it feels like to be a woman," Damilare Kuku said.

Photo Credit: Damilare Kuku

Let’s talk about the theme of sex. Why was it so essential to the stories being told in your novel?

For me, it was the characters telling their stories, and I can remember older people who had read the book who called me and said, "Is this what is happening now?" and I said yes. I told them it was different from their time when women were very conservative about their sexual life and sexuality. Nowadays, if a woman consents to sex, she's doing it of her own free will. So is that necessarily a good or a bad thing? Then again, it is not my place because if I pass judgment as a writer, I'm not doing my job telling the story. It is left to the readers to make with it what they will. I remember I did an interview a while ago and the interviewer and critic called NALMILAM not too far from pornography, and I laughed. Similarly, the book is dedicated to my mom Oluremi Abake. She started reading the book, but she also says the sex talk is a bit too much for her. But I feel like it's a normal phenomenon; young people living in Lagos are having sex, so why sugar coat it?

Was there any story in Nearly All The Men in Lagos Are Mad that was tedious or mentally draining to write?

The only thing that was quite tedious was emotions. So when my friends — the inspirations behind the stories — went through what they went through, I related as a listener. To write about their experiences, you have to become them. So I found myself being them. Sometimes I would even cry. In the story "Ode-plus complex," the main character (Jide) was a family member's experience. I became the character to understand what they went through, which helped me as an actor. It was very therapeutic.

Let's talk about your latest role in The Wildflower. Share with me what it was like to play the role

As I said, I'm very intentional with my work, and I feel like, as a woman, I can only share stories about what it feels like to be a woman, either through what friends have been through or what I know someone else has gone through. I can tell what other women go through because I am one myself, so when I got the role in The Wildflower, after several auditions, I was very excited. I wanted to tell the story of women and what they go through, abuse in the workplace and many girls go through that. They are being marginalized. Women go through a lot, and most times, some people who do these things to us don't think they've abused the woman.

In The Wildflower, my character was abused by her boss, and there was a scene after the abuse where he said to her, "If only you've been a little bit more cooperative..." and I believe most men think like this. They think, "I didn't rape you — we had sex." But no, it's rape. I told you "no." You didn't listen and went ahead to do what you wanted. When someone says "no," no should mean no. I have often heard some ridiculous views like, "when an African woman says no, she means maybe."

We are here in a society where men don't respect boundaries. They don't respect personal space, and they think it's okay to touch a girl because she's wearing a short skirt. I read a review about The Wildflower from a popular site, and the reviewer said, "absolutely not recommended because abuse has been talked about," and I actually wish I could talk to the person and say, "just because abuse has been talked about many times, doesn't mean it shouldn't be explored."






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