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French writer David Diop poses during a photo session in Paris on September 20, 2018.

David Diop Awarded 2021 International Booker Prize

French-Senegalese writer David Diop is the recipient of this year's International Booker Prize for his debut novel 'At Night All Blood Is Black'.

French-Senegalese writer, David Diop, has been awarded this year's prestigious International Booker Prize for his debut novel At Night All Blood Is Black. In a notable historic moment, he is also the first French writer to be awarded this literary prize, according to several reports. Diop had initially been longlisted for the prize alongside veteran Kenyan author, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, for his novel ThePerfect Nine — the first ever entry to have been written in the indigenous African language of Gikuyu.

READ: Author David Diop Makes International Booker Prize ShortlistAuthor David Diop Makes International Booker Prize Shortlist

At Night All Blood Is Black was reportedly inspired by Diop's grandfather and the personal experiences he had during World War I. The novel is described by OkayAfrica's Nobantu Shabangu as follows:

"The historically-influenced novel is written in the active voice of its protagonist Alfa Ndiyae, a young recruit from a village in Senegal. Diop attempts to make sense of the psychological tension faced by Alfa Ndiyae, who is caught up in the madness of a war that weaponised Black bodies for its own agendas. Ndiyae is subsequently driven to revenge on white soldiers after witnessing the terrible death of his best friend Mademba Diop and, so, heads into the enemy lines."

The BBC reports that chair of the judges, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, described Diop's offering saying, "We judges agreed that its incantatory prose and dark, brilliant vision had jangled our emotions and blown our minds," and going on to add, "That it had cast a spell on us."

According to The Guardian, Diop was born in Paris to a French mother and Senegalese father and spent his childhood in Senegal. Thereafter, he returned to France and eventually became a professor of 18th-century literature at the University of Pau. His £50 000 prize money will be split between himself and Anna Moschovakis who translated his novel into English.

The International Booker Prize is awarded annually to a single book that is translated to English and published in either the UK or Ireland. Previous winners include British-Nigerian writer Bernadine Evaristo who became the first ever Black woman to be awarded the prize in 2019.

Photo credit: Harry Langer/DeFodi Images.

The Triumph of Sadio Mané

From humble beginnings in an obscure Senegalese village, the football star defied all odds to reach competitive glory.

When Sadio Mané’s game-winning penalty nestled in the back of the net at the Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé, Cameroon on February 6, 2022, it sparked euphoric celebrations as Senegal was confirmed the champions of African football at the 2021 AFCON. For Mané, it represented a triumph on both a national and personal level.

Winning the competition in 2022 banished the ghost of 2019 — when Senegal lost in an agonizing AFCON final to Algeria. Concurrently, that victory and the circumstance surrounding it meant that Mané had belatedly led his country to their first African Cup of Nations win, earning the admiration of a nation.

Motivation for greatness

From playing football on the streets of Dakar, Mané has risen to be feted as one of the best players of his generation. The journey to being Senegal’s talisman was not without its attendant risks and struggles. Still, it all began in the little-known village of Bambali where he was born in 1992. Born to the family of a local Muslim cleric, Mané had a happy childhood playing football on the dirt fields in his home village while dreaming of a professional career in the sport. His father, however, tried to stop him, forbidding him from playing football as a child.

Unfortunately, Mané’s dad died when he was seven due to the lack of proper healthcare facilities in Bambali, forcing the family to turn to traditional medicine. That incident left a mark on young Mané, strengthening his resolve to make it as a professional footballer and provide his village with humanitarian assistance when he could. At age 15, Mané ran away from home, making the nearly-500 mile journey to Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, to pursue his dreams.

A leg up with Génération Foot

In Dakar, the young star attended a series of trials before signing with the local academy Génération Foot, after scouts spotted him playing in M’Bour. Mané quickly started to make waves at Génération Foot, helping the club win promotion to the Senegalese Ligue 2 in the 2010/2011 season. A move to Europe soon beckoned, with Metz securing the signing of Mané thanks to a partnership with Génération Foot. Playing in the French Ligue 2, Mané distinguished himself with his ball-carrying, poise, and game-changing abilities even if his decision-making was still raw.

At the end of the season, Metz was relegated to the French third tier. Several offers arrived for Mané who went to the 2012 London Olympics with the Senegalese team and attracted more attention for his services. In the end, he joined Austrian giants, Red Bull Salzburg in a €4 million deal. Playing a more prominent role in Austria with more responsibility, Mané started to show signs of the explosiveness and dribbling that would make him a world-class star. In two seasons with Red Bull Salzburg, he scored 45 goals and recorded 32 assists in 87 appearances, paving the way for a move to the English Premier League where he joined Southampton Football Club.

Premier League rookie

Not fazed by the switch from Austria to England, Mané continued to perform at a high level, winning a penalty in a 2-1 win against Arsenal on his debut for Southampton. He would later score against Chelsea and Arsenal during the league campaign. On May 16, 2015, during Southampton’s final home league game of the season against Aston Villa, Mané wrote his name into the history books by scoring the fastest English Premier League hattrick in 2 minutes and 56 seconds beating Robbe Fowler’s record of 4 minutes and 33 seconds held for 21 years.

Overall, his debut campaign in England was a success with 10 goals from 32 appearances. A similar performance in his second season at St. Mary’s Stadium saw Mané finish as the highest goal scorer for Southampton, with 15 goals from 43 appearances.

The price goes up

The consistency of Mané’s performances and his flamboyance soon meant that bigger teams soon came knocking at the door. In the summer of 2016, he swapped the south coast of England for a move to Merseyside where he joined Jürgen Klopp’s revolution at Liverpool. The £34 million that Liverpool paid for him made him the most expensive African player in history at that time and he hit the ground running instantly, scoring the fourth goal in a 4-3 win against Arsenal on his debut.

In six seasons at the Merseyside, Mané contributed countless standout moments to Liverpool. He became a cult hero to the Kop, thanks to his professionalism, passion, and quality that saw him score 120 goals in 269 appearances. Operating primarily on the left of Jürgen Klopp’s attacking trident, he formed a devastating partnership with Roberto Firmino and fellow African, Mohamed Salah. Together, they led Liverpool to its sixth Champions League title in 2018 after losing in the final to Real Madrid in 2017.

The 2019/2020 season would prove to be Mané’s most famous at Liverpool as the team blitzed its way to the league title after a 30-year wait. In January 2020, Mané made some personal history by becoming the first Senegalese player since El Hadji Diouf to win the CAF African Footballer of the Year award despite his national team finishing as runner-up in the 2019 African Cup of Nations.

AFCON 2019 and glory on the pitch

Noticeably eager to make up for the near-miss of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, redemption would come for Mané when his game-winning penalty ensured that Senegal won the competition for the first time. Less than two months after beating Egypt in that final, he would again score the decisive penalty to send Senegal to the 2022 World Cup at the expense of the same opponent, after a 1-1 aggregate draw over the two-legged tie. A hattrick goal scored against Benin Republic in June 2022 made Mané the highest goal scorer in Senegalese football history, surpassing Henri Camara. He also received the CAF African Male Player of The Year award again in 2022 following his exploits at the continental championships.

Following all these exploits with his national team, Mané ended his club football in the 2021/2022 season on a high, winning the League Cup and FA Cup with Liverpool and finishing just one point behind Manchester City in the league. Soon after the season ended, Mané expressed an interest in pursuing a new adventure. He was soon off to join German giants, Bayern Munich, on a three-year deal, bringing an end to a six-year spell with Liverpool that was as fruitful as it was career-defining.

Similarly, he scored a goal on his Bayern Munich debut, helping the club to a 5-3 defeat of RV Leipzig in the 2022 DFL Supercup. Unfortunately, an injury sustained in a league game ruled him out of the 2022 World Cup despite his starring role in securing his country’s place in Qatar. All effort was made to get him ready for the Mundial but on November 17, 2022, he withdrew from the squad to focus on his rehabilitation.

Football philanthropist

For all the success that Mané has recorded in his career, he has never forgotten his background, regularly paying visits to Bambali to visit his family and kin. He donated 690,000 dollars towards the construction of a hospital in the village, fulfilling the promise he made to himself as a seven-year-old following the passing of his father. In addition, Mané gave £250,000 towards the building of a school in his village, noting that education was critical to helping the next generation of football talents that could come out of Bambali. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was stretching the resources of the health ministry in Senegal, he donated over 50,000 dollars to the national committee on the COVID-19 pandemic to help their efforts.

Characteristically shy and unwilling to draw attention to himself, Sadio Mané rose from a little boy in a village in West Africa to becoming one of the world’s best players, without losing sight of the most important things to him. As a folk hero in Senegal and an inspiration to Africans all over the world, Mané’s legacy is largely sealed and, whatever happens from now till the end of his career, he’ll always be remembered as one of the true greats of the modern era.

Photo by C Brandon

Senegalese Icon Baaba Maal Releases Music Video For “Freak Out”

Veteran singer Baaba Maal releases a new record called “Freak Out” featuring The Very Best.

In anticipation of his upcoming album Being—coming out on March 31—Baaba Maal has released a new track called “Freak Out” featuring The Very Best.

“Freak Out” will be the second track on Maal’s upcoming album. It is a vivid emblem of his musical expertise, and his ability to fuse both the past and present. On this song, Maal works with producer Johan Hugo, who fuses his electronic production with a uniquely modern African sound. The song unravels, and analyzes the world of social media, and how people navigate it. The record features Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya, who is a part of The Very Best, a collaboration between London’s Radioclit and Mwamwaya. The Very Best has a sound that can be described as a fusion of an Afro-Western mix of dance, hip-hop, pop, and the traditional music of Malawi, and their sound flows seamlessly with Maal’s sonic exploration on “Freak Out.”

In a statement about the record, Baaba Maal delves into the message behind the song.

It became a song about being careful what you put on the internet. It might seem funny or popular when you do it, but it might have consequences and you will have to live with those all your life. There are things you should keep to yourself,” said Maal. “Mystery is important in life; you don’t need to shine a light on every little thing you do. You don’t have to give away your soul for the sake of a little bit of attention.

Maal further explained that his song is calling attention to the idea that the internet should be a force for good.

“The internet should be used to make humanity feel good about themselves. It is so powerful, it can be dangerous and sometimes it just seems the internet has just caused a constant freak out,” Maal continued.

The accompanying music video for “Freak Out” features candid scenes from Baaba’s appearance at Podor’s Blues De Fleuve festival appearance, and is both riveting and distinctive. Watch the David Darg-directed music video below.

Baaba Maal - Freak Out Ft. The Very Best (Official Video)


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Photo courtesy Rukky Ladoja.

Rukky Ladoja on Building a Socially Responsible Nigerian Fashion Brand

The Nigerian designer behind Dye Lab has established a popular design brand based on the principle of little to no waste.

Rukky Ladoja is having what she describes as a typical Monday. She’s been called into her workshop for an emergency because her suppliers brought in the wrong materials. Rather than panic and wonder what to do, she immediately starts figuring out how to use the materials she’s been given in new pieces. ‘‘One thing I am big on is no waste,’ she tells OkayAfrica, when she shares the kind of day-to-day issues that come up for her as the designer behind Dye Lab. Ladoja founded the design brand during the COVID-19 pandemic and, guided by a zero-waste policy, it’s now become one of the most popular fashion brands in Nigeria today.

While Dye Lab has been branded a sustainable brand by many, Ladoja notes she is more comfortable calling herself “socially responsible,” as she didn’t set out to create a sustainable brand; she wanted to create a practical one. A brand that, instead of sourcing materials from international markets or using practices foreign to her environment, adapts local resources, styles, and skills across the entire design process. The result is practical kimono pieces that require little to no adjustment per customer, created in a way that ensures every part of the design process takes advantage of the resources — human and physical — around her with very little to no waste allowed.

The response to this? Phenomenal. Today, Dye Lab is fast turning into a household name in Lagos where it has inspired several copycats as the brand has turned into one of the best sellers of Industrie Africa — an e-commerce website with a focus on African designers. Days before Ladoja and I talk, Dye Lab had just finished a six-week pop-up store at the Anya Hindmarch store in the United Kingdom, and their year is just getting started.

An image of the designer sitting on a chair that\u2019s placed on a checkered floor and there\u2019s a vibrant art piece behind her.Designer Rukky Ladoja is all about running a socially responsible fashion brand.Photo courtesy Stephen Tayo.

‘‘The response has been great,” says Ladoja. “It's been an onslaught of demand, from clients, from friends, from international orders.” The brand recently started stocking on Industrie Africa, and Ladoja was told to expect 10 to 12 orders a month — that's kind of what their highest sellers get. “They just sent us a report that we had gotten over 60 orders in a month,” she says. “It's always like a surprise, every time we get those numbers.” It’s the same feeling she gets when a brand like Anya Hindmarch approaches the label. “Before they approached us, we had been talking about what kind of brands we wanted to emulate globally and they were put at the top of that list. And so to get a call saying, ‘Hey, I would love to collaborate,’ it was sort of surreal to us.’’

From a young age, Ladoja has always been interested in fashion, design, and the process of design in particular. ‘‘I was more interested in putting things together, not necessarily the style element of it, but the construction, the process of it.’’ Her favorite designers — the likes of Miuccia Prada, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen — are all designers who focus on intelligent fashion, and the purpose behind every design choice they make. These influences are what interested Ladoja in fashion when she was in university.

She started a brand in the late 2000s, observing how many of her peers shopped, noting that at the time, online shopping wasn’t as readily available as it is today and that many Nigerians didn’t trust the few online stores that did exist mostly. For many, shopping meant sellers had to come into their places of work or buyers had to rush to stores after work. ‘‘I recognised how people were shopping,’’ Ladoja says. ‘‘And it was always someone bringing a suitcase into the office and everyone going through it, or running down to the market to see what they could buy.” It made Ladoja think: people should be able to shop in nicer environments than this. That was the start of Grey Projects, a high-end retail brand in the vein of Zara that stocked ready-to-wear fashion pieces created with Africans in mind.

But in 2019, a decade after launching the brand, Ladoja had to shut down Grey Projects. Sourcing supplies in Nigeria was difficult and even when she would get the supplies, finished products would often sit in warehouses, going to waste. She learned that working with local tailors to recreate her designs, which were often foreign to them, was a Herculean task that only led to more surplus items. Closing the business left her not wanting to be involved in fashion ever again. ‘‘I just felt like I had just been scarred too much,” she says, “and there was too much trauma there.’’

Instead, Ladoja turned her focus to consulting, working behind the scenes for brands like Lagos Fashion Week. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened and the world stopped for a second; as did Ladoja’s consulting work. She needed to find another source of income. ‘‘The resources I had were my tailors, access to fabric, fabric markets, and suppliers,’ she says.’

Yet Ladoja was resistant to the idea of launching a brand. Instead, she searched for a retailer to house and sell what she had created, agbada kaftans that took inspiration from traditional Yoruba styles and dyeing processes. ‘‘Unfortunately, at that point, none of the retailers wanted to buy it, which was a shame,’ she says. Ladoja then took to teasing the product herself, wearing it on Zoom meetings and around friends, who started saying, ‘Oh, I want to buy it.’

The interest grew organically, so much so that Dye Lab soon had a strong enough customer base and a distinct enough style for Ladoja to launch the brand. Armed with the lessons from Grey Projects, she took the leap. This time around, Ladoja sought to do everything differently. She rearranged the structure of her brand, and focused on making sure everything in the production process was accessible and easy. ‘‘I broke down everything that I didn't like about Grey [Projects], and used that to create Dye Lab,” she says. “The garments we made with Grey were my designs, but they were very complicated for my tailors. So I decided 'm not going to do that. I'm going to create styles and use styles that are familiar to my tailors. That way everybody can feel comfortable.’’

Taking the lessons learnt from Grey Projects to Dye Lab seeped into every part of Ladoja’s new brand, right down to the approach to fashion week. For the 2022 Lagos Fashion Week, where other brands were showcasing their designs on the runway, Dye Lab chose to invite select guests and press for a special exhibition where they got to see the garment-making process of the brand, educating them on the history of the fabric, techniques and the people behind it all. ‘‘With Grey Projects, I was importing Westernized ideas of fashion into a space that just did not connect with,’’ Ladoja says. ‘‘With Dye Lab, I said, let me go back; let me work with what is here; let me respond to what the people around me want, what works.’’

Now, Ladoja is focusing on expanding the world of Dye Lab. She reminds me that Dye Lab is first a ‘design brand’ and not just a fashion brand, which means there are limitless options when it comes to expanding. “I'm quite impatient to innovate and do more, or bring out all the ideas in my head,” says Ladoja. “However, just the garment production has taken such a toll, especially as we are trying to keep up with the demand.” Ladoja’s vision is to take the ideology and the conceptualization process from fashion to lifestyle products, furniture, stationery and everyday objects.

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