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A member of the South African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community gestures during the annual Gay Pride Parade, as part of the Durban Pride Festival, on June 29, 2019 in Durban.

Top Picks at the 2021 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

Over 50 riveting documentaries are set to premiere at this year’s Encounters South African International Documentary Festival which will span over ten days.

The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has announced its line-up of over 50 visual escapades to watch both online and in selected theatres. Truth-seeking, searing and undoubtedly moving African stories are what cinephiles can certainly look forward to. Themes explored in the documentaries include: culture, dance, homosexuality, politics, migration, refugee rights, homophobia, queer rights, colonialism and land rights.


I am Samuel is just what to watch especially during international Pride month. The documentary traces out the lived realities of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in a country where homosexuality is a punishable criminal offence. Samuel's secret gay life is complicated by his father who is a preacher and expects Samuel to be married. He ultimately has to make the decision to tell his father about his sexual orientation — a decision which may cost him his family's acceptance and endanger his life.

There is Power in the Collar is an interrogative documentary that explores the dangerous intersection of homophobia, Christianity and colonialism in Africa, especially Botswana. A queer human rights organisation fights to decriminalise same-sex relations under the country's constitution — a decision the courts have been considering since 2019.

The Men Who Speak Gayle looks at the development of drag culture in Cape Town. The title alludes to a code-switching language used between gay men years back. The documentary follows a young mixed-race drag queen who is in search of Louis, a white elderly gay man and original Gayle speaker, who currently lives in a conservative South African desert town.

Other notable documentaries are South Africa’s Murder in Paris andBurkina Faso’s The Golden Wolf of Balolé, among several others.

The festival will run from 10 June 2021 - 20 June 2021. Tickets are on sale for both online and theatre viewing at The Bioscope, 44 Stanely, Milpark in Johannesburg. For more information and the viewing catalogue, visit the Encounters International Documentary website.

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Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

'Ile Owo' Director Dare Olaitan on Exploring the Human Condition Through Film

Director Dare Olaitan talks about his filmmaking process and his attempt to re-educate the audience on the impact of unchecked capitalism.

Dare Olaitan was 26 when his first feature film, Ojukokoro: Greed,, was released in the cinemas. The crime thriller, which was released in 2016, received positive reviews and was nominated for the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Nigerian Film in 2018. Knock Out Blessing, his second film, also got an AMAA nomination the following year. Dwindle, his third, — which is coming to Netflix later this month — was co-directed with Kayode Kasum last year.

In his latest film, Ile Owo, Olaitan aims to capture the horrific by exploring social hierarchies, poverty, class politics, and religion in the Nigerian society. The psychological trailer stars Immaculata Oko, Tina Mba, Akin Lewis, Bisola Aiyeola, Efe Iwara and a host of others.

In this interview with OkayAfrica, Olaitan talks about his filmmaking process and his attempt to re-educate the audience on the impact of unchecked capitalism.

Ile-Owo screenshot two women

Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

Ile-Owo is your fourth film, but the first horror. What drew you to this genre and why did you decide horror was the most fitting form to tell the story?

I think horror movies are a great way to deal with social issues by motifs and metaphors to illustrate things that I am concerned about at the moment. I am also interested in the global interest in the horror genre and its ability to travel. I would say Ile Owo isn’t a true horror film. It’s closer to a psychological thriller.

Of course, horror is not new in Nigerian films, and quite a number of millennials, including you, who grew up in the country can attest to watching them. Was there something you wanted to do differently?

I feel like horror exploded in the Nigerian film industry as a reaction to the dictatorship of [Sani] Abacha in the early '90s. This made our films metaphors for the social problems with evangelical and pentecostal churches and movements growing in that time. Ile Owo is a retread of those thoughts and feelings. Just updated for 2022.

It's interesting you mentioned religious movements. Ile Owo confronts social hierarchies, hardship, and the ways religion serves as succor for many. How much can relate to that?

I think it’s impossible to grow up in a third world country and not witness the impact economics has on many people. Religion creates some sense of structure and safety in a chaotic environment. The worse the economic situation of a region the higher the religious fervor.

Can you talk a bit about your technique, particularly on evoking fear on the big screen?

I knew my limitations and the limitations of the crew, so I tried to evoke fear in the mind of the viewer. By creating situations where the audience’s imagination completes the scare thus making it all the more personal.

And did you achieve that? Do you think the audience had enough material to work with?

I think to an extent. There is always room to grow. I learned lessons, I can say that much.

What lessons?

What Nigerians like to watch and how to structure things better. In terms of production, I’ve never done anything of this magnitude. I learned more about VFX.

You've spoken in the past about your interest in making seven films based on the seven deadly sins, which will be titled after each sin. You've made Ojukokoro (Greed). Where does Ile Owo come in? And why is exploring these themes important to you?

The seven deadly sins are an important thematic element for me. They represent some commonality in the human experience. Things people in every culture can relate to and have experienced in their daily lives. Ile Owo is not part of the seven. Igberaga (Pride) is the next one on the slate.

Ile-Owo screenshot man in car

Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

What exactly did you want to say in Ile Owo?

Ile Owo is really a film about the subjection of Nigerian women in the traditional marriage structures, how they are exploited by the expectations of culture and lose their lives and youth to support men who use them for personal gain. That was the nugget that informed the writing and creation of the story. I just had to obfuscate through metaphors and motifs.

Past conversations on social media have shown that some key players in Nollywood don't take criticism very well. How do you navigate unpleasant remarks about your work?

I can only speak for myself but I know I have no problem with well-intentioned criticism. I make art so it’s nice to get the thoughts of the people it was created for. I think the problem comes in with poorly-intentioned criticism. I have gotten reviews that called me stupid or foolish. I don’t think reviews like that help anyone and make it harder for creatives to express themselves.

How does your background in Economics and Business Management influence your work as a filmmaker?

It experiences the way I view life as it was the first viewpoint I used to parse reality. It’s evident in all my work as my subject matter almost always covers inequality and the rising gap between the rich and the poor. I think capitalism has become unchecked and I am doing my little part to re-educate the audience.

I recall a character hallucinating in Ojukokoro. There's a similar element in Ile Owo, portrayed by the protagonist's father. You seem keen on exploring the intersection of mental illness and the supernatural.

What is mental illness and what is supernatural? Are they not two shirts cut from the same fabric? I am not sure to be honest. I just like to mess with themes that are interesting to me. I think there is a thing among indigenous creatures where people who have mental illnesses are seen to be closer to the supernatural. Perhaps this is an extension of that.

Director Dare Olaitan

Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

As the writer and director, you must have had the most influence on the outcome of this film. What other factors impacted the production? If you could change anything in the process, from ideation to premiere, what would that be?

Nigeria. Making films in Nigeria is very hard. Filmmaking is akin to war. We must conquer the reality and bend it to our will in order to for 90-120 minutes, capture the audience in disbelief and play them to our wishes. Nigeria makes this hard as life here is already war. Budgetary concerns, technical inability to accomplish some of our goals are things that will always impact production. I wish I had more time and money.

What are the three things filmmakers just starting out should bear in mind?

Your message. Your reasons for doing it. Your tone. These things will guide you and stop you from missteps. I wish I had that knowledge when I started.

It's fascinating how you're able to move across different genres: crime, comedy, and psychological thriller. You're a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, and that's evident in your work. Who are some of the filmmakers that have had the most influence on your work and why?

Robert Rodriguez. Martin Scorsese. [Francis Ford] Coppola. These are the people whose films I look up too. We might have the same content in terms of premise but I like to see what they do to navigate problems because as a director all you are doing is really solving problems and translating ideas into images. I watched a lot of their film commentaries when I started out, so their voices sort of guide me.


Music
(YouTube)

The 10 Best South African Songs of the Month (July)

Featuring Blaq Diamond, Sliqe, Blxckie, Mlindo The Vocalist, Mellow & Sleazy and more.

Here are the South African songs and music videos that caught our attention this month.

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Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

Mous Lamrabat’s New Exhibition Captures the Necessity Of Peace, Women’s Rights and Humor

The Moroccan-Belgian photographer uses his new exhibition to express thoughts he has always wanted to express

Belgian-Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat is a world builder. In his new exhibition, Lamrabat found solace in a perfect place in his head where he calls his very own “Mousganistan,”

The exhibit, titled “Blessing from Mousganistan”, opened in the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Foam) in June and will run until October 16. The exhibit expresses contrasting vibrant color, obscure symbols and bold utopia. For Lamrabat, aligning creativity with his identity has always been his greatest signature. And not because he’s keen on highlighting the innermost Moroccan part of himself, which can be viewed from a myopic lens. But he’s more than just Moroccan, African and Muslim. In the last couple of years, Lamrabat has been one of the prominent photographers bringing his culture to the forefront of fashion editorials including Vogue, GQ and Fucking Young. His ideas are simply refreshing, new and audacious.

In this new exhibition, Lamrabat reels people into his world and past experiences — both stereotypes he has always wanted to deconstruct and stories he has always wanted to share. Lamrabat invites viewers into past experiences of growing up in Belgium and watching the reactions of people towards his mother and sisters because they wore hijabs. He also captures that melancholic pain but from a triumphant narrative.

OkayAfrica had a phone call with the photographer and he spoke about the exhibition, what it meant to him, working in the fashion industry and building an audience.

Mous Lamrabat headshot

Photo Credit: Dimitri Bekaert

You are one of the prominent photographers from Northern Africa, how did your journey as a visual artist emerge?

I feel my journey as an artist is still starting. I studied interior design at the KASK & Conservatorium / School of Arts Gent, Belgium. My father was a creative person and that's why I wanted to enter the academy and do something creative but when I arrived at the academy, I realized that I wasn’t actually as creative as the other kids who grew up having their parents take them to the museum and who were in touch with their innate creativity at an early age. I didn’t have that kind of opportunity because my parents were first generation immigrants. They didn’t go to museums or even know what art actually was.

When I went to school there, I felt at home because there were kids in the hallway painting. There were some people playing music and I really felt like I belonged there and I really wanted to prove that I belonged there. I learnt very fast how to be creative and how to become the expectation of my teachers. It felt like I was infected with the creative virus, I wanted it to be so good. When I finished my study, I was asked by an architectural company to come join their team, but I didn’t do that because I wanted to be creative every day. Architecture is a little bit of creativity and the rest is technical and I didn’t want that for myself. So I declined all the job offers and I went to assist a local photographer as an assistant

Your work revolves around stories of identity, especially life as a Moroccan. Can you say more?

Growing up Moroccan, African, and muslim in Belgium, I wanted to belong and be part of a group. Every person in the Western world has this crisis with sticking to their roots or joining mass of people, that feeling of leaving behind heritage. For me , I didn’t have to choose between these things because it’s like society tells us the truth but we basically don’t have to choose. That’s why I started doing my own thing within photography, showing who I am as a person, what my interests are, and how I grew up. I mean I am African, I am Moroccan, I am Muslim but I also grew up in a world where I use to love playing basket ball, listening to hip-hop — all these things made me who I am and the total of it made me strong. Inside the house, we were Moroccan, we took off our shoes, the house looked Moroccan but outside was Belgium.

Mous Lamrabat

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

What was the inspiration behind “Blessings from Mousganistan”?

"Mousganitan" started off as a bit of a joke. I always felt like if you wanted to do something different from everybody else and not be judged, then you don’t necessarily need to share that idea because we all do have ideas. For me, when you tell people your ideas, people always have an opinion and you tend to adapt to what they say which affects your creativity. I feel like every creative person needs to have a made up place where they create raw ideas of what they want to do without being affected by the outside place. So my Mousganistan is a place I go to become creative because there are no opinions from people.

Mous Lamrabat photo durags

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

In one of the portraits, a star sign can be seen on the muses’s head. Is there a meaning to this?

Everything I do is always personal and it also revolves around things happening in the world that bothers me and have an effect on me and my creative process. When there was a lot of unrest in the Middle East between Pakistan and Israel, it was really something that tore us apart. Jewish and Islamic people have always been brothers biblically because we are children of the book. This is why sometimes I put together things to have that message out. For me that photography was putting Judaism and Islam in one image to bring it back together and have conversations about it. I wanted people to see the unison between both religions and understand that photographic intent of promoting peace.

Was the series a means to emphasize on women’s rights?

When I talk about women’s rights, I mostly speak about my own experience. Experiences about my mother in the supermarket because my mother wears a hijab and how the people react to her is uncomfortable. It hurts me to see that people treat and see them as less and this is something I will always contribute my work to, to give people like my mother and sister a representation.

There is a portrait in this exhibition of two boys catching a grip of flowers. Was that your attempt to speak about masculinity and what it looks like in Morocco?

It’s not exactly like masculinity because the series was inspired by old paintings and I was looking through the inspiration of my past work and it gave me the aura of trying something new from the old. I never explain my work in exhibitions. Most of the time I hear a lot of people talk about my work and their interpretations, and I learn so much from them because I realize there is more to my work than I expect it to be. So that’s why I love that you interpreted the photo to be a view on masculinity. Maybe it resonates with you as a person or maybe it makes you think about masculinity.

Mous Lamrabat clown

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

The collection had a portraiture of clowns, was this an inclination to capture humor.

I was always intrigued by clowns because I love emotions. Clowns have always been an inspiration because they exude happiness and joy. But I always found clowns sad sometimes but that’s not what they are invented for. I love playing with clown photos because there are so much emotions there. I always try to put humor in them because if you make someone feel something when they look at your photo, they would remember it because of the emotions in the photos. And my favorite one is humor because laughter is important, and I want to put messages inside my photos but I always try to do it on a positive note.

Mous Lamrabat mother

Photo Credit: Mous Lamrabat

Have you ever had to compromise or wrestle with toning down your Arabic imagery in your photography to please certain eyeballs?

I would be lying if I said no. I never took the audience as an issue. If I ever had a reaction, it has only been on social media because whenever I do exhibitions, the people that come have a certain intelligence to understand the scenery of my exhibition. It’s not just one photo that they see in an exhibition, it consists of the total. But on social media, when I post a photo, people always have something to say about my work or share their opinion. I didn’t compromise that much honestly because I felt my work was growing quite fast. I don’t want to compromise but if I don’t, I get these reactions that don't sit well with me because I’m kind of a soft person. When a person talks bad about my work, it feels like they talk bad about my children. I’m very passionate about what I do. I feel like I would compromise more but I hope I won’t.

Would you say the creative world has been more accepting of photographers like yourself or do you face certain barriers?

I think so, yes. The creative world is in need of inspiration and when you do something refreshing and new, people get attracted to it. If I see some people’s art which sometimes I love and sometimes I don’t but if it’s something super refreshing, I automatically respect it whether I like it or not. That’s also the part of the respect I get from the creative world because my work was something people never saw before and that’s why they respect me and want to exhibit me.


Interview

Interview: Ajebo Hustlers Are Port Harcourt’s Latest Cherished Export

We talk to the rising duo about breaking into the Nigerian mainstream with hit tracks like "Symbiosis," "Barawo," and "Loyalty," and their upcoming project, Bad Boy Etiquette 101.

It’s easy to forget the dark realities that still plague most African countries when looking through the lens of their rising global stars. The fame of artists like Wizkid, Kizz Daniel, and Olamide, is also said to cloud the economic, social, religious, and civil problems that affect everyday citizens and their harsh realities.

Artists emerging from these harsh realities bring a different essence to how they create, crafting their stories with vivid detail, eager to share with the world what they’ve been through and why they should be heard. Their talent is being fueled by a rage to escape what they’ve seen. Coming from a nation that produced one of the most radical speakers of his time, Fela Kuti, it's not hard to understand why music as a form of protest easily runs in the blood of the country’s music veins.

This is why when an artist breaks out from this system, much is to be celebrated especially when you come from heavily exploited regions like Port Harcourt. Indigenes of Nigeria’s infamous home of crude oil often rue the mineral’s presence because of its impact on their land and people. Thick black smoke billows into the sky on a daily basis, polluting the entire ecosystem, and making the Port Harcourt dream to rise above these fumes.

Like phoenixes rising from the ashes, the duo of Piego and Knowledge, known as Ajebo Hustlers, represent hope for a generation of creators from this region. Making music that seeks to probe your awareness of their realities, accompanied with the right rhythms to beckon listeners to move their bodies. They found their sound and stuck to it, following the footsteps of other Port Harcourt stars like Timaya and Burna Boy, who have similar approaches, and have ascended to the famed halls of Nigerian music stardom.

We spoke to Ajebo Hustlers about their come-up, how growing up in Port Harcourt shaped their lives and music, breaking into mainstream Nigeria with hit tracks like "Symbiosis," "Barawo," "Loyalty," and their upcoming project.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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