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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a joint press conference with French President following their meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, on October 29, 2018.

Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency Amid Rising Regional Attacks

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has declared a state of emergency following rising Tigrayan attacks on national military troops.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedhas declared a state of emergency. This follows alleged rising attacks from the northern region of Tigray. According to The Washington Post, the Ethiopian government alleges that the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) provoked the government into military confrontation. This after TPLF was accused of attempting to steal artillery and other military equipment during an alleged attack earlier in the week.


According to Al Jazeera, Ethiopia's Federal Federal Council of Ministers made the declaration on Wednesday. The declaration stated that the activities of the TPLF were "illegal and violent activities within the National Regional State of Tigray" and "endangering the constitution and constitutional order". Military envoys have been dispatched to Tigray in what the Ethiopian government calls the last line of measure.

Conflicts with Tigray reportedly started in 2018 when Ahmed was voted into power. TPLF slowly started losing power over the region and then conflicts erupted. Earlier in the year, the region decided to commence elections despite government's cessation according to COVID-19 regulations. The Ethiopian government did not recognise the elections and rendered them illegal. Tensions have been growing steadily ever since. Last week Tigray blocked a general appointed by Ahmed's government and stopped him from assuming his military post, saying the Ethiopian prime minister no longer had the authority to make such moves. The prime minister is reported to have issued an internet shut down in the region. Ahmed is known for issuing internet shutdowns during political unrest.

Read: Bobi Wine Arrested After Being Certified as Presidential Candidate

Fears of an internal war have been rising since September this year. Tigray senior official, Wondimu Asamnew, commented on the tensions to Al Jazeera:

"A small spark can ignite the whole region. So I think we are on the alert and I can assure you we are capable of defending ourselves."

Ethnicity is a complicated factor in Ethiopian politics. Ethiopia has a population over 100 million with over 100 ethnicities. Oromo people form the largest of the groups of the population. The TPLF was the dominant force in the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a multiethnic, four-party coalition that had run the country for almost 30 years before Ahmed was voted into power in 2018 amidst nationwide anti-government protests. Ahmed created the pan-Ethiopian Prosperity Party (PP) which replaced the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRD). A year after his election as Prime Minister, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for bridging the ethnic divide in Ethiopia.

Tigray makes up six percent of the total population. Conversely Tigray reportedly makes up more than half of Ethiopia's total military force which is of much concern to the government.

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Photo Credit: Klaus Vedfelt

How “Japa” Became the Nigerian Buzzword for Emigration

"Japa" is Yoruba for “to run, flee, or escape.” The word takes firm root in the aspiration that young Nigerians have to leave the country for good.

While migration is a natural human experience, an array of circumstances illustrate reasons for relocation. In Nigeria, it’s a serious endeavor, often triggered by economic hardship. In recent years, the pursuit for a better quality of life overseas has taken on an anxious, nerve-tingling quality. Colloquially known as "Japa" — which is Yoruba for “to run, flee, or escape” — the word takes firm root in the aspiration that young Nigerians have to leave the country for good.

It’s both a disavowal of patriotism and a new cultural personality. On TikTok, Japa has been launched as comic material, including nuggets and tips on how to navigate moving to a different country. Tweets about Japa continue to surge. With origins from the 2018 Naira Marley song of the same name, the word has shifted into the lexicon of Nigeria’s young demographic as a marker of discontent.

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How did we get here💔😭😭😭 #fyp #viral #anchivibes #getyourpvc #consequencia

“I think there has been a general concern in Nigeria about the increasing desperation of young people to seek greener pastures abroad by any means possible,” Femi Odugbemi, producer of Movement Japa, tells OkayAfrica. The series premiered late in 2021 on Showmax, and sharply mirrors young Nigerians and their sensibilities around survival and emigration.

“What became my motivation for telling the story of Movement Japa is the understanding that beyond the desire for a better life, many young people were also fleeing the country in response to the failure and corruption of public institutions that should serve them."

Japa is a continuum of other mass exoduses and their triggers. Nigeria’s economic downturn in the '80s drove many citizens out of the country to survive. Because of the health sector crisis (unpaid wages, endless strike, and poor infrastructure) doctors are now synonymous with the country’s brain drain.

Chris (we're using a pseudonym to protect privacy) came to the UK in 2019. Now a GP trainee and doing better for himself, he doesn’t regret his decision to leave. “It was after Youth Service, after finishing my housemanship as a doctor that I decided to relocate because I got tired of the situation in Nigeria like poor healthcare and education," Chris said. "I come from a poor background, and I had to save a lot to help my relocation. I have a couple of friends who are coming to the UK to do their Masters, but also using it as an opportunity to escape Nigeria.”

Ernest Udor, a tech expert who has been in Canada since 2016, now assists Nigerians in leaving the country. Through a WhatsApp group titled Nigerians 4 Canada, Udor informs members of the latest Canadian immigration policies, universities for study, work prospects, scholarships and grants, and so on. “I talk to many young people in the group who want to move to Canada because of the faulty education system in Nigeria and poor funding,” Udor said. “Nigeria has failed them considering the academic strike that has put students at home for several months and jeopardizing their future. I don’t blame them for leaving and even though we usually joke about Japa, we know this is serious at the end of the day.”

Nigerian passport

Photo Credit: Osarieme Eweka

For other Nigerians, their decision to leave the country was sealed after the Lekki Shooting in 2020. In a tragic turn, peaceful demonstrations against police brutality led to several (young) protesters gunned down by soldiers. A movement that rode on infectious patriotism spearheaded by the country’s youths had the same youths drowning in hopelessness afterwards.

“We grew up hearing that we are the future of Nigeria but something died within me when it happened,” Temi Craig, a student who had turned 21 a day before the shooting, told OkayAfrica. “We were nothing to the government and that’s why we were disposable. I couldn’t bring myself to believe in Nigeria any longer. I knew right there that my future was far away from the country.”

Certain factors play into the odds of migration. Socioeconomic background can enable people to relocate, or can make it considerably difficult. While middle-upper class Nigerians experience little to no financial barriers in moving overseas, poor Nigerians usually don’t have the means. It is why class warfare continues to drive many civil protests and strikes in the country.

From a middle class Nigerian family, 37-year-old Imo Ekanem was born in Lagos but raised in Italy. She believes that class status has a role to play. After arriving in Italy in the '80s, because her dad had a scholarship, they stayed back because the quality of life was better. “My dad went to the art university in Tuscany, my uncle was a doctor in Italy, and my aunt started nursing in Italy and continued in New York and others worked in the bank mostly in Nigeria," Ekanem said. "They are not rich but comfortable. Now in Italy there’s a huge wave of African refugees from African countries through the sea, with many Nigerians among the West Africans. I don’t think my family would have done something like that.”

With help from young Nigerians, Japa has gained cultural momentum but it translates differently for millennials and Gen-Zers. Due to better financial outcomes accrued from job experiences and retention, millennials in Nigeria fare relatively better in making the decision to emigrate. On the other hand, Gen-Zers still move through a precarious space of university strikes, comparative unemployment, and low income from entry-level jobs.

Mass relocation comes with consequences. In Nigeria’s Kaduna, 112 doctors are reportedly left on the state’s payroll, which is inexorably failing to bridge the doctor-patient ratio (1:7000) in the country. Beyond healthcare delivery, nation building needs its best hands and Odugbemi strengthens this sentiment: “Human capital is really Nigeria’s biggest asset. We are a young country with over 60% of 150 million under the age of fifty," Odugbemi said. "Effectively the future of the country is dependent on the youth population building the country through their creative energies, their innovation and capacities. Every young person fleeing Nigeria in desperation carries with them a vital place of that future. It is an unaffordable price to pay for inefficient systems, corrupt institutions and poor planning.”

Nigeria city

Photo Credit: Peeter Viisimaa

Nigeria’s upcoming elections in 2023 is the country’s biggest conversation. As such, it is hatching new desires to relocate, as many feel that they are saddled with unattractive choices in presidential aspirants. It has precipitated fear around the elections as a tipping point, a palpable feeling that things could worsen in Nigeria for the next eight years.

However, hope is seemingly seeping back into public imagination with Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate. His biggest supporters are young people who, once more, are being funneled back into patriotism. If Obi wins and produces tangible change, a counterculture would be ignited, one that requires staying back to fix the country’s issues.

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Images: Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images; Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Photo by Burak Cingi/Redferns

This Year's Lost In Riddim Music Festival Is Canceled

The music festival was canceled by organizers as they prepare to come back even bigger and better in the New Year.

Update 08/17: And another one bites the dust.

This year's Lost in Riddim international music and art festival has been canceled, according to a statement shared via the event's official Instagram page. What would have been the Bay Area's delicious groove fest to end off of summer 2022, the raincheck has left both concert-goers and event organizers, Sol Blume, in distress. Performances from the likes of Burna Boy, Wizkid, Major League DJs, Davido, legendary Jamaican rapper Sean Paul, were set to set the stages on fire over this year's Nigerian Independence Day weekend. We trust that they'll come back even stronger after some time to regroup.

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Image courtesy of the Institute Museum of Ghana

Spotlight: Nigerian Artist Festus Alagbe Is Unmasking Your True Identity

We spoke with the visual artist on identity and letting your intuition guide you to success.

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 visual artist Festus Kehinde Alagbe. The painting major comes from a family of creatives and entrepreneurs and uses his life experiences and understandings to reflect messages back to the society to which he belongs. Acknowledging his strengths and choosing to focus his energy on his creative pursuits, Alagbe uses the concept of 'masking' to reveal the hidden meaning behind the norms that society has placed upon us. Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem 'We Wear The Mask', acts as a great inspiration for the young artist, as his understanding of human nature led him to portray his artistic subjects as unmasking and masking whichever expression they believe will suit the mood. Alagbe's work also illustrates how the everyday person copes with the harsh realities of life on Earth.

We spoke with the artist about his current spot in Ghana's Noldor Artist Residency, allowing yourself to learn more about your craft, and the pressure that comes with identity.

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.

My artistic journey began in childhood: I was born into a family that holds entrepreneurs and creatives in high esteem. And we're all creative -- my parents were fashion designers, and, likewise my twin brother.

I’m an instinctive artist. I have always wanted to express my imaginations and experiences in a visual form -- either on a two-dimensional surface or in three-dimensional form. That which I can not express with words, I want to express as messages that people can learn from, relate with, and encourage society. But, knowing that instincts aren't enough, I joined The Polytechnic, Ibadan's Department of Art and Design as a painting major to be mentored and become a professional Artist. I became a full-time artist when graduated from school.

I’m currently a Visiting Fellow at the Noldor Artist Residency in Accra, Ghana.

What are the central themes in your work?

I capture different bisected facial expressions to represent time and seasons in the form of masks. I believe that the range of expressions that a face creates is not the true identity. Facial expressions are subject to the situation of society. “We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,” says a poem titled “We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

The true Identity is hidden inside every individual. The characters you exhibit will be determined by the kind of seeds you sow into yourself -- either love or hatred. I use flowers to capture love, passion, seasons, and transient time. The elements I use in the back are biomorphic and fluid in shape, depicting structures and institutions in the world. I also capture and depict Black bodies bursting through with floral elements, referring to the optimism that lies with the pain of being Black, depicting a sense of growth and resilience in the face of ubiquitous racial prejudice and adversity largely faced by people of color. And the flowers bursting through different genders captures different emotions and expressions.

What is your medium of choice, and why?

I use various mediums to express myself, like acrylic, oil, charcoal, etc. I use different mediums as a professional artist because I don’t want to be limited to a medium before I can express myself.

Recently, I uses oil to detail my subject (faces) and acrylic for the background because it dries faster and can be controlled easily.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

It has actually affected me in the area of market value and the unavailability of materials to work. But all glory to God for today.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism' and 'Surrealism’?

I’m a surreal artist of African origin. So, my artistic practice is based on surrealism from an African perspective to address some situations or issues in society at large. I strike a balance between realism, fantasy, and imagination. Afrofuturism addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora through technoculture and speculative fiction, encompassing a range of media and artists with a shared interest in envisioning Black futures that stem from Afro-diasporic experiences. While Afrofuturism is most commonly associated with science fiction, it can also encompass other speculative genres such as fantasy, alternate history, and magic realism. These are what make my practice relate to Afro-futurism.

Can you talk about your use of colors and jewelry in your art?

I use dark skin tones and colors to depict Black faces with bodies, and I use monochrome colors to explore abstract landscapes as my background. And the abstraction elements in the back are biomorphic and fluid in shape which is the representation of structures and institutions in the world and society.

Image courtesy of the artist

'Split Intent' 2022


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Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Ugandan Designer Bobby Kolade is Resisting the Secondhand Clothing Trade

We talked with designer Bobby Kolade about his experience working in Uganda and his perspective on industry and community.

In 2018, Bobby Kolade moved back to Kampala, Uganda — where he grew up — with a dream of creating a brand that used sustainably grown Ugandan cotton. Having been away for 13 years — making a name for himself in the European fashion world working for high-end brands like Balenciaga and Maison Margiela — his first priority was to engage with and learn as much as possible about Uganda’s textile industry.

But, after a little research, he found that the country’s textile industry no longer had the capacity to support such an endeavor. In the 1970s, Uganda was producing 84,000 tons of cotton yearly and processing 85% of it for local consumption. Today, only 5% of Ugandan cotton is consumed by its own people, with the rest being exported in its raw form.

Chief among the reasons for this decline in industry is the large-scale import of second-hand clothing from the Global North. Each day, millions of unwanted clothes from thrift stores and donation bins in Europe and North America land in cities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Their low-cost and sheer abundance leaves little room for local designers in countries like Uganda to thrive. Even worse, the vast many of these clothes are ultimately discarded, overwhelming African landfills with the waste of western nations. In Accra, Ghana, for example, 40% of the 15 million used garments that flood into the city every week are deemed worthless upon arrival.

Responding to this crisis in his local fashion industry has been at the center of Kolade's work and research since he returned home. Between 2018 and 2021, he frequented major trade points like markets and boutiques, textile mills and even worked for two different cotton processing companies.

The data that he compiled — alongside his research partner, Nikissi Serumaga — ultimately turned into a limited series podcast called Vintage or Violence.Released in 2021, the podcast brilliantly tells the story of Ugandan textile, the essential arm it has historically played in the nation's progress, and the sinister implications that the second-hand hand clothing trade has on youth unemployment, education, national morale, and Ugandan society at large.

Buzigahill green and black shirt

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Alongside this research, Kolade also inadvertently found himself at the helm of Aiduke, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Ugandan fashion and textile practitioners. He also joined the Uganda Fashion Council as one of three directors responsible for sourcing funding for local fashion projects. But after two years of struggling to create exposure for their projects, the other two directors quit within weeks of each other, leaving Bobby alone at the reins.

As he sees it, the council failed, mainly because it was a council — a foreign concept that didn’t work in the Ugandan context. He rebranded it as Aiduke Clothing Research and switched its focus to learning and experimentation. Their first project was a pop-up shop that ran from December 2021 to February 2022 in a corner of a Japanese restaurant in Kampala. It featured a mixed selection of vintage pieces with accessories and crafts by local designers.

Kolade's latest act came with the launch of Buzigahill, a brand with a mission to “return Uganda‘s textile industry to the peak levels of the early 1970s, when more cotton was processed than exported.'' Their first collection, Return to Sender, responds to Uganda’s secondhand clothes crisis by “treating them like raw material.” They source bales of clothes from markets across Kampala, then combine and reconstruct them into distinctly new garments to be sold to customers in countries like the US and UK, from whence the discarded clothing first came. The collection further illuminates the devastating effects of the second hand clothing trade on countries in the Global South and points the conversation towards accountability by making western consumers reckon with the effects of their over-consumption. Following the success of their first drop, Buzigahill just released a second collection as part of the Return to Sender series.

The collection embraces an elevated yet playful streetwear aesthetic with an emphasis on comfort. Each piece is unique to itself, but there is a prevailing spirit that all the garments embrace: multi-panel t-shirts made from pieces of other t-shirts stitched together; mis-matched hoodies; track pants partially fashioned from denim jeans; and elongated t-shirt dresses.

We caught up with Bobby Kolade ahead of Buzigahill's second release to talk about his experience working in Uganda and his perspective on industry and community.

Buzigahill hoodie

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

How has the transition been since you moved back to Uganda in 2018?

The first three years, I went through a series of disappointments because I realized that it wasn't going to be possible to do what I had come back home to do. Our industry is not as far as it needs to be in order to set up a brand with a diverse collection that can compete on a global scale. But that’s life in Kampala — a series of disappointments that you make work for you somehow, especially if you are trying to set up something in a professional manner. So, the transition for me was having to adapt into a designer who repurposes secondhand clothes.

Along the way, so many beautiful things have happened and they overshadow the disappointments. The sense of community here is much stronger than I had in Europe. I feel like because of the scarcity of certain cultural activities, almost all the creatives stay on one side of town.

What is the significance of the name Buzigahill?

Buzigahill came about at the beginning of lockdown. I realized that all the people who inspire me — DJs, filmmakers, journalists, artists — all lived in this bubble that was on Buzigahill. One day, in our WhatsApp group, I joked that we all needed Buzigahill e-mail addresses. I love domain hoarding so I said, "you know what? Let me actually get e-mail addresses for everybody." So I bought [the domain name] and a couple of weeks later I registered the business.

What has shocked you most over the course of your research?

The biggest shock was the realization that we are in an industrial regression. I do not see any signs whatsoever that the cotton industry is going in the right direction. During my time here I've seen decline in industry [and] production. I've seen textile production decrease [and] cotton facilities shut down. That was bitter for me. I felt naive because I wrote so many pitches and I had this grand vision of a brand based around Ugandan cotton and it just couldn’t come to fruition.

Our educational institutions are also not training people to produce clothing for global markets. There is no clear distinction between a tailor and a designer. You study fashion design for three years but at the end of the day, you end up sewing a few custom dresses for clients.

Buzigahill sweater

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

What is the distinction, for you, between a tailor and a designer?

A tailor is a service provider for a designer (or a custom client). It's a craft. A designer spends time thinking about form, color, function markets people, culture, and not necessarily sewing.

So you feel that so-called design institutions largely only equip people to do the technical work of creating the clothes and not necessarily the bigger picture thinking that it takes to be a designer?

Absolutely! Also our textile knowledge is not to the standard it needs to be. I visited a textile university where they were still using manual sewing machines. We need to be using the latest technology. We need labs, we need people to be experimenting. The abundance of raw materials in this country is crazy but we're not using them to the extent that we could be [because] our institutions haven't modernized.

What do you think about the rate of secondhand clothing being bought?

I don't see secondhand clothes going anywhere. There are more and more shopping malls. More boutiques are opening up, run by people who purchase second hand clothes from markets and present them better and make it more comfortable for people who are not interested in going to Owino because of the hassle. We have imported a culture of overconsumption and ultimately it will lead to a culture of over disposal. People own much more than they used to in the past because these things are dirt cheap.

Buzigahill jumpshoot

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

In 2015, the member states of the East African Community pledged to ban the import of second hand clothing, but after the US threatened to revoke the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which gives African countries duty free access to export certain products to the US, only Rwanda ultimately followed through with the ban. Though it was tough at first, their local textile industry has since grown 83% between 2018 and 2020. Do you think that Rwanda’s success might influence Uganda to revisit those sentiments of 2015?

What's the population of Rwanda?

About 12 million.

So 12 million people. Uganda has 47 million people today. Think that answers the question. I don't think our local textile industry is anywhere close to being able to cater to the demands of the market right now. Secondly, I don't think we have the same strength as Rwanda does when it comes to talking to the US. What I would like to see happen more is what Buzigahill is doing; embracing the fact that we have all these second hand and treating them as a raw material to develop our industry.

If at some point raw material production, in terms of linen, silk, and cotton, does catch up and we can integrate them into the production systems that we've set up using secondhand clothes, then that is all well and good. But the key issue here is that African countries need to be treated as industrial resources, not just as a source of materials that need to be extracted.

Tell me about your experience speaking at the Global Fashion Summit.

There was a lot of talk. It was a lot of rich companies from the Global North telling us all the great things that they were doing. I went on stage and just said my truth and. It was well received but a part of me also felt like I was on stage performing a theatre piece. You kind of feel weird when people congratulate you for what you've said on stage because I wasn't performing anything. I was telling the truth. We have a serious problem and it remains to be seen if more African voices will be given the platform that I was given. Although it was the most diverse and youngest edition of the global fashion summit, there is [still] a lot of work that needs to be done and more voices need to be added to the conversation.

The highlight for me was the OR Foundation announcing the EPR fund with Shein. Ghana has the biggest secondhand clothing market on the continent and they experience the [most] devastating side effects of clothing waste disposal. The OR Foundation signed an agreement with Shein to receive funds to alleviate the effects of second hand clothing in Ghana at Kantamanto market. It’s the first time that a fast fashion company has acknowledged the fact that their products are part of the problem on the African continent. It's a model that should be replicated by all the other huge brands: H&M, Nike, Adidas, Topshop, Primark — the ones that are suffocating our markets.

Buzigahill pants with jeans

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

Other than upcycling, what ways do you think that designers can strive for sustainability in their work?

Sustainability, for me, always comes down to the raw material. The most obvious thing is using natural fibers. We need to see more designers interact with local craftsmanship. I love it when I see a designer carry something that is considered artisanal and use it to make something contemporary that appeals to a youthful market. We don't need to be using fabrics imported from other countries. I don't want to see Ugandan politicians wearing three piece suits and a tie. It's ridiculous.

How would you describe Kampala's sense of style? Do you think there is an essence that generally informs the way people dress throughout the city?

No, I don't think so. There are many different scenes which don't really mix very well. Each borrows a lot from their counterparts in the Global North. In my opinion, the best dressed people in the city are the boda boda [motorcycle taxi] drivers. They have an understated sense of swag, mixing things up unknowingly. It's innate. You can find somebody wearing cowboy boots, Adidas track pants, a beanie, and then a really cool jacket. It's all over the place, but it's special. It's unique.

Buzigahill women

Photo Credit: Ian Nnyanzi

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