News Brief

One of half of the Scorpion Kings duo Kabza De Small leads the 2021 #SAMA27 nominations.

Here's The Lowdown On The 2021 South African Music Awards Nominees List

Amapiano king Kabza De Small leads the nominees list, while music fans are outraged over Makhadzi receiving zero nominations. Plus, Kelly Khumalo rejects her nomination. Here's more!

The South African Music Awards (SAMAs) nominations list has, once again, been met with a lot of disapproval from music fans. This year's edition, the 27th, features two new separate categories for amapiano and gqom music. However, the controversy around the snubbing of Limpopo-born singer Makhadzi has set tongues wagging since the nominees announcement on Wednesday evening, May 19. The likes of rapper Cassper Nyovest have sinceslammed the awards and Kelly Khumalo has requested that her nomination be rescinded. Kabza De Small leads the #SAMA27 nominees pack with six nods. The amapiano DJ and producer's I Am The King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust, and Once Upon A Time in Lockdown with fellow Scorpion Kings member DJ Maphorisa,feature in the coveted"Album of the Year" category.

Sun-El Musician follows closely behind with five nominations. His stellar December 2020 album To the World & Beyond is nominated for, amongst others, "Best Live Audio Visual Recording of the Year", "Best Dance Album", "Best Produced Nomination" for Simmy's debut album Tugela Fairy: Made of Stars alongside Claudio Wayde, Da Capo and Mpho Mohlolong.

Other notable nominations include rapper Boity's4436 scoring a nomination under "Best Hip-Hop Album" and Babes Wodumo for "Best Gqom Album". Jazz artists Zoë Modiga and Thandi Ntuli were also recognised for their astounding efforts. Modiga's soul-searing sophomore album Inganekwane earned her the "The Best Engineered Album" nomination, while Thandi Ntuli (Live at Jazzwerkstatt) got a slot in the "Best Jazz Album" category.

The "Rest of Africa Award" features, amongst others, Afrobeats darlings Davido and Wizkid contesting with Kenyan afro-pop band Sauti Sol, South African singer Berita and Zimbabwe's reggae artist Buffalo Souljah.

Fans alluded Makhadzi's snub to the tribalism often levelled at Limpopo Province musicians. In an interview with TimesLIVE, RISA CEO Nhlanhla Sibisi said the 2021 SAMAs nomination list was "a reflection of the music industry and the movers and shakers who had the greatest impact" during 2020/21.

In solidarity with Makhadzi, Kelly Khumalo requested that her 2020 album The Voice of Africa which bagged the "Best Afropop Album" nomination be pulled out of #SAMA27 race. Hip-hop heavyweight Cassper Nyovest reached out to Makhadzi in a tweet that read, "Don't worry, they [SAMAs] don't mean anything anymore". Cassper Nyovest had his own bitter moment with the SAMAs last year after his hit single "Doc Shebeleza", which caused radical shifts in South Africa's hip-hop scene, was snubbed. According to SA Hip-Hop Mag, the rapper labelled the SAMAs corrupt and expressed that his fans' opinions actually mattered more than the awards.

Below is the full 2021 SAMAs nominees list

Album of the Year

  • Persistence – Bongo Riot
  • The Healers: The Last Chapter – Black Motion
  • Once Upon A Time in Lockdown – Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa (Scorpion Kings)
  • I Am The King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust – Kabza De Small
  • Back to Love – Junior Taurus

Duo/Group of the Year

  • Reece Madlisa & Zuma – Ama Roto EP
  • MFR Souls – Musical Kings
  • Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa (Scorpion Kings) – Once Upon A Time in Lockdown
  • Mas Musiq & Aymos – Shonamalanga
  • Mi Casa – We Made It

Female Artist of the Year

  • Reign Africa – On the Frontline
  • Bucy Radebe – Spiritual Encounter
  • Sho Madjozi – What a Life
  • Nomcebo Zikode – Xola Moya Wam'
  • Hle – Your Kingdom on Earth

Male Artist of the Year

  • Sun-El Musician – To The World & Beyond
  • Bongo Riot – Persistence
  • Kabza De Small – I Am The King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust
  • Oscar Mbo – For the Groovists
  • Junior Taurus – Back to Love

Newcomer of the Year

  • Xolly Mncwango – Jesus Is Enough
  • Reign Africa – On the Frontline
  • Africado – BandaBanda & The Crocodiles
  • Ingoma – Azana
  • Spiritual Encounter – Bucy Radebe

Best Rock Album

  • Chrome Neon Jesus – Ethyl Ether
  • Here's to the Now – Nathan Smith
  • Orange Sunshine – Yum Yuck
  • The Devils Cattle – Ruff Majik
  • Nothing's Gonna Change – Oooth

Best Pop Album

  • 11:11 – Rowlene
  • I Don't Sleep – Jethro Tait
  • Tribes & Angels – Locnville
  • Sugar – Mark Stent
  • She – Amy Lilley

Beste Pop Album

  • 2021 – Die Heuwels Fantasties
  • Die Toekoms is Synth – Synth Peter
  • Twintig20 – Brendan Peyper
  • Gewigloos – Juan Boucher
  • Gemaklik Verlore – Christa Visser

Best Adult Contemporary Album

  • In the Kingdom of the Aloes – amaFranx
  • Repaired – Jack Atlantic
  • Rise – Ndlovu Youth Choir
  • Take Me To The River – Connell Cruise
  • The South African Songbook – Kurt Darren & The Soweto Gospel Choir

Beste Kontemporêre Musiek Album

  • Wandel In My Woning – Refentse
  • Herverbeel – Die Heuwels Fantasties
  • Net Geleen – Bernice West
  • Monumentaal – Ruhan Du Toit
  • Spontaan – Riaan Benadê

Best African Adult Contemporary Album

  • Umsebenzi – Sjava
  • Isambulo – 1020 Cartel Artists
  • Amakhaya – Max-Hoba
  • Bamako – Simphiwe Dana
  • Buhlebendalo – Chosi

Best Alternative Music Album

  • Mania/Post Mania – Yellow House
  • iimini – Bongeziwe Mabandla
  • Hot Mess – Evert Snyman
  • Filth and Wisdom – The Medicine Dolls
  • Ebusuku – Th&o

Best R&B/Soul Album

  • A Force To Be Reckoned With – Thando
  • LANGA – Langa Mavuso
  • Sindisiwe – LaSauce
  • Small World – Ricky Tyler
  • Uhambo – Soul Kulture

Best Hip Hop Album

  • 4436 – Boity
  • Nadia Naked II – Nadia Nakai
  • Zulu Man With Some Power – Nasty C
  • Pop Star – Yanga Chief
  • Zakwe & Duncan – Zakwe & Duncan

Best Kwaito Album

  • Sgubhu OverDoze – Lvovo & Danger
  • Endaweni – Darkie Fiction
  • Don't Lose Hope – Sukiripapa
  • Bhut'Madlisa – Mampintsha
  • Ama Roto EP – Reece Madlisa & Zuma

Best Dance Album

  • To The World & Beyond – Sun-El Musician
  • For The Goovists – Oscar Mbo
  • Xola Moya Wam' – Nomcebo Zikode
  • The Healers: The Last Chapter – Black Motion
  • We Made It – Mi Casa

Best Traditional Faith Music Album

  • Worship House Project 17, Chapter II – Worship House
  • Buya Nkosi – Thinah Zungu
  • Spiritual Encounter – Bucy Radebe
  • Wathi Eloyi Eloyi – Sipho Makhabane
  • Izulu – Sneziey

Best Contemporary Faith Music Album

  • Devotion – Nqubeko Mbatha
  • Face 2 Face – Collen Maluleke
  • Jesus is Enough – Xolly Mncwango
  • Your Kingdom on Earth – Hle
  • The Promised Revival Part One – Tshwane Gospel Choir

Best African Indigenous Faith Music Album

  • Makhosi Akithi – Vuma Zion
  • Izwi Lakho – Mandlethu Gospel Singers
  • Katlehong Gospel Choir Artist Development – Katlehong Gospel Choir Artist Development
  • Sithembe Wena Nkosi – JTG Gospel Choir
  • Enyokumkhonza – Enyonini Mission Ministries

Rest of Africa Award

  • Unity Album – Buffalo Souljah
  • A Better Time – Davido
  • Made in Lagos – Wizkid
  • Midnight Train – Sauti Sol
  • Songs in the Key of Love – Berita

Best Traditional Album

  • Love and War – Henny C
  • What a Life – Sho Madjozi
  • Angeke Bakuthande Boke – Smangele
  • Shebeen Queen – Vusi Mahlasela
  • Ndavhuko – Vendaboy Poet

Best Maskandi

  • Amagupta – iChwane Lebhaca
  • Ziyangiluma Izinja – Phuzekhemisi
  • Iqatha Eliziqobayo – Thokozani Langa
  • Banathi Shaqa – Imithente
  • Imfene Kamakhelwane – Abafana Baka Mgqumeni

Best Jazz Album

  • Africado – BandaBanda & The Crocodiles
  • An Open Dialogue – Linda Sikhakhane
  • iHubo Labomdabu – Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane
  • Modes of Communication: Letters From The Underworlds – Nduduzo Makhathini
  • Thandi Ntuli (Live at Jazzwerkstatt) – Thandi Ntuli

Best Classical/Instrumental Album

  • Live in Cape Town – Guy Battery & Derek Gripper
  • Imagine – Charles du Plessis Trio
  • Live in Lisbon – Nibs van der Spuy & Guy Battery
  • Tek'o – CH2
  • We've All Known All Times – Wouter Kellerman

Best Afropop Album

  • Ingoma – Azana
  • Molimo – Manu Worldstar
  • Ngumama – Vusi Nova
  • The Voice of Africa – Kelly Khumalo
  • Tugela Fairy (Made of Stars) – Simmy

Best Live Audio Visual Recording of the Year

  • Your Kingdom on Earth – HLE
  • The Throne (Live Edition) – Presss
  • Spiritual Encounter – Bucy Radebe
  • My Hart Klop Refentse – Refentse
  • A Journey to the World & Beyond – Sun-El Musician

Best Collaboration

  • ''Uthando'' – Darque ft. Zakes Bantwini
  • ''Ek Like Hoe Jy Dans'' – Chê ft. Snotkop
  • ''Mali Eningi'' – Big Zulu ft. Riky Rick & Intaba Yase Dubai
  • ''Senzeni'' – Mthandazo Gatya ft. Comado & DJ Manzo SA
  • ''Yehla Moya'' – Da Capo & Nduduzo Makhathini ft. Omagugu

Best Produced Music Video

  • ''Where is the DJ'' by Malumz on Decks ft. Khanyisa – Oscar Nyathi
  • ''Qhawe'' – Made to Create by Toya Delazy – Kyle Lewis & Vjorn Tucker
  • ''Mamela'' by Mi Casa – Katya Abedian
  • ''Lucky Star'' by K.O – Adam Zackon & Dale Fortune
  • ''Hosh'' by Prince Kaybee ft. Sir Trill – Ofentse

Best Produced Album of the Year

  • In the Beginning Was the End by Manana – Manana & Noble
  • Ithemba by Luyolo – Marcus MC & Andy Keys
  • Umsebenzi by Sjava – Delaydem, Ruff, Webmoms, Zadok & Vuyo Manyike
  • Tugela Fairy: Made of Stars by Simmy – Sun-El Musician, Claudio Wayde, Da Capo & Mpho Mohlolong
  • The Healers: The Last Chapter – Black Motion

Best Engineered Album of the Year

  • Swingle Bells by Jonathan Roxmouth – Adam Howard
  • Goodluck Upclose by Goodluck – Murray Anderson & Andrew Rawborn
  • Isambulo by 1020 Cartel Artists – Mfanafuthi Ruff
  • The Second Coming by Kid Tini – James Smals, Kitie, Ron Epidemic & Tweezy
  • Inganekwane by Zoe Modiga – Papi Diretsi & Songo Oyama

Remix of the Year

  • ''Jerusalema'' – Kid Fonque
  • ''Ndanele'' – Dwson
  • ''Sala Nabani'' – Sun-El Musician, Claudio & Kenza
  • ''Speak Lord'' – Sculpturedmusic
  • ''Yehla Moya'' – Da Capo

Best Reggae Album

  • The Journey – Ras Canly
  • Persistence – Bongo Riot
  • My Music – Freeky
  • On the Frontline – Reign Africa
  • Empathy Riddim – Lavoro Duro

Best Amapiano Album

  • Musical Kings – MFR Souls
  • Back to Love – Junior Taurus
  • I Am The King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust – Kabza De Small
  • Once Upon A Time In Lockdown – Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa (Scorpion Kings)
  • Shonamalanga – Mas Musiq & Aymos

Best Gqom Album

  • We Don't Play the Same Gqom – Que
  • Make Cape Town Great Again – Mshayi & Mr Thela
  • Isiqalo – DragerNation
  • InzaloYekwaito – Zinaro
  • Idando Kazi – Babes Wodumo
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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Photo Credit: Adayliving

Chopstix on Crafting Burna Boy’s Biggest Hit "Last Last"

We spoke with Chopstix, one of Nigeria’s most in-demand producers, about his career and working on Burna Boy's smash 'Love, Damini' album.

Much of the credit for Afropop's rise over the last decade is usually credited to its artists. Thanks to their chart-topping singles, propulsive personalities, and swell catalogues, these acts are bringing popular African music to the attention of a global audience. The hyperfocus on these musicians often means that other participants in the music creation process are overlooked.

The rise of super-producers like Sarz, LONDON, P.Priime, and Chopstixis quickly refining the future of the genre as they receive more attention for their critical role in shaping the direction of our contemporary pop sound.

“Times are changing, before now producers didn’t have access to all the tools we have now,” Chopstix told OkayAfrica during a Zoom early in in August. “We’re receiving more recognition for our work and that’s a great thing.” At the moment, Chopstix is one of Nigeria’s most in-demand record producers, serving as a link between the heady rush of the hip-hop-inflected sound of early 2010s Afropop and its more recent iteration.

Born as Malcolm Kolade Olagundoye, Chopstix got his start in music production as a student attending St. Murumba College in Jos, the alma mater of iconic Nigerian pop duo P-Square. The music-loving principal of St. Murumba had set up a studio in the school and established a music and drama club to get students engaged. “We had a live session part and a recording session where computers and software were set up to record and produce music but I didn’t know about that session for a while, I only knew about the live session part,” Chopstix said. “One day, while rehearsing, I was hearing music from the other room and I found an older guy producing music all by himself. That was my lightbulb moment and I just knew it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life because he looked so good and was so in his zone.”

Introduced by a friend to music production software FruityLoops (now known as FL Studio), Chopstix dove head-on into music production, experimenting widely with the tools at his disposal. Those early days spent sleuthing around in FL Studios also helped crystallize his affinity for the innovative sampling technique that gave birth to his producer tag. “When I first got my FruityLoops installed, it was just a couple of sounds that came with it but I didn’t want to use those stock sounds because everybody had them and I wanted my music to sound different,” he said. “So, what I’ll do is listen to songs by [hip-hop producers] Kanye West, DJ Premier, and Timbaland and listen for places where a kick or snare stands out and chop it. I spent hours of my time chopping up those samples and stacking them up. At the end of the day, I had tons of samples that I had taken from different places. Those were the samples I was using to produce at the time and when people heard my beats they were always asking where they came from because it didn’t sound like the usual stuff people used.”

Chopstix wearing a suit

Photo Credit: Adayliving

Around 2009, Chopstix met fellow Jos-based musicians Ice Prince, Yung L, and Endia, coming together with the latter two to form the music collective, GRIP Muzik, that helped to refine an era of Jos’ music scene. “At the time, we were just remaking global hit songs,” Chopstix said. “We would go on radio and have people request that we remake a song and we remade it. We were mostly remaking music and putting out our original songs occasionally. When we saw the traction we were getting, we figured that we could do it bigger than we were doing it and that’s when we moved from Jos to Lagos.”

The move to Lagos came with its unique challenges as the rising producer had to face the unrelenting pace of life in Nigeria’s entertainment capital. He took time out to understand the pulse of the city’s entertainment structure and the industry that had grown around it, taking a backseat from active production for close to a year. In Lagos, his relationship with Ice Prince metamorphosed into a full-blown creative partnership that saw him produce hit singles like "Aboki" and "Gimme Dat" while helping Ice Prince complete his sophomore album, Fire Of Zamani.

“At the time, we made 'Aboki,' we were trying to experiment with the traditional sound because I always like to push people out of their comfort zones," Chopstix said. "The first few days after the song dropped, it got a lot of backlash on blogs but a week after that, it just switched. The reactions were great and the song just went viral and blew up... That was my first hit single after coming to Lagos. It introduced me officially as Chopstix.”

Working with Ice Prince meant that Chopstix was always collaborating with some of Nigeria’s biggest stars. He remembers officially meeting Burna Boy, when the Port Harcourt-born star came to record his verse for "Gimme Dat." That meeting started off a working relationship that continues to this day. “The first song I did with Burna was 'Rockstar.' it was the first time I recorded one-on-one with him after 'Gimme That,'" Chopstix said. “I think we connected instantly from the first time we met and it’s still the same to date. It hasn’t shifted and it’s only become stronger. There’s always been an understanding between both of us of what type of musicians we are and the connection just happened seamlessly.”

The connection between both musicians has deepened as they have ascended to new levels over the last five years with Chopstix being a part of the four-album run — from Outsideto Love, Damini — that has catapulted Burna Boy to international fame. (Another album, Gaddafi, which Chopstix worked heavily on was put on hold. “It’s probably one of the hardest projects I’ve worked on sonically but I don’t think it’s something that the world is ready for now because he was talking about a lot of real facts and global political stuff that I’m not sure people are ready for,” Chopstix said of that project.)

In July, Burna Boy released Love, Damini with "Last Last" as its lead singles. The song, which samples Toni Braxton’s "He Wasn’t Man Enough," was recorded one month before its official release and has become the most commercially successful song of Burna Boy’s career, peaking at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on the UK Top 40 Chart. Despite the heavy thematic references of the song, Chopstix says he was sure it was going to be a global hit record.

“Bro, as soon as this song was done — as soon as I hit export — Burna and I had a moment where we looked at each other and we knew that we had caused trouble,” Chopstix said. “He knew instantly and we were already talking about how he was going to perform it and what the performances would look like on stage. That’s how much he is into his craft. When he says he put his life into his job, it’s not just lyrics — it’s facts. That’s why I enjoy working with people that take their work seriously because I take my work seriously. He called up the video director that same night, the director pulled up at his place the next day and the video was shot there.”

According to Chopstix, the decision to sample "He Wasn’t Man Enough" wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision; both he and Burna were huge fans of the song. “[The sample] was specifically picked out by Burna Boy himself," he said. "And it happens that I've always wanted to sample that particular song as well so the stars basically aligned in our favor.” A lot of the recent online chatter around “Last Last” has focused on Burna Boy’s comment about Toni Braxton receiving about 60% of the royalties on “Last Last” but Chopstix insists that this is the way such collaborations work.

“Sampling is a culture in music that has been around for decades,” said. “After 'Last Last' was done, the rest were label and management talks and Toni Braxton's team had been contacted for clearance. When a song is sampled and done right, it is indirectly a feature or collaboration. This automatically bridges gaps between the artists involved. It will introduce African artists to new territories and also their music is not completely alien. This means more listeners, and African artists can easily tour the new areas and further spread our music and culture.”

While still basking in the success of Last Last, Chopstix is working on bigger projects, viewing the success of the single as a portal for the next phase of his career. “I’m just super excited because 'Last Last' has just opened a door for the journey to start," Chopstix said. "I feel like I’m just starting right now. All I’ve experienced till this moment has just been preparation, this is just the starting point. I can’t wait for the next record and the next record and on and on.”

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.


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.

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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