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Google Honors Late South African Child Activist, Nkosi Johnson, With Doodle

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the life and work of Nkosi Johnson, a child HIV/AIDS activist, who passed away at the age of 12.

Today marks what would have been the 31st birthday of South African child activist Nkosi Johnson.

Johnson, whose work focused on raising awareness around HIV/AIDs in the early 2000s, at a time when the disease was still incredibly stigmatised and seen as a "death sentence", passed away from complications related to AIDS at the age of 12.

He was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child at that time.


Johnson received international attention following his address to thousands of delegates at the 13th International Aids Conference in Durban back in 2001. There, his heartfelt words which centred on dispelling the stigma and superstitions around the illness captured the world. "Hi, my name is Nkosi Johnson," He began. "I am 11 years old and I have full-blown Aids. I was born HIV-positive...Care for us and accept us – we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else. Don't be afraid of us – we are all the same."

He took his message across the world, travelling to an AIDS conference held in Atlanta, Georgia in the US at one point. Following his death, his adopted mother, Gail Johnson, established Nkosi's Haven, a non-profit organisation (NPO) which has carried on his legacy through providing a sanctuary for mothers and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

OkayAfrica spoke briefly to Johnson who, while delighted by Google honoring her son, paints a grim picture not only for the future of Nkosi's Haven, but for NPOs in general based in South Africa. "Where we're at with [Nkosi's] legacy is exhaustion, running out of money...but we're coping."

Tasked with answering what South Africans could do to better the situation, she says, "Non-profits just do such necessary work because they've been established because there's a gap in the community. Every one of the non-profits that I deal with or know of—everyone needs help. While AIDS is now a chronic, manageable disease and people might not think that it's urgent, there are children who are suffering. There are children who are in need and still you have to beg for support. That's a bitter pill to swallow."

Describing her biggest hope for Nkosi's legacy, Johnson concludes by saying, "I hope that we survive...that I can retire in peace. Whoever takes over from me and keeps Nkosi's legacy going, [I hope] that they have the same passion and energy to keep it going because he stood for so much."

To learn more about Nkosi's Haven and how you can support their work, click here.

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: 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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Image by @signaturebyKam

Listen: Mádé Kuti Pleas For 'No More Wars' In Latest Single

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter blends easy listening with a powerful message in his first drop of 2022 so far.

Nigerian musician Mádé Kuti has released his first single of the year, and it comes with an important message.

The latest of the Kuti dynasty to break into the music scene, Grammy-award nominated Mádé releases his new single "No More Wars," via Partisan Records. The groovy track is the first in a series of singles the singer will be releasing before the end of the year. It's the first time we've heard from Kuti since he joined his father, world-renowned Afrobeat ambassador Femi Kuti, on their joint venture, Legacy +.

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Fireboy DML On Embracing His Inner 'Playboy,' Stepping Outside & Learning to Let Go

On Playboy, Fireboy moves further away from his previous records and embraces the mainstream afrobeats sound hinted in recent hits like "Peru" and "Bandana." We sit down with the Nigerian star to talk about his new album.

Spotlight: NK Is The Future and Star of His Own Show

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

Nigerian-American Jackie Aina Catches Flames For Insensitive New Candle

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

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Listen to Fireboy DML's New Album 'Playboy'

Featuring "Bandana," "Peru," "Playboy" and many more hits.