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Photo by Brad Ogbonna, courtesy of Ibra Ake.

Ibra Ake Is On a Mission To Show African Creatives the Value of Ownership & Telling Honest Stories

The Nigerian-American visual artist speaks further on his influences, his experience working with Childish Gambino, writing for 'Atlanta' and more.

Ibra Ake is a Nigerian-American visual artist, creative director and writer based in Los Angeles, California. Living in cities around the world from Lagos to New York has played a major role in his unique approach to visual art.

From shooting covers of magazines to being the creative director for artist's like Childish Gambino as well as writing on the hit show Atlanta, Ake is no stranger to expressing himself through different mediums. Having been introduced to art through animation and drawing, he later picked up photography through a class in art school before he decided to leave, and go into creating full time.


While Ibra has spent most of his life in America, he credits his Nigerian upbringing for allowing him to understand the value of documentation and storytelling. "Every time I'm looking for a picture of Nigeria in the 70s, I'm never like, 'let me check National Geographic.' I'm always like, 'What pictures did my parents take?' It's always true to their eye and what is important to them, which is definitely a different value, but I think there's something very authentic about that," he says. Although growing up in a Nigerian household can breed pressure for many artists, Ibra saw opportunity beyond traditional spaces and knew creating was something he wanted to invest in from an early age.

Photo by Ibra Ake, courtesy of the artist.

Photo by Ibra Ake, courtesy of the artist.

"I went to school originally for animation, flat dropped out, but I used to watch a lot of cartoons as inspiration. And my pops—probably more than my mom—encouraged me to draw," Ake says. "I think even a lot of Disney movies were super influential on me. I was consuming images pretty intensely at an early age and that's how it began. My dad was a big movie buff and had good taste, which influenced my taste in film. I was watching Casablanca, Marx Brothers movies, and Paul Newman movies, and I had a lot of weird mixture of references from him, so I just remember watching stuff that was way before my time."

After leaving school and working a full time office job, Ibra was a freelance photographer and landed a gig to shoot Childish Gambino while he was still a rising artist. Although Gambino was expecting the photographer to look like most he had encountered, Ibra was a pleasant surprise to him. "I took his picture and he was like, 'Shit, I thought you were going to be a white guy,' which was funny to me," Ake says. "After the shoot we became friends and we just bounced ideas creatively back and forth. I would do photography and design stuff, and we just kept in touch and that led to going on tour and working. Then as he got bigger, stuff just got a lot crazier."

Since meeting, the two have collaborated countless times from album covers, music videos, creative direction, production and screenwriting. This exposed him to the power of teamwork, persistence and believing in the people around you. "We've had good teachers and we've also just believed in each other. I've always thought Donald was the funniest person," he says. "We're super critical, but not just critical for [being] critical—we're super analytical in everything and I think we're pretty funny people. I think it was just about putting the steps into place and letting the universe present that for us. We've made jokes and things, but at the core of it, I think we're just writing what we observe with good taste and good restraint."

SZA on the set of 'This Is America." Photo by Ibra Ake, courtesy of the artist.

Photo by Ibra Ake, courtesy of the artist.

For him, creating is more than just storytelling, but also identity and politics. This is a major driver in projects he's been involved in, such as music videos including "This is America" and even personal photo projects he's shot in Nigeria, Cuba and more countries around the world. "With 'This is America,' for example, It's fun to see the reaction because the distribution is so large; it's so weird to see your ideas disperse on such a large format," he says, "but then again it's kind of crippling sometimes, because everything feels super high stakes. I think we've learned a lot. I think the whole experience has been not normal for sure. I don't want everyone to think what happened is a normal career move. It's been very affirming just to see your ideas, especially in the first time, work out because none of that is the norm. We want to make sure that we're learning constantly and that's important to us."

While Ake's been able to see success in creative spaces and expose new narratives, he understands that growing up in America has given him both privilege and responsibility. One of his goals is to make sure young African creatives are educated not just on the craft but also the value of ownership and importance of exposing honest narratives. "It's been great to see that with cell technology I'm more connected than ever and there are so many amazing stories being told, I can't even keep up," he says.

Photo by Ibra Ake, courtesy of the artist.

"And I'm glad the barrier to entry has finally lowered and I think that has been super important and just exciting personally. I think my biggest concern really is just making sure that ownership is still coming from us. If I'm naming some of the most famous contemporary African work in photography, for example, there are actually a lot of white South Africans. I want to make a genuine push to fund and support artists through successes and failures. I think that is my biggest concern because I have already known these trends to lift the face without understanding the culture. I think we are doing a good job of finding the real ones and with time there will be a boom of young ideas and young people popping here and there."

Ake's goal is to use both his work and resources to further push the envelope and inspire young artists to also be true to themselves. He recognizes that the future of the next generation relies on what we do now. "I want this for my kids one day. This is the world I wish I grew up in. Those people influence us. It's a big circle and I can't wait to see what I can make," he says. "[After] watching Black Panther, I realized it's easier for me to tell an African story to the world now because those flood gates are coming down—I'm just excited of what the earth looks like after everything floods the market."

Style

OkayAfrica and B4Bonah Share New 'B4Beginning' Capsule Collection

We've teamed up with the Ghanaian artist ahead of the release of his debut project for some colorful new merch.

Rising Ghanaian star B4Bonah, premieres his catchy debut track "See Body," and to mark the song's release, OkayAfrica has teamed up with the artist to share a new collection of tees, that'll fit nicely into your summer wardrobe.

The artist's latest track is a party jam, that sees him flowing "over an earworm flute melody and afrobeats percussion," using "his rasping flow to celebrate the girl of his dreams." The track was produced by J.Rocs.

B4Bonah - See Body www.youtube.com

In conjunction with the song's release, two new shirt designs are available for preorder at our Okayshop. The vibrant shirts feature the artist's image on colorful blue and green colored blocks, with the words "B4BONAH B4BEGINNING," on the back—referencing the artist's debut mixtape, which is slated for release in late July. The project features Medikal, Mugeez (R2Bees), Amaarae & Ivy Sole.


B4Bonah is an artist to watch, as he continues to make his presence known in the Ghanaian music scene.

Watch the music video for "See Body" above, and head to shop.okayplayer.com now to pick up to pre-order a shirt (or two). You can also preorder B4Bonah's B4beginning mixtape here.

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Watch EL, Joey B and Falz' New Video for 'Ehua'

Ghana meets Nigeria in this hilarious new clip.

Ghanaian rappers EL and Joey B connect with Nigeria's Falz for this addictive new collaboration and music video for "Ehua."

"Ehua" is built on energetic afro-electronic beat work produced by EL himself. Joey B handles the hook while Falz kicks things off early with a solid verse.

The eye-catching and hilarious music video for the single, directed by Yaw Skyface, features EL as a policeman, Falz as the 'oga' bossman, and Joey B as a worker for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

Falz takes Joey B's woman by showing off his money and status, so Joey B enlists policeman EL to get back at Falz. The plan backfires however as the officer decides to stick around and party with the rich instead of helping the everyday worker out.

For more GH hits check out our Best Ghanaian Songs of the Month roundups and follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Watch the new music video for EL, Joey B and Falz' "Ehua" below.

EL ft Joey B & Falz - Ehua (Official Video) youtu.be


News Brief
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Nigeria's Super Falcons Were Forced To Threaten a Sit-In Protest Over Unpaid Bonuses After Women's World Cup

After negotiations, the Nigerian Football Federation have agreed to run the players their money.

Nigeria's own Super Falcons had a great run during the Women's World Cup. But instead of the players heading back home or to their respective professional clubs after losing to Germany 3-0, they were forced to strong-arm the Nigerian Football Federation to pay what they're owed.

According to ESPN's initial report over the weekend, the Super Falcons threatened to stage a sit-in protest at their hotel in France until all of their unpaid bonuses dating back to two years ago were paid, along with their World Cup allowances and bonuses.

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