Photo courtesy of Cynthia Nyongesa.

The Influencer's Insight: The African Unicorn Is the Kenyan Visual Artist You Can't Put In a Box

Our first feature in this four-part series highlights Cynthia Nyongesa—the content creator behind the vibrant, bright Instagram page, 'The African Unicorn.'

"The Influencer's Insight" is our four-part series for April's theme "The Hustle." The series features women content creators who've achieved influencer status through their social media platforms. These influencers will give their insight on how they built their brand, challenges they've faced, influencer marketing tips and more.

In the first part of the series, meet Nairobi-born blogger and Instagram curator, Cynthia Nyongesa, also known as The African Unicorn.

Cynthia Nyongesa is the Nairobi-born blogger and curation queen who balances her art with being a full-time college student majoring in neuroscience and media studies. Nyongesa's work on her Instagram, The African Unicorn, is a mélange of fresh graphic design, photography and fashion.

Her blog with the same moniker is an extension of the content creator's magical, unprecedented command of color, which she started around February of 2016 during her freshman year. The experience you get perusing through her content covering fashion, curated playlists, art and travel on all her platforms get you hooked—it's bright, bold and striking.

Get to know The African Unicorn in our conversation with her below, as she dishes her influences, why she takes advantage of vibrant colors and lessons learned along the way.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Nyongesa.

This interview has been edited for length.

Audrey Land for OkayAfrica: Tell me about the woman behind The African Unicorn.

Cynthia Nyongesa: I like to describe myself as a proud Kenyan visual artist, who is currently living her dream in sunny California. Some people know me as the girl who spends way too much time in the neuroscience labs, but others know me as the funny and colorful personality who expresses herself with thousands of friends on the internet every single day.

What do you like blogging about most?

Everything! I feel that there is no particular box I need to fit myself into—it creates a creative outlet that I have total control of and it's the most enjoyable thing I have experienced.

Do you create content full time?

I am a full-time student so more than often I am burying myself in books, but whenever I get a break the first thing I do is brainstorm ideas for cool content.

How do you find new content?

I stay up late nights going through Pinterest and tumblr, then when I find something that inspires me, I save it.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Nyongesa.

Have you been able to monetize your content?

I haven't directly monetized any of my social platforms, however I have been blessed to land a couple of brand deals with some amazing companies which has helped fuel my content.

What are some challenges you've faced as a content creator?

Trying to stay motivated 24/7 and struggling to spit out 2 to 3 posts every week. A lot of people have begun to put a very high expectation on 'content creators' over the past year, as they expect every single one of us to produce at a Godspeed. However, once I began to realize that rushed content never comes out great, I took a step back and focused on myself instead of others.

What are some of the best brands you've partnered or collaborated with?

Probably Converse and RiverIsland.

Can you also tell me about your Kenya Airways work?

A couple of months before the magazine released, a member of Airline team reached out and said they wanted include me in a feature for one of their issues. I did not think anything about it until one of my friend's friend sent me a photo of my face in it and it was quite surreal. I got so many beautiful messages from there and when I finally got a hold of the copy, I could not have been more excited.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Nyongesa.

What are some brands you hope to partner with?

Honestly, I don't know yet. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the wonderful ones I have already worked with. Although, if I had to choose one, it would be Ivy Park. Anything Beyoncé touches is gold—so who wouldn't want to work with her brand?

What are your favorite brands in beauty and fashion?

Definitely Andrea Iyamah, RIverIsland—not just because I have worked with them, but because they are so ahead of the game, Off-White and finally Amazon. I often find some really amazing things on there that I can never find in actual stores; plus their shipping is unbeatable.

What are 3 tips you can impart from your experience so far as an influencer?

  1. Stay true to yourself.
  2. Life is not a race.
  3. Always create a sense of purpose for others
  4. (Bonus): 'Done' is better than 'perfect'.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Nyongesa.

What's behind your incredible use of color?

Color is a gift from God that we would be foolish not to utilize.

What are some tips you have for aspiring content creators?

Quality over quantity—try and be unique without compromising your art. Create content that you would follow and always try and have an end-goal you can work towards.

Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.

Photo courtesy of Shekudo.

Made In Africa: Shekudo Is the Accessories Brand Putting Nigerian Craftsmanship & Artisans First

Shekudo founder Amy Akudo Iheakanwa speaks in-depth on the challenges of relaunching her brand in Nigeria and more.

Shekudo is the brainchild of Nigerian-Australian designer Amy Akudo Iheakanwa. She uses textiles to create luxurious accessories that draw women in. Where Nigeria offers her her aesthetic, her Australian background contributes to the way she markets her free, easy-going products. Produced in Lagos, Shekudo prides itself on local artistry and social responsibility. It's purpose is to employ artisans and expose the craftsmanship that is alive and well in Nigeria.

Iheakanwa co-founded the brand with Shetu Bimpong but is now the sole creative director, and the February repositioning of the Shekudo has been critical. The brand is now backed by inspiring and necessary narratives of all sorts. It is the story of a founder who has embarked on a journey of self-discovery. It is the story of finding inspiration in the kaleidoscope of colors found in the bustling city that is Lagos. It is the story of Nigeria's 500-year-old aso oke process. It is the story of the number of hands that contribute to making a shoe, bag, or earring from scratch and a community of weavers, silversmiths, shoemakers and carpenters.

Though in its early stages, Iheakanwa has great plans to expand her production and incorporate community through training and capacity building for destitute women with limited options and skills available to them. With today's African diaspora serving as the frontrunners of cultural influence, brands like this one can only shine.

We sat down with the founder of Shekudo to learn more about the brand.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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The Influencer's Insight: Kamo Mafokwane Is the South African Content Creator Pushing Brands To Value Influencers

The final feature in our four-part series highlights Kamo Mafokwane—the South African fashion and beauty blogger who's steadfast in developing her craft.

"The Influencer's Insight" is our four-part series for April's theme "The Hustle." The series features women content creators who've achieved influencer status through their social media platforms. These influencers will give their insight on how they built their brand, challenges they've faced, influencer marketing tips and more.

The final part of the series features Kamo Mafokwane of fashion and beauty blog, WILLKATE. ICYMI, read part three here.

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8 South African Albums & EPs to Stream While Staying Home

Let these South African releases from Bongeziwe Mabandla, Shabaka and the Ancestors, King Monada and others hold you down during lockdown.

This month saw a number of releases from South African artists. While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken money away from a majority of artists, this could be the best time for listeners to go through the new music that was released.

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Image courtesy of ARRAY.

What to Watch at Home During Coronavirus Shutdown: ARRAY's New Digital African Film Series

The film platform, from director Ava DuVernay, is hosting a weekly movie-viewing experience for the "global online community of cinephiles."

If you're looking for African films to dive into while at home during the coronavirus outbreak, a new digital series from award-winning director Ava DuVernay's film collective ARRAY is a great place to start. The multi-media platform and arts collective is launching its #ARRAYMatinee series, and each film will be available for viewing here.

#ARRAYMatinee is a virtual movie-viewing experience that will screen a string of the collective's previously released independent films from Africa and the diaspora. The weekly series begins on Wednesday, April 1 with a viewing of the 2015 South African coming-of-age film Ayanda. "Viewers will take a cinematic journey to the international destinations and cultures featured in five films that were released via the ARRAY Releasing independent film distribution collective that amplifies that work of emerging filmmakers of color and women of all kinds," says the platform in a press release. To promote a communal viewing experience, viewers are also encouraged to have discussions on Twitter, using the hashtag #ARRAYMatinee.

The five-part series will run weekly until May 13, and also includes films from Liberia, Ghana, and Grenada. See the full viewing schedule below with descriptions from ARRAY, and visit ARRAY's site at the allotted times to watch.

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