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Dr John Kani Receives Pragnell Shakespeare Award for His Play 'Kunene and the King'

Congratulations are pouring in heavy for South African acting legend Dr John Kani after winning the prestigious Pragnell Shakespeare Award from the Shakespeare Institute in London.

South Africa's foremost Black veteran actor Dr John Kanihas reportedly been conferred with the highly acclaimed Pragnell Shakespeare Award for his original play Kunene and the King. The award comes two years after Kunene and the King premiered in London's Royal Shakespeare Company.


Read: South Africa's Fugard Theatre Permanently Closes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

According to the Shakespeare Institute, the Pragnell Shakespeare Award is an international award that has duly honoured Dr Kani's play for its appreciation and advancement of Shakespearan knowledge. Kani shared the good news on Twitter.

Kunene and King is set in post-apartheid South Africa, 25 years after the first democratic elections. The plot is centered around two characters — a successful but chronically sick white elderly male, played by British actor Antony Sher and his Black male nurse, played by Dr Kani. The two men who hail from vastly different backgrounds are thrust into an uncomfortable closeness to reflect on the changes that have taken place in South Africa. Through it all, their shared passion for Shakespeare's works takes their connection to new heights. In one moving scene, Sher and Kani recite a funeral speech from Caesar — Morris starts in English and Dr Kani finishes off in isiXhosa.

A month ago, Dr Kani shared news that Kunene and the King had been selected in the Royal Shakespeare Company's top ten theatre productions. The 77-year-old has had an unwavering love for Shakespeare since coming across his play texts in isiXhosa in his formative years. He was controversially the first Black actor to portray Othello in the Market Theatre's 1987 production of the play.

Dr Kani has been an outstanding actor, director, writer and activist for more than half a decade. His prolific and career-marking play Sizwe Banzi is Dead, co-written with Athol Fugurd and Winston Ntshona, won a Tony Award in 1975. He emerged in the international film scene in 2016 and starred alongside the late Chadwick Boseman in the 2018 Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. DrKani was also the inspiration behind isiXhosa being declared Wakanda's official language. He is also the voice behind Rafiki's character in the 2019 remake of The Lion King.

South Africans from across the board have been congratulating Dr Kani on his latest achievement.



Music
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The 20 Best South African Songs of 2022 So Far

South African music keeps being part of the global music conversation and the artists are doing their best at exporting it across all frontiers.

South African popular music might be having the best years it has had in recent history. Carrying on from the momentum gained during the pandemic and its lockdown/travel restrictions, 2022 has been one of the years artists get to eat the fruits of their hard labour.

Contemporary artists are touring, performing at the biggest global stages amongst the best the world has to offer. From the Grammys and Coachella to Ibiza and Afronation, everyone is outside and is putting out their best music while at it. South African music is part of the global African music conversation and the artists are doing their best to export the music.

Check out our picks for The Best South Africa Songs of 2022 So Far below.

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The Best East African Songs of 2022 So Far

From Kenyan drill to bongo flava and everything in between, here are the best East African songs of the year so far featuring Buruklyn Boyz, Zuchu, NJERI, Diamond Platnumz, Khaligraph Jones and more.

The first half of 2022 has seen many rising stars of the region cement their place in the charts with some exquisite bodies of art.

As the new generation of East African artists innovates their look and sound they’re gaining from the rest of the world every day. From the likes of Buruklyn Boyz, NJERI and Zuchu, we have seen some spectacular singles and projects so far this year. On the other hand, the heavyweights kept their fans happy with plausible releases that raised the bar for all artists from this side of the continent.

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Photo Credit: Mazin Elzain

Reem Aljeally is Leading Sudan's Burgeoning Art Scene

Community is at the forefront of Reem Aljeally’s artistic pursuits, as she empowers artists just like her.

Sudan’s art scene is a hidden gem. The country’s capital, Khartoum, has been a budding attraction for creativity and expression, though inextricably linked to the uprisings that shook the country in 2018. Art was deployed as a tool to register discontent on rising prices and the removal of subsidies on basic goods. Artists became an integral part of months-long protests that saw Sudan experiencing numerous marches, strikes, and protests.

Among such artists were Reem Saif-Aldin Aljeally, who created three murals depicted the involvement of women in the sit-ins at the military headquarters in Khartoum.

"My murals, which showed a woman wearing a white toub while carrying people forward, garnered a lot of attention," Aljeally told OkayAfrica. "One mural was erased by the military but two are still there.”

According to Aljeally, the immense expression of creativity was both a result of loosening restrictions on freedom of expression and, at the same time, a catalyst for further change. The 24-year-old artist, who grew up in Khartoum, directs efforts towards helping other emerging artists realize their dreams.

Trained as an architect, Aljeally remembers how she was always fascinated with art. Growing up, she would try to create and put color to almost everything that she owned. While in grade four, Aljeally signed up for extra art classes and she had her first exhibition experience.

“My fascination with design has also been nourished from my childhood. I remember constantly building models and cities of cardboard for games," Aljeally said. "I think that enriched my interest in pursuing architecture, as art was not a practical option for me back then."

Aljeally started taking art more seriously in 2016 after joining a painting competition. She eventually joined her school’s art group and hosted her first solo exhibition in 2017, which was inspired by the Harry Potter movies.

\u200bAljeally with pioneer modernist Kamala Ishaq.

Aljeally with pioneer modernist Kamala Ishaq.

Photo Credit: Abubakr JarElnabi

Besides her abiding presence in the art scene, Aljeally, who is also curator, channels her passion towards addressing social issues. Additionally, she draws her inspiration from personal reflection, observations, and by curiosity. She is also eager to be part of new projects, meet new people and know more about their ideas processes.

“This curiosity led me to be a curator and every day I pick myself up and work," Aljeally said. "There is so much more to be done and to be explored.”

In 2019, her efforts led to the launch of The Muse Multi Studios, an enterprise that works towards building a platform for the local art community. So far, The Muse Multi Studio has been able to train 90 artists on various skills in art including painting, drawing, and illustration. The platform has been able to work closely with almost 40 artists to bring their ideas to life in terms of solo exhibitions or group shows including working with the pioneer modernist Kamala Ishaq to curate a collection of her drawings.

Currently, Aljeally’s studio is hosting its first residency program that includes three researchers, three painters, and three photographers in a project that aims to enrich the critical and visual skills of its residents and assist them in materializing their ideas. The Muse Multi Studio has also worked with children in various programs including the “Stories from the Cubs” that focused on art therapy training for children in a reformatory centre in Khartoum.

Aljeally’s curatorial journey has been both extremely challenging yet satisfying at the same time. Her studio has collaborated and worked with professionals, amateurs, and art lovers in different ways. Some of the partners whom they have worked with include: Rift Digital Lab, the Spanish Embassy, and Education without Borders, providing guidance and assistance to organizations and individuals in regards to artistic projects and with sourcing artists to fulfill a certain role.

“Our focus is to present professionals’ work to the audience through curating it into exhibitions and projects that display the true potential and value of it,” Aljeally said. “While with our art sessions, we focus on youth, children and the community to involve them in the creation process and provide them with a fun environment to create and connect with others. We believe that we only go as far together, hence we try to work with other organizations or individuals in our community."

In July 2020, Aljeally debuted Bait Alnisa, a platform dedicated to all Sudanese women both in the country and diaspora. The platform showcases, supports and empowers Sudanese female artists and promotes their work.

“Bait Alnisa works through exhibitions, online content and articles, training and documentation. Being involved in the art scene, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of presence and representation of female artists and their work,” Aljeally said. “As I believe the female generated art comes in many different unusual forms in our society and it should be represented in more various ways. It has also given me the chance to meet and discover many artists and females leading important careers and visions in our country.”

Reem Saif-Aldin Aljeally headshot

In July 2020, Aljeally debuted Bait Alnisa, a platform dedicated to all Sudanese women both in the country and diaspora.

Photo Credit: Reem Saif-Aldin Aljeally

Haneen Khalid, 22 years-old, born and brought up in Khartoum, Sudan is one of the beneficiaries of Bait Alnisa. According to Haneen, it has been an enlightening journey with Reem who continuously inspires and encourages her.

“She always encouraged my ideas and never boxed me into my creativity,” Haneen said. “My pictures left my small digital space for the first time and it was being showcased for hundreds of people. It was just an immersive experience. I felt very empowered sharing the space with women who came from different backgrounds exhibiting various art. All thanks to Reem’s space that brings us together, empowers us and gives us exposure.”

Throughout her journey, Aljeally dedicated her time to work on her exhibitions. Since debuting in the industry, she has had three solo exhibitions with the fourth coming up in August at the French Institute, Khartoum. However, she has been part of numerous group exhibitions in South Africa, USA, Kenya and Sudan.

Her first artist residency online was in 2020 with the Sudan Moves project with Goethe Institute, Khartoum, where she collaborated with a German art therapist to create a project together titled Non-verbal Dialogue. Aljeally plans to own a gallery in Khartoum that will introduce contemporary art to the community, and to work with artists on uplifting their profession and skills. She would also like to turn The Muse Multi Studios into the first art institution in Sudan, as she continues to build a name for herself locally and internationally.


Spotlight
Photo courtesy of Nurdin Momodu

Spotlight: Nurdin Momodu Is Using Animation To Share African Ingenuity

We spoke with the 3D artist and animator about his company Lotusfly Animations, Black excellence, and Africa's relationship with technology.

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 animator and 3D artist Nurdin Momodu. The Founder of Lotusfly Animations, Lagos-based Momodu's work beautifully articulates his vision of a technologically advanced world where Black excellence shines brightly. The animator founded his animation company in 2015, and has since pushed the boundaries of how African stories are told and shared. Keen on developing how African children see themselves on screens, Momodu and his team of established 3D artists are currently working on a kids' show titled, "Time Tech Kids".

We spoke with Momodu about following your passions, expressing Black excellence, and the representation that matters.

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.

I never dreamt of pursuing a career as an artist, however, I always had an artistic eye. Life and its circumstances forced me to look within and harness the gifts I was given. The lack of jobs after pursuing a degree in microbiology was a turning point, and eight years ago, I discovered 3D animation and taught myself everything I could.

What are the central themes in your work?

I like to explore themes related to Afro-futurism, technology, and science fiction. I also like to look into deep emotions, melancholy and Black excellence.

How did you decide on using a digital medium for your art?

The moment I discovered 3D animation, I knew it was the medium for me -- the possibilities were endless. It felt so natural, I always had a fondness for computers, so expressing my art with one was a no-brainer.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism’ and African technology?

I think we are inseparable. I produced my first proof of concept titled “Jagabaan” because I wanted to express Black excellence and its relationship with technology and the future.

I imagine a time, far into the future, where Black people -- our culture, technology, stories, struggles of the past and present, and how they shaped the future -- dominate. However, the realities of everyday struggles in Africa make it challenging to envision this future. If my portrayal of Afro-futurism can connect with people just enough to enable them to ponder and believe in a future dominated by Black excellence, I’ll find fulfillment.

Can you talk about your use of colors in your work?

Black and Red are my favorite colors, I find them to be a default palette in my arsenal of colors. However, I am drawn to orange and cyan when lighting a shot or an image, especially when I think on a cinematic scale. I love making darker-looking art, but with a stylized look.

Night shots are particularly my favorite, so I go for desaturated colors with the exception of the focus to enable it to stand out from the background. I have an unhealthy obsession with colored neon lights. LOL.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

With the exception of mass hysteria due to Covid, lockdowns, and the #EndSars movement that took place in Nigeria, not much of my lifestyle changed. I began working from home in early 2019, and have been since, so the lockdown didn’t affect me much. I had an influx of jobs, so I spent most of the year working and improving my craft.

Photo by LotusFly Animations courtesy of Nurdin Momodu

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