Interview
Courtesy of Osborne Macharia

In Conversation with Osborne Macharia: 'There is no excuse to creating sub-standard work just because it’s from ‘Africa’.'

The Kenyan photographer talks about his Afrofuturistic photoshoot for Africa's biggest horse racing and fashion event—the Durban July.

Osborne Macharia is a Kenyan visual artist and fine art photographer with an exquisite eye that is committed to capturing the unique and endless creative realities of the African continent. Back in 2016, Macharia created NYANYE, a stunningly refreshing editorial that photographed badass grannies "who were once corporate and government leaders in the 1970s but are now retired" and are now a part of Kenya's League of Extravagant Grannies, according to Macharia.

A few months later, he followed that body of work with a collective entitled Kabangu which captured eccentric hip-hop grandpas. Then last year, Marvel commissioned Macharia to create exclusive artwork for Black Panther wherein he introduced the world to the three "Blind Elders of Wakanda".

This year, Macharia is back with an Afrofuturistic photoshoot with Vodacom Red and South African designers Laduma Ngxokolo, Sindiso Khumalo and Rina Chunga Kutuma for this year's Durban July—South Africa (and Africa's) biggest annual horse racing and fashion extravaganza. The Durban July is currently underway and this year's theme is "Once Upon an African Future". The photoshoot seeks to create materials that personify Afrofuturism through combining historical elements, the present culture as well as the future aspirations of people of color whilst simultaneously creating universes that one wouldn't normally see.

We caught up with the visual artist to find out what Afrofuturism means to him as well as how he and his collaborators hope to shake the space up at this year's Durban July.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Personally, why is Afrofuturism important in the the post-colonial era?

It's in a way saying 'We are taking back out story'. We get to write our story our own way. We cannot take away the fact that we are highly influenced by the fact that we have grown up in a post-colonial era that defines a lot of how we live, think, create and see ourselves. Through Afro-futurism we have the opportunity to re-imagine a different future that's not dictated by 'they say' but by 'we say'. It opens up a huge world of creativity and positivity that anyone can be a part of.

As a photographer, what has propelled you into this particular space?

My wife keeps telling me, "Osborne, you easily get tired of the same old," and I think this is part of the reason that got me into creating such body of work long before I even realized such a term as 'Afrofuturism' existed. I'm always questioning 'what if' when it comes to matters of creativity.

How do you think your work (in its entirety) is helping re-imagine Africa and especially its creative space?

My team and I are always looking for something different, that makes people have a different and more appreciative approach to people you would not ordinarily pay attention to while also integrating culture and familiar an environment into it. We have a deep culture that's often side-lined when negative news pops up regarding our state of affairs as a continent. We want to change that. Now, more than ever, people need something positive to hold onto, something they can connect to and to see people who look like themselves in places where they can prosper.

How are you and your fellow collaborators hoping to disrupt the space at the Durban July?

I think with the initial launch of the project on social media, the response we got was overwhelmingly good and created a buzz regarding Durban July. We hope that during the actual event, that the images and collections the designers have in store for everyone, are going to inspire a greater sense of creativity and imagination. Even if only one person leaves the place having been inspired, then my work is done.

What would you say to aspiring Afrofuturists in the photography space about innovating and the need for constant reinvention?

Never be afraid to day dream and let your mind wonder. Your mind needs to keep thinking of the next idea, the next choice of medium, the next experience…that's how you remain relevant. One other thing is to create work that is up to international standards in terms of the technical execution. There is no excuse in creating sub-standard work just because it's from 'Africa'.

Featured
Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

8 Queer-Owned African Fashion Brands to Check Out For Pride

In honor of pride month, we highlight eight African queer fashion designers and brands putting queer stories on the global map through fashion.

In the last decade, there have been an emergent of fashion designers who aren’t just queer but have aligned their fashion vision with their identity, creating demystifying collections and criss-crossing their concepts and ideologies to represent the inscape of non-conformity, fluidity, queerness and androgyny — whilst maintaining a quick balance with their cultural roots. Despite the numerous fabric experimentations and collections, these designers never forget to tell stories that align with them, especially those that resonate with queer people in queer unfriendly countries.

In honor of pride month, OkayAfrica highlights 8 African queer fashion designers and brands putting queer stories on the global map through fashion.

Rich Mnisi

South African designer Rich Mnisi is part of a new wave of designers putting African stories on the global map. Founded in 2015, the brand Rich Mnisi is immersed at offering fluid expression to gender, celebrating youthful excellence and exploring extremist design elements with minimalist cultural tailoring. For pride month, the brand released a limited edition capsule titled “Out." The capsule visualizes a fine-line between elegance and fluidity whilst boldly emphasizing on the act of struggle and resilience as an outfit.

Udiahgebi

For a fashion brand like Udiahgebi, identity is very important. And offering that form of visibility to femme queer Nigerians is not just a form of visual activism but a detailed story of essence. The brand was founded by Emerie Udiahgebi, a gender non-forming fashion designer who wanted to give queer, non-binary and non-conforming individuals more options to express themselves fashionably. Udiahgebi’s fashion concept is extremely bold, fierce, and unconventional.

Lagos Space Programme

Designer Adeju Thompson fuses traditionalist concepts with genderless possibilities. Founded in 2018, Lagos Space Programme is a gender-neutral fashion brand that enveloped aesthetic designs using local craftsmanship. The brand appreciates West African unique fabric and communicates compelling stories of identity, gender and queerness — a ideology that has garnered them not just audience but earned them a spot at the LVMH prize.

Muyishime

Patrick Muyishime is a fashion innovator. Not only does he know how to source excellent fabrics but his designs are authentically vibrant. Founded in 2016, Muyishime is a Kenyan fashion label that introduces conversations surrounding androgynous and explores aesthetically fabric inventions that commands fluidity, feminine wiles and constructive elegance.

Bola Yahaya

Founded in 2019, Bola Taofeek Yahaya's fashion label aligns thought provoking pieces that elevate the discusses around queer representation, sexuality and feminity. The brands merges sustainability and explore eccentric fabric experimentations.

Nao Serati

Founded by South African designer Nao Serati Mofammere in 2014, the fashion brand Nao Serati explores the versatility of gender and the fine margin of sexuality whilst finding its balance with their South African heritage. Mofammere wants his brand to explore masculinity and the different ways it takes to wear a fragile look.

Vangei

Lolu Vangei has different recipes to gender fluidity and she has used fashion to express that. Founded in 2018, Vangei is a fashion label that unites modern ideology of afro-centricism to produce pieces that dismantle cliched ideas about gender.

Mayetobs

There is no explaining the sort of talent Emmanuel Tobiloba possesses. Founded in 2020, Mayetobs' eccentric approach in reinstating androgynous norms is interesting. From oversized pants that speaks of fabric maximalism to fast flowing robes, the fashion brand is an ode to redefining modern masculinity.

Featured
Photo Credit: David Avido Ochieng

How David Ochieng Uses Fashion to Positively Impact Kenyan Communities

David Ochieng is making waves as an emerging fashion designer. Putting his country on the fashion map, Ochieng remains in the orbit of community, deploying fashion as a vehicle for social change.

Born in Nairobi’s sprawling urban slums, David Ochieng, aka Avido, is a rising fashion designer whose work fuses African prints with modern, breezy tailoring. His label, Lookslike Avido, is commercial enough, with even an option to have clothes customized on the website. More than that, the label has a painstaking dedication to Kibera, the community Ochieng comes from.

His foray into fashion wasn’t easy. The firstborn in the family of four, Ochieng’s childhood was marred with difficulties. His mother was the sole breadwinner. She would do laundry for other people, and took odd jobs just to support him and his siblings. Lack of school fees worsened his situation. Eventually, he dropped out of school in form one.

David Ochieng flower pants

Photo Credit: David Avido Ochieng

Later, he would move from one construction site to the other looking for odd jobs to support his mother and his siblings. He found solace in new the friends he made. But, unfortunately, most of those friends had tragic ends: some started abusing drugs, others were killed, and a good amount started engaging in crime.

The fate of most of his friends made Ochieng do soul searching. He would find open and secluded places and practice unspoken words. He also relocated from Silangi to the Olympic area.This, according to Ochieng, was his way of confronting his demons and starting a new life.

“I didn't know whom to confide in. You would confide in someone and then they start telling people about your problems,” Ochieng told OkayAfrica. “So, I started speaking to nature. I would talk to myself to the extent of reciting my problems, through that, I was able to join a dance crew. We practiced daily in Kibera at a place called Olympic offering spoken word performance at weddings, political rallies and other events. Many young people here are desperate. Most of them are losing their lives to drugs and crime.”

The dance crew would dress up in hip clothing and donned dreadlocks. Little did they know that their new found hobby wouldn’t last for long. The dancing crew was mistaken for thugs leading to some being killed. As a result, his mother urged him to take a different path. One day, she gave him two of the five dollars she earned at work. He decided to invest the money into fabrics and sewing thread. That is when his life turned around and he officially launched his fashion design career, with Avido Fashion House debuting in 2018.

“I was inspired by my dance crew. I would do sketches for our costumes. That is when I realized that as much as I was expressing myself through dance and spoken word, I felt like I could express myself more through colors,” Ochieng said. “I realized that showing an individual's journey through fabrics while showing life lessons, and struggles is breathtaking. In essence, dancing pushed me into fashion.

“Fashion has enabled me to discover myself, and understand life in a deeper way,” Ochieng continued. “In addition, fashion has become my therapy as a way of healing from my childhood trauma.”

\u200b  Avido fashipn

Photo Credit: David Avido Ochieng

Today, Ochieng is one of the leading fashion designers in Kenya. He says that the streets of Kibera inspire his creativity. He also believes that Africa is very colorful and he wants the world to see that it is not only crime that is rampant in urban slums.

“I am trying to show people the greatness in Kibera. I am not the only one talented here because I know there are some people who are more talented and way better than me, but they don’t get the opportunities to share it out," Ochieng said. "What I am trying to share is the positivity, and hope we have here through the fabrics so that I don’t forget about my roots.”

Through his vocational training program that he began, Ochieng equips young mothers and those with hearing disability with tailoring skills. He believes that when you empower a woman, you are building the whole nation. He has started mentoring fifteen trained women — eight have hearing disability while seven are young mothers.

Aside from the vocational training, he has taken upon himself to pay school fees of the bright pupils in his community. He mostly targets the orphans whose parents succumbed to HIV/AIDs virus. He says these students, if not helped, might end up on the streets and succumb to peer pressure resulting in mistaken identities and even lose their lives.

David Avido Ochieng

Photo Credit: David Avido Ochieng

“I wanted someone to pay for my school fees, but no one came through. For me, paying school fees to the needy is a form of therapy,” Ochieng said. “I feel like I am healing the younger me.”

He also makes school uniforms for needy students in Kibera. So far, Ochieng distributed 786 uniforms to pupils in different schools. The process begins with the identification of the beneficiaries, where he randomly visits schools and spots those pupils with tattered uniforms and gives them new ones.

Filled with gratitude, Ochieng recalls the very first person he designed clothes for — the late Ken Okoth who was his area member of parliament. He wore his clothes to the parliament attracting celebrities and other politicians to his work.

Afterwards, legendary reggae artist Don Carlos came to perform in Nairobi, and David approached the event’s organizer to allow him make a custom shirt for the artist. When Carlos saw the shirt, he was thrilled and promised Ochieng a partnership to promote his work in the Caribbean. Through that encounter, Ochieng has been able to work with artists like Romain Virgo, Usain Bolt, Bruno Mars, Ghanaian Stallion, Tarrus Riley, Connie, Inge-Lise Nielsen, Everton Blendah, and more. His biggest moment came when was featured in Beyoncé’s album Black King which established his business.

Today, Ochieng’s clothes are worn all over the world over, from Africa to Europe, including the U.S. and the Caribbean. But, for him, African identity is what matters most, and it is reflected in his work and designs.

Interview

The Alluring Distinction of Falz

Falz' contributions to Afropop are masterfully encapsulated on BAHD. We speak to him about his vast scope of sounds on the new album, Nigerian politics and more.

Falz is one of Afropop’s most distinctive figures. His songs have defined several periods of Nigeria’s push into international spaces, formed on the background of rap but possessed with amorphous creativity. With the backdrop of a global pandemic, the 31-year-old musician again found himself staring down the well of reinvention.

Having made appearances across several facets of the entertainment industry, he wanted to move into a new soundscape. He poured that motivation into his fifth studio album BAHD, a collection of twelve songs which show Falz at his most risque and naughty. “To be honest it’s a big mix,” he mentions to OkayAfrica some days after its release. “It’s arguable whether this is actually pop. This can even be looked at as an Afro R&B project, it’s an Afro-fusion project as well. I definitely touched on a few different genres while making BAHD. That was the aim from the beginning: I just wanted to have an album with a vast scope of sounds”.

Each featured guest uniquely broadens his vision. Whether it’s Tiwa Savage on “Beautiful Sunflower” or The Cavemen on “Woman,” there’s a seamless entry into the lush sonics of Falz’s universe. He tells me animatedly that he’s always wanted a song with the iconic Ms. Savage, and already has multiple songs with the Highlife-influenced Cavemen. His curatorial skills are present on “Inside,” combining the unusual duo of Timaya and Boy Spyce to fine effect. Apparently the record was created way before the latter was signed to Mavin Records, pointing towards Falz’s continued inclination for digging deep and leaning into new styles and sounds.

Keep reading...Show less
Featured
Photo Credit: Ikechukwu Okonkwo

Korty EO is the YouTuber Documenting Contemporary Culture in Nigeria

Thanks to her confessional-style videos and high-concept shows, Korty EO is one of Nigeria's rising YouTube stars.

There is a stillness in Eniola Olanrewaju’s upscale Yaba, Nigeria flat. It matches the abiding sense of quietness that almost seems to envelop the 24-year-old when she retreats into her world. Eniola, popularly known as Korty EO,is one of the most popular faces in the post-digital creative taxonomy that has swept through Lagos over the last half-decade. In many regards, she is a poster child for the boundlessness that characterizes the grind and hustle of young people in Africa’s most populous city. Over the last four years, she's worked as a graphic designer, writer, content creator, and videographer. Now she is one of Nigeria's brightest YouTube talents, gathering almost 200k followers on YouTube and more than 100k followers on Instagram.

But Korty’s story did not start in Lagos. She grew up in Bodija, Ibadan.

“It was a safe area but my house in Bodija was not around the fanciest sides," Korty said sitting in a rocking chair in her spartan living room last month. "My parents were very protective but that’s because they knew that our environment wasn’t the safest but if you asked me I was proud to say I lived in Bodija because it was a fresh area but I wouldn’t bring you to my house.” Growing up as the middle child in a family of five, Korty was aware of the limitations of her parents and strove to make a way for herself. She started out working as a graphic designer while enrolled in the University of Ibadan after a brief stint at Bowen University. “I saw that there’s a lot I could do and I could even not go to class if I wanted,” she said. “I was just freer and able to do my business.”

Her clarity of purpose meant that she always knew she was going to have to move to Lagos to pursue some of her grander dreams, even if she didn’t know what those dreams were at that moment. An opportunity came in 2018 when a modeling agency scouted her while in Lagos to get a certificate from her IT attachment office. But Korty was reluctant to step into the modeling world. “I said no because I used to think that models were shallow,” she said, half-joking.

Eventually, Korty decided to give modeling a shot. She was grateful for the extra income and the opportunity to explore Lagos’s creative community that her constant visits provided. In the modeling world, Korty was faced with having to navigate a labyrinthine maze of toxic booking agents and haughty designers who treated her poorly. “You can usually tell when someone is not so comfortable in a certain place," she said. "Because I wasn’t comfortable, a lot of stylists did not pick me to walk their shows.”

Mostly observing other models strut their ways on glitzy walkways, Korty started to document their lives in short videos that piqued the interests of her fellow models. Soon after, she joined Zikoko, where she worked as a writer and content creator before convincing her bosses at the time to let her helm a show named HER that was dedicated to showcasing the often-overlooked life of women in Nigeria. In December 2020, after working with Zikoko for close to two years, she left to join Mr. Eazi’s music accelerator program, emPawa, as its head of content. Where Zikoko had a big collaborative culture that emphasized creative cross-pollination, emPawa was more independently structured, giving Korty free rein to pursue projects and create her work in her own image.

It was while handling the YouTube channel of emPawa that Korty began to see the potential of the platform to host the quirky, confessional-style videos that she really wanted to make. “I was always looking at the analytics and understanding how the platform works,” she said. “After a while, I was tired of it and I just left because I realized that YouTube paid."

She, of course, wasn't getting paid immediately. The YouTube channel started taking off with a video documenting the thought process of moving out of her parents’ house and quitting her job at emPawa to create videos for YouTube.

Korty EO pink dress

Korty’s YouTube channel has taken definitive shape, anchored around two shows: Flow, with Korty andLove and Lies.

Photo Credit: Ikechukwu Okonkwo

That was in 2020. In the months since then, Korty’s YouTube channel has taken definitive shape, anchored around two shows: Flow, with Korty, is an exploratory show into the life of celebrities and trendsetters in the Lagos and wider west African cultural scene. While the newer one,Love and Lies, is a dating show that chronicles the drama and comedy that follows setting random people on dates in Lagos. When she shoots her subjects, what Korty aims for is submersion, seeking a way to remove any distraction from their immediate consciousness and get as much information as possible from them.

“I put my camera far away from them so they can even forget that it’s there,” Korty said. “It’s usually me, my cameras, and a photographer because most of the people I film are in some sense celebrities and once they see too many people, they become guarded but if you make them comfortable they can express themselves.” Editing, though, is where it all comes together as she applies her experiences while staying true to the vibe of the shoot. It usually takes place over an active period of one or two weeks depending on the quantity of footage she gets.

The distinctive contours of life in Lagos and the city’s ever-present trans-generational tensions weigh on Korty’s mind and spill into her visual content. “I think Lagos is the center for a lot of things because there’s a lot of people here so it’s easy to find various communities here,” she said. “Sometimes I’m very conflicted about where I stand because I’m old Gen Z. I’m 24 and there are people being 18-year-old in 2022. It often feels like I'm in the middle because where does the class of 1998 fit into it all.” Still, the grind, hustle, and growing fearlessness of young Gen Z'ers’s in Lagos inspire her more than anything. “There’s more evidence of people’s patterns and lifestyles (in Lagos) because of the Internet and that brings more exposure. I feel like the Gen Z culture awareness in Lagos is so strong that it’s being transferred to other parts of the country but Lagos is the pinnacle.”

Korty EO pink dress, white nike sneakers

“There needs to be a better process for how people get monetized in Nigeria," Korty said. "If YouTube says it’s catering for everyone in every part of the world, they need to do that regardless of the difficulties in the country."

Photo Credit: Ikechukwu Okonkwo

Still, existing in Lagos can take its toll, and navigating the YouTube payment model as an independent creator can make it even harder. “It was very difficult,” she said about getting her channel — none of Nigeria’s fastest-growing — monetized. “They have to send a pin to a post office. It’s very easy for people abroad but if you live in Nigeria, getting your pin and money is very hard.” Korty had to make a video detailing her frustration with the monetization process before further relief came and she worries about the next generation of indie creators hoping to share their talents with the world via YouTube. “With newer people coming into the platform, it’s really hard for them because they are confused. There’s a procedure but the procedure doesn’t work unless you get your pin and it’s mentally wrecking.

“There needs to be a better process for how people get monetized in Nigeria, if YouTube says it’s catering for everyone in every part of the world, they need to do that regardless of the difficulties in the country. I know that’s easy to say but that’s just it, it shouldn’t be better in one place than it is in another, and also I guess Nigeria should also care about these things enough to make it easier for everyone.”

Earlier this year, a video documenting Korty’s attempts to schedule an interview with Wizkid over three days in Lagos went viral. And it’s an experience that has only solidified her resolve. “For me, the main thing is that only a few things can stop me in this life," Korty said. "Obviously, the goal I had was to get Wizkid but the real thing was for people to see how if you set a goal and you move towards it, you either get it or move really close to it.”

For all the inspirational themes of her videos and persona, Korty is not a filmmaker that really cares about cajoling an awakening in her audience, seeing her role as more of a guide on the facts of a situation or phenomena. “I think for me, my role is to talk about certain things, shine a light on them and leave people to take whatever they want from the video,” she said. “That’s why I tell people that my aim is not to inspire. If it happens that you’re inspired, that’s on you.”

Despite all her protestations to the contrary, Korty understands the impact of her videos and is warming up to her role as an archivist of Nigerian contemporary culture. “When I do things, I don’t have plans but they start to unfold and people start to see what it can become,” she said. “I’m just trying to make it in life, I’m really not trying to be a culture shifter but I also feel like if that is happening and people are seeing a pattern, it’s now up to me to see if I can accept that responsibility.

"I’m very aware that there is a growing responsibility and, if I don’t accept it, I might not grow, I could just be stagnant."

In many instances, Korty is quick to reject tags or titles and as our conversation comes to a close, I ask what she identities as these days. “I’m starting to say filmmaker,” she said. “A lot of people would say that where do I get the audacity to call myself that because I make YouTube videos but if you put me up next to the YouTubers of today, there’s a clear difference. It’s also why I don’t like it when people call me an influencer because I didn’t sit outside Eko Hotels for three days to be called an influencer. Filmmaking is where I have found myself. In 2018, I was in fashion. Before 2018, I was designing. As time passes, I’ll stumble on something else. I don’t think I can do one thing for all of my life. But whatever I decide to do, I’ll succeed and be competing at the top.”

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

Tems Is Taking Over The World

The Nigerian songstress made history as the first female Nigerian artist to be awarded BET's Best International Act at this year's award ceremony.

Ghana’s LGBTQ+ Community Faces Increased Backlash During Pride Month

The marginalized community fights an uphill battle for acceptance as lawmakers push a bill that criminalizes the group’s existence.

The 6 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Kizz Daniel, Tekno, Focalistic, Ckay, Davido, Mayorkun and more.

Africans Are Taking Surfing Back

We sat down with Ethiopia-American director David Mesfin to discuss the importance of knowing where you come from, and his upcoming surf doc 'Wade In The Water'

popular.

Black Coffee & Tresor’s Work On Drake’s New Album Speaks to the Rise of South African Music

Unlike the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther: The Album or Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift album which had hints of South African flavours on them, Honestly, Nevermind is imbued with them.