News Brief

Millions Misspent for Nelson Mandela Funeral

According to the Public Protector's #MadibaFuneral report released on Monday.

South African public protector Busi Mkhwebane has found that close to R300 million ($22 million) was spent negligently for the memorial services of former South African president Nelson Mandela, whose funeral took place in Qunu, Eastern Cape, four years ago.

Mkhwebane released her #MadibaFuneral report on Monday, and it implicates Eastern Cape officials from the provincial government, state entities and local government, in the mismanagement of funds.

The money, according to the report, had been earmarked for services such as "sanitation, the replacement of mud schools and the refurbishment of hospitals."

It was instead used to buy T-shirts, catering and transport mourners to memorial services.

Mkhwebane has recommended that President Jacob Zuma task the special investigations unit (SIU) with probing the matter.

Read the full story here.

Images courtesy of Sarfo Emmanuel Annor.

Spotlight: Ghana’s Sarfo Emmanuel Annor Is Celebrating African Beauty

We spoke with the visual artist about honoring your heritage and trusting in the journey to success.

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 Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor. The young Koforidua native is reimaging the beauty and vibrancy of the environment he grew up in through photography and an intimate relationship with color. Annor graduated high school in 2019 and was gifted a cellphone that went on to become his first mode of capturing and communicating his creative potential and wildest dreams. The artist started off as a painter, and an apprenticeship with a local fashion designer sparked Annor’s interest in fashion’s ability to communicate beauty and heritage. Committed to seeing his ideas through, Annor began photographing his niece and young girls in his community as muses and the objects of his creative expression.

His photo series “The Essence of Colour” underlines Annor’s infatuation with youthful spirits and contrasts the depth of highly melanated skin that Africans are privileged to inherit. Influenced by his own experiences and environment, the talent uses his craft to communicate socio-economic issues plaguing Ghanaian youth while celebrating their individuality and magnetism.

\u200bFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor\u2019s photo series \u201cThe Essence of Colour.\u201dFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor’s photo series “The Essence of Colour.”

We spoke with the visual artist about finding inspiration all around you and the beauty in African diversity.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell us about the project that first inspired you to create?

My first project was quite special. After graduating from high school, my sister gifted me a phone, and I used to take random photos of family and friends and edit them for fun until I one day realized I could use the phone as an art creation tool. The project that inspired me to create was a photo series about African beauty. My niece Afia modeled in the photo series, and she embodies the essence of African diversity, strength, and resilience. Africa is home to a vast array of ethnicities, languages, and traditions, resulting in a rich tapestry of beauty standards and ideals.

African beauty is often characterized by its celebration of natural features, including dark skin tones, varying hair textures, and unique facial features. The photo series was inspired by the growing movement towards embracing and appreciating the natural beauty of African individuals, challenging traditional Eurocentric standards of beauty.

What are the central themes in your work and how do you communicate them?

I would say the central theme of my work is celebrating African beauty. It tells African stories through beauty and fashion, and incorporating these aspects is my wonderful way of celebrating and showcasing the rich culture and diversity of the continent. I also work to create awareness around socio-economic problems in my country, Ghana.

One aspect of African beauty is the appreciation for dark skin tones. Many African cultures have historically held dark skin as a symbol of beauty and associated it with health, strength, and heritage. My celebration of dark skin can be seen in the use of dark-skinned models in my work and also in highlighting the skin of the models in the photos. Traditional attire and fashion also play a significant role in when defining African beauty. Different regions and ethnic groups have their own distinct clothing styles, fabrics, and patterns that reflect their cultural heritage and craftsmanship. I love to incorporate some of these traditional clothing like the Kente cloth and others in my work.

\u200bFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor\u2019s photo series \u201cThe Essence of Colour.\u201dFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor’s photo series “The Essence of Colour.”

Where do you seek inspiration and how does it find you?

As my works mostly talk about African fashion and beauty, I would say I'm mostly inspired by my culture. African culture is incredibly diverse and rich, offering a plethora of inspirations for my art.

What do you believe sets African artists apart from the rest of the world?

African artists possess a rich cultural heritage and unique perspectives that set them apart from the rest of the world.

Africa is a continent known for its immense cultural diversity, with a vast array of ethnic groups, traditions, languages, and art forms. This diversity provides African artists with a rich tapestry of inspiration, allowing them to explore a wide range of themes and artistic expressions.

Also, African art often incorporates symbolic elements and storytelling traditions. Many artworks convey deep cultural, historical, or spiritual meanings, carrying narratives of ancestral wisdom, mythologies, social issues, and personal experiences. This emphasis on storytelling adds layers of depth and significance to African art. African artists are also renowned for their vibrancy, expressiveness, and bold use of colors, patterns, and textures. Whether it's through intricate beadwork, vibrant textiles, or powerful sculptures, African artists often embrace dynamic visual elements that captivate the senses and evoke emotional responses.

\u200bFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor\u2019s photo series \u201cThe Essence of Colour.\u201dFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor’s photo series “The Essence of Colour.”

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories?

Growing up, I loved to draw and colour and always admired the colours around me — found in nature and especially the colors of the prestigious Kente Cloth. I use vibrant colors as a form of art therapy, we are more emotionally connected to colors than we realize. They affect our mood through different associations — the human brain connects warm colours like red, orange, and yellow to a range of feelings such as passion, comfort, anger, and power. So, when people look at colors, I believe it can affect them in positive ways.

What’s something you wish someone told you at the beginning of your journey?

Embrace the journey and focus on personal growth rather than seeking instant success or validation. Building a successful art career takes time, effort, and perseverance. It's crucial to understand that progress and recognition may not come overnight. You have to be patient with yourself, keep practicing, and continue honing your skills. Success often comes to those who stay committed to their craft. In my creative process, I have encountered setbacks and faced moments of self-doubt. Instead of viewing failure as a deterrent, I saw it as an opportunity for growth. I learned from my mistakes, analyzed what went wrong, and I used those lessons to improve my art. Remember that every artist faces challenges, and resilience is key to overcoming them.

\u200bFrom Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor\u2019s photo series \u201cThe Essence of Colour.\u201d

From Ghanaian visual artist Sarfo Emmanuel Annor’s photo series “The Essence of Colour.”


The Best East African Songs Right Now

Featuring the latest music from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and much more.

As we embark on the second half of the year, we witness East African artists reaching unprecedented heights with their remarkable achievements. They have been captivating audiences worldwide with their chart-topping hits, forging international collaborations, and introducing innovative sounds through the emergence of talented newcomers. From Kenya to Tanzania to Uganda and beyond, here are some East African songs that we absolutely love at the moment.

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Photo courtesy of Charles Okpaleke.

Charles Okpaleke is Expanding Nollywood Through Video Games

The Nigerian entrepreneur and producer is behind the first-ever Nollywood video game, and he has a lot more up his sleeve.

In 2019, Charles Okpaleke, a dynamic lifestyle entrepreneur, made an unforgettable entry into Nollywood with his debut, Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, a sequel to the 1992 classic of the same name. The film garnered critical acclaim and received immense love from audiences, securing seven prestigious awards at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) the following year. It quickly soared to become one of the top twenty highest-grossing Nollywood films of all time, solidifying Okpaleke's reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Since then, he has embarked on a journey of remarkable milestones with his production company, Play Network Studios. With the production of blockbuster remakes like Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story, Glamour Girls, and Nneka The Pretty Serpent, Okpaleke has single-handedly ignited a wave of nostalgia for the classics that served as the building blocks of the Nollywood industry. His influence in the space is so significant that other filmmakers have started remaking old classics or have them in the pipeline — all in pursuit of hits like Charles of Play.

In 2021, Okpaleke acquired the rights to the beloved 2002 hit film Aki na Ukwa and successfully remade it with acclaimed director Biodun Stephen. The movie opened with ₦30 million before landing a licensing deal with Netflix, where it is currently streaming.

Play Network Studios recently launched a revolutionary game, "Aki and Pawpaw Epic Run," the first-ever Nollywood game. The game features the superstar characters based on Chinedu Ikedieze (Aki) and Osita Iheme (Pawpaw) as they try to run through various hurdles, like masquerades and touts, to get points and coins.

In this exclusive interview, Okpaleke spoke to OkayAfrica about immortalizing a hit film, expanding Nollywood into new realms, and what else is in store for 2023.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

What led to creating the video game of Aki and Pawpaw Epic Run?

I've always thought of the Aki and Pawpaw brand as exportable. I grew up watching them, and when you have legends like this who are still alive, one way to immortalize them is to create something that will work even after they are gone. This game allows us to continue the story of these legends and could be exported outside the country.

Did you work with any of the actors in creating this game?

They are a part of the game. Seeing as they're in it, it would only make sense. They also own rights to the game, so it was a team effort.

This is the first time something like this has been done in Nollywood. Do you want to play with other mediums like this with your other projects?

Why not? If any opportunities arise where we can explore other mediums, we will. You cannot just adopt certain things because they might not fit into our culture. I’ve always believed that culture is critical to us while creating, so we’ll keep following the trends and being at the forefront. Last year, we tried an NFT with the Aki and Pawpaw memes, but it didn’t work, probably because of the state of the crypto market. But whenever opportunities come, and they’re culture-friendly, we’ll throw our hats in and see how that goes.

We know that Play Network Studios also acquired the rights to Aki na Ukwa and produced a remake of the film, which is currently on Netflix. Do we expect you to do any more things with ancillary rights for this film?

I've been toying with the idea of an animated series. It's like how you have Tom and Jerry. We’re still discussing it, but there’s some desire for it, and we’ll keep examining and looking for opportunities. We just launched the game, and we’re trying to work around it to ensure maximum distribution for now.

What do you think the gamification of this film signals for the industry?

In this case, we see more games. That's how it works. In Nollywood, we're trying all angles to ensure we’re stretching ourselves beyond measure. When I came to Nollywood, I started with remakes and sequels of Living in Bondage and Rattlesnake, and now other filmmakers are doing them, so I expect to see more gamification. When we look at the downloads for our game, some of the highest numbers come from the US, Canada, and parts of Europe. And so I expect people to continuously tap into film culture through games and all the other ways possible.

We’re getting teasers for some Play Network projects midway into the year. What is cooking next?

For this year, we have three movies in the works. We have Blood Vessels, which tells the story of people who wanted to leave the country on a vessel going to Brazil. Things go wrong somewhere, and that’s the premise of that. And then we have Hijack 93, the story of Nigerian hijackers who hijacked a plane going from Lagos to Abuja, and then directed it to the Niger Republic. They went to prison for over a decade, and I had the opportunity to speak to three of the hijackers, who gave me their stories. And last but not least, there’s Billionaires Club which you should also look out for.

A still from the forthcoming Play Network film, 'Hijak 63,' of a woman cabin attendant pushing a trolley through an airplane.A still from the forthcoming Play Network film, 'Hijak 63,' of a woman cabin attendant pushing a trolley through an airplane.

Many projects you’ve unveiled recently, like Hijack 93, Igbo Landing, and Ekwumekwu, are related to historical events. Why so?

Because I just feel it's original. We have a lot of original stories in Nigeria that are worth telling, so I’m going to spend my time and effort telling stories that will go a long way for my children. When I mentioned the groundwork that went into the Hijack story, some friends didn’t know that a plane was ever hijacked. And so for me, in my way, I'm telling African stories because we have original stories that resonate with us.

I want to be able to immortalize stories like this through film. It will impact history, and I also get to educate the audience. That’s why I work on stories like Igbo Landing, and I’m working on a Jaja of Opobo story too.

Are there any more remakes in the works for you?

When I got into Nollywood, I wanted to do a Play Cinematic Universe where I pick six films, link them to one movie and do a seventh. They will combine to create The Six, which you could liken to the Avengers. So far, we’ve done Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, Rattlesnake, and Nneka the Pretty Serpent, and if you notice, you must have seen Ramsey Nouah in all three of them. Three more are in the works: Diamond Ring, Karashika, and Billionaire’s Club.

Where do you see Play Network Studios in the next couple of years?

I want to ensure we have a brand representing Africa and Nigeria. I want everything to immerse into Play, being the number one lifestyle entertainment brand. When people talk about making movies, and they're looking at Hollywood, I am looking at Africa because I feel Africa is like the new frontier. Africa is where everybody's coming to right now. So the focus for us is Africa. Africa. Ghana. Kenya. South Africa, Tanzania. There's a lot. We focus on getting into these countries and breaking new frontiers in film.

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