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Nigerian Actor Sope Aluko On How She Landed a Coveted Role in ​'Black Panther​'

Marvel's Black Panther is already on the brink of being a blockbuster, as it already broke box office records within the first 24 hours of it's pre-sale. Beating Captain America: Civil War's record in 2016, Fandango reports results from a user survey, stating Black Panther was 2018's second most-anticipated movie after Avengers: Infinity War.

One up-and-coming actor who will star alongside Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan (to name a few) is Sope Aluko. Come February 16, we'll see the Nigerian-born actor play 'Shaman' in the film. Her previous credits include recurring roles on Netflix's “Bloodline," NBC shows “Law & Order SVU" and “Parks & Recreation" and guest appearances on USA Network's “Burn Notice" and Lifetime's “Army Wives."

Her film credits include supporting roles in feature films including Identity Thief, 96 Minutes, Grass Stains, The Good Lie and more. Raised in the UK, Aluko studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). Aluko speaks four languages, including her native language, Yoruba, French, and Bahasa, an Indonesian language.


We sat down with her to learn more about how she landed a role in this huge blockbuster movie.

Ezinne Mgbeahuruike for OkayAfrica: How did you land your role in Black Panther?

Sope Aluko: A local casting team requested me for a major role but I didn't get it. I auditioned four times and I had to be humble and try for a much smaller role because I wanted to be a part of the project. They kept interviewing me for different roles, so I was very happy to see that I was highly sought after. The casting directors made me feel very warm after a 5 minute ice breaker about my name. They honored the Nigerian way of saying it which made me even more comfortable auditioning.

Talk to me about your role in the movie?

I play a critical role by the name of Shaman—I can't say too much about my character. I know it doesn't help but it's all part of my contract.

How has Hollywood treated you as a Nigerian actor?

Things have shifted for the better. For quite some time, for an African actor, it was difficult. It seems as though the stories were not being told in a way that it should be. Hollywood had the version of Africa they wanted to present and package to the world and it looks like they've since changed then. Directors are now more open to casting real africans with real accents from different parts of the continent, so that's very reassuring. Notable names like Yvonne Orji, Lupita Nyongo and David Oyewole have made it easier for those coming behind to break in. It's cool to be Nigerian these days so it's a great time for actors in Hollywood because it feels like it's all finally happening.

How was it working alongside such heavy hitters like Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, and Forest Whitaker?

It felt very familiar and like home. We had early call times but I didn't even feel the long set hours because it was such a good time. I didn't feel like I was amongst stars, everyone was so down to earth and normal. During breaks we shared our testimony of how we got to where did and most of the people were testifying to God's miracles, it was almost like church.

What advice would you give to African creatives trying to break into the industry?

Go for it. But make sure you have plan B. I was working in corporate America after completing my MBA in marketing and branding. I studied the industry from the back-end while taking acting classes on the side. I was committed, which goes a long way when things don't always go according to plan. I think knowing the business is important—study who the players are and how it all works. Within the creative space, it's a marathon not a race. Learn from the mistakes of others and don't expect too much too soon. Treat the business with respect.

How do you feel about the movie's impact on sales?

Excitement and joy. It was a confirmation of something I already knew, which was that this was bound to a great movie.

Can you name some actors who inspires you?

Viola Davis, Philip C. Hoffman, Meryl Streep and my peers—Danny Glover, Denzel, Issa Rae, Ava Duvernay.

Are there any African actors you like or projects you'd like to be a part of?

I want to be a part of a Nollywood directed, produced, written and distributed film that is shot in Hollywood. I'm putting it out into the universe.

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Asa's 'Lucid" album cover

Asa Releases Her Highly-Anticipated New Album, 'Lucid'

Listen to the celebrated Nigerian singer's first album in five years.

After a five year hiatus Asa, one of Nigeria's most celebrated artists, has released her fourth studio album Lucid.

The 14-track album, includes the previously released singles "Good Thing" and "The Beginning" which the singer dropped earlier this year to positive reviews.

The singer and songwriter took to social media to thank fans for their ongoing support over the weekend, writing "I have looked forward to sharing this with you for sometime now but I wanted it to be special, that much I owe you. For being with me from the beginning, thank you from my soul. I hope this makes you happy, brings you joy and somehow, you can find yourself in these songs."

She also shared a live studio performance of the album's first track "Murder in the USA,' check It out below.

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A 15-Year-Old Nigerian Student Lends Her Voice to the Fight Against Boko Haram With Graphic Novel

Aisha Mustapha's graphic novel about her experiences under Boko Haram was published today for International Day of the Girl.

Aisha Mustapha, is a 15-year-old student from Nigeria, using her voice to tell her own story. The young writer recently penned a graphic novel about her experience fleeing Boko Haram, locating her family and trying to further her education. It's a heavy subject, obviously, but with her graphic novel, she offers a voice for young people directly affected by the crisis in Northern Nigeria.

The book was published today to mark the International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations in 2011 to "highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights."

Aisha's talent for storytelling has previously been highlighted in Assembly, a by-girls-for-girls publication by the Malala Fund that brought Aisha's graphic novel to life, premiering it today in conjunction with International Day of the GIrl. Tess Thomas, Assembly's editor, elaborated on the purpose of the publication saying, "We believe in the power of girls' voices to generate change. Our publication provides girls with a platform so their opinions and experiences can inform decisions about their futures."

Aisha's words were illustrated by artist Simone Martin-Newberry, who had this to say about the process of creating the visuals for the graphic novel: "I was very moved by Aisha's story, and really wanted to treat it sensitively and do it justice with my illustrations. My aim was to capture the real emotions and actions of the story, but also keep my artwork bright and colorful and full of pattern, to help reflect Aisha's amazing youthful spirit."

Check out some excerpts from the piece below and head here to read it in full.
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Photo by Hamish Brown

In Conversation: Lemn Sissay On His New Book About Re-claiming the Ethiopian Heritage Stolen From Him by England’s Foster Care System

In 'My Name Is Why,' the 2019 PEN Pinter award winner passionately advocates for children in the institutional care system, and in turn tells a unique story of identity and the power in discovering one's heritage.

It took the author Lemn Sissay almost two decades to learn his real name. As an Ethiopian child growing up in England's care system, his cultural identity was systematically stripped from him at an early age. "For the first 18 years of my life I thought that my name was Norman," Sissay tells OkayAfrica. "I didn't meet a person of color until I was 10 years of age. I didn't know a person of color until I was 16. I didn't know I was Ethiopian until I was 16 years of age. They stole the memory of me from me. That is a land grab, you know? That is post-colonial, hallucinatory madness."

Sissay was not alone in this experience. As he notes in his powerful new memoir My Name Is Why, during the 1960s, tens of thousands of children in the UK were taken from their parents under dubious circumstances and put up for adoption. Sometimes, these placements were a matter of need, but other times, as was the case with Sissay, it was a result of the system preying on vulnerable parents. His case records, which he obtained in 2015 after a hardfought 30 year campaign, show that his mother was a victim of child "harvesting," in which young, single women were often forced into giving their children up for adoption before being sent back to their native countries. She tried to regain custody of young Sissay, but was unsuccessful.

Whether they end up in the foster system out of need or by mistake, Sissay says that most institutionalized children face the same fate of abuse under an inadequate and mismanaged system that fails to recognize their full humanity. For black children who are sent to white homes, it often means detachment from a culturally-sensitive environment. "There are too many brilliant people that I know who have been adopted by white parents for me to say that it just doesn't work," says Sissay. "But the problem is the amount of children that it doesn't work for."

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(Screenshot from "Every Woman" video)

Check out Cameroonian Crooner Vagabon’s New Ode to Female Power

The singer dropped a video for new single "Every Woman" today, shot by fellow Cameroonian director Lino Asana.

Cameroonian-born singer-songwriter Laetitia Tamko, better known as her stage name Vagabon, has been spoiling us with delights as of late. First, the crooner teased us with two singles, "Flood" and "Water Me Down" from her forthcoming sophomore album, Vagabon, a work she wrote and produced herself. And today, she surprised us with a new single and video for "Every Woman"—a track Tamko claims is the "thesis of the album," as per a press statement reported by The Fader magazine

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