Interview
Photo: Demola Mako

Interview: Ashley Okoli, the Creative Director Behind Your Favorite Alté Music Videos

We sat down with the Nigerian creative director and stylist to talk about her journey, as well as working on videos for Lady Donli, Santi, Nonso Amadi and more.

Lagos' creative and alté scenes are held together by a small band of city youth who are pushing and making experimental art, music and videos. At the center of this scene is Ashley Okoli. When I meet Ashley two days after our first interview at an art party attended by young writers, photographers and artists, this is more obvious than ever.

As she makes her way across the hall where the exhibition and party is taking place, several people rush to her side attempting to take selfies. Ashley, who is wearing a black crop top and jeans, seems to not mind making videos and taking pictures. Under the blue light surrounded with the bubbling energy, she looks at home in a scene similar to the ones she's directed for your favorite singers.

Ashely is many things and she is good at all of them: her clothing line Sillet is a favorite among Lagos youth, she has styled several artists and is credited as a stylist and creative director for Santi's "Raw Dinner," Nonso Amadi's "Comfortable," and more recently, Lady Donli's "Corner" video among several others. ''I like to work on projects that have stories behind them.'' Ashley tells me. ''Even if they don't look like they have stories, I like to give them stories. I like to give characters to my cast, I like to give characters to projects. I like to see life in things I work with, I like to like the things I work on. I like when they also connect with me.''

We sat down with the multi-faceted creative to talk about her journey as a creative director, working on "Corner" and more.

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Art
Sajjad's artwork for "Pull Up" from Burna Boy's African Giant. Courtesy of the artist.

Meet Sajjad, the Artist Behind Burna Boy's 'African Giant' Album Art

We sit down with the artist to talk about the art behind African Giant and his use of currency to creates collages that tell ambitious stories.

"Currency is something that for the most part doesn't exist," Sajjad tells me over a crackling phone line. It would have been hard to hear him if he didn't speak firmly. "It's all about trust. We trust that a bill is worth a certain value. That's what makes it real. It's an interesting duality play on something that's real but at the same time isn't."

This philosophy is what informs Sajjad's art. Using currency, the artist creates collages that tell ambitious stories about unifying countries. In 2019, he created the artwork for one of the best and most important albums to come out of the modern Nigerian—and African—music scene, Burna Boy's Grammy-nominated African Giant.

Sajjad got the idea to start using currency as an artistic medium in 2016, when stopping at a New York City bodega—"these little convenience stores on every corner that sell everything!"—where he saw that they had put up dollar bills on the wall from the first few people who had bought things there. It was at that moment something in him clicked and he realized how many powerful stories physical bills could tell and represent. Inspired by this, Sajjad began a journey of using currency and other mundane everyday objects to create art that tells a bigger story.

We sat down with the artist to talk about designing the album art of Burna Boy's African Giant, the power of currency and what the future holds for him.

Sajjad. Photo: Dan Solomito

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