by Wilfred Okiche
For the sixth consecutive year, YNaija brings you its annual ranking of the most powerful young persons under the age of 40 who are getting things done in the culture space. From impressive art gallery owners to editors, visual artists to curators, these bright young things have taken up the onerous task of preserving our heritage. And they make it all seem like fun too.
A National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow from Cambridge University where she bagged a PhD in Bayesian Signal Processing, Omolabake Adenle is the founder of Aja.la Studios, a company that builds natural language & speech processing applications for African languages. She designed a voice recognition and speech synthesis software that can understand and digitize spoken African languages. This work has gotten her shortlisted for the Innovation Prize for Africa.
The urban GFX and graffiti artist, and founder of A2 Creative born Osa Osunkpolor but better known as Osa Seven is aiming for iconic status with his colorful images, brand designs, abstract and tribal art designs. In 2016, he put together The 7th Element, the first ever graffiti exhibition in Nigeria. Together with Socially Africa, Osa Seven co-founded Art For A Cause, an initiative that uses art to inspire children. With the #EkoTag project, his indelible images portray a history of Lagos in strategic city locations.
Efe Paul Azino
If spoken word poetry is considered more accessible these days, then Efe Paul Azino has played a pivotal part in lifting the words from the page and giving them life. A headline performer at the most renowned performance venues,- locally and internationally, Azino is the founder of the Lagos International Poetry Festival and serves as director of poetry at the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival. He is also the producer of Nigeria’s first spoken word poetry theater production, Finding Home.
Since leaving a steady gig at Inspiration FM, Wana Udobang has unspooled an offbeat career that has been exciting in its nonconformity and impressive in impact. She could be reporting on sexual abuse for Al Jazeera or on sickle cell disease for the Guardian UK in one breath or launching an album of spoken word poetry the next. Whether she is launching a series of interviews titled Culture Diaries, or travelling to international festivals to perform her work, Udobang’s influence keeps on soaring.
After two years away, Bovi returned in 2017 with the third edition of Man on Fire, his solo comedy stand up show and it was obvious by the industry’s response that there is still room for his brand of comedy. While he was away from the Eko Hotels stage, Bovi spent some time touring the world and trying out his material on new audiences. He also made the leap to the big screen and proved he possesses leading man credentials with the 2016 romantic comedy film, It’s Her Day.
A poet, writer, music critic and psychiatrist in training, Dami Ajayi wears many hats at once. He is a co-founder and fiction editor of Saraba magazine, an online literary publication founded in 2009 that has emerged one of the most influential platforms for fresh, talented writers from around the continent. Ajayi also deploys his services to Olisatv blogazine where he contributes essays and reviews of contemporary music.
Quddus Onikeku concluded studies in France in 2009 and his career has been one huge ball of motion ever since. A widely travelled dancer/choreographer, Onikeku founded the QDance Center, a hub that helps kick start the careers of young people interested in dance. He was artistic director for the first Lagos Contemporary Dance Festival and was part of the first Nigerian showcase at the Venice Biennale, the Olympics of the art world. His QTribe put up a stunning performance this year at TED Global in Tanzania.
Home to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who needs no introduction, and publishers of recent bestselling and award winning titles such as And after many days (Jowhor Ile), On Becoming (Toke Makinwa) and Against the run of play (Olusegun Adeniyi), Kachifo Limited, founded by Mukhtar Bakare, is the premiere publishing house in the country. And Jite Efemuaye is the person who oversees the day to day running of the various imprints under the awards heavy umbrella.
Zara Udofia and Toritseju Ejoh
A couple at work and home, Zara Udofia and Toritseju Ejoh are performing actors and theatre lovers who co-manage Oxzygen Koncepts and productions, a production company that has brought to the stage, plays such as Waiting for a Lottery for the British Council’s Lagos Theatre Festival and local revivals of A Husband’s Wife and The Mistress of Wholesome. Oxzygen Konceptsjust concluded a month long run of Wole Soyinka’s King Baabu.
Nigeria participated for the first time at the storied Venice Biennale and Adenrele Sonariwo played a pivotal role, acting as one of the curators of the country’s pavilion. She did not come to this role by chance. Sonariwo left a promising corporate career to focus on her passion, Rele gallery, a cultural and contemporary art space that offers art for public consumption, nurturing creators and bringing their work to the attention of a larger, global audience.