by Isi Esene
Nigeria’s art scene is thriving despite long-term neglect, and that’s a miracle. We present the 10 most powerful (under 40) in the forefront of rebuilding the rubbles. In many ways they lead the conversation, provoke thought, spark ideas and then make it happen.
An influential culture and film critic passionate about film and theatre, Ajao’s work has appeared in local (Daily Sun, Y!) and international publications (The Hollywood Reporter) solidifying her position as one of the most-listened-to in the sector. Currently programme officer at the Goethe institute, Ajao helps organise art exhibitions, film shows and readings that support up and coming artistes.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The most accomplished writer of her generation, Adichie published her third novel ‘Americanah’ to enthusiastic reviews in 2013 and immediately kick started a global conversation on race,racism, hair and immigration. ‘Americanah’ was included in the New York Times end of year best fiction list and pop queen Beyonce sampled her popular TED Talk on the track ‘Flawless’ off her eponymous album. The screen adaptation of her civil war tome ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ stars Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton and is set for a summer release. Her polarising interview appearances almost always ignite a conversation be it about race, gender or feminism. And, going by her new media rounds this month, she’s just getting started.
Ferdy ‘Ladi Adimefe is a writer, poet, art lover and television host among other titles. A man of many parts, he started the Creative Nigeria initiative and currently serves as CEO /creative director. His ultimate dream would be to help creative young people achieve financial success. In 2013, he organised Eko the musical, a variety night of music, poetry and dance dedicated to the city of Lagos, sponsored by First Bank Nigeria and plans for a much grander musical narrative tracing the history of Lagos. Always full of ideas, Adimefe glides easily from one project to the other. For some reason, this young man retains faith in that sector, and it’s a blessing.
A The Future Awards Africa winner for Best Actor, back when only a handful of people knew her name, ‘Lala Akindoju has not let her age get in the way of her goals. She began her career on the stage,performing in numerous productions in and out of the country. Akindoju organises the popular Open Mic theatre, a showcase of the freshest voices and talent in the country and with her Make it Happen production company, staged the V-Monologues, the Nigerian version of Eve Ensler’s award winning play.
Akindoju’s production starred some of the biggest names in stage and screen; Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Iretiola Doyle, Dakore Egbuson and Bimbo Akintola. She will next be seen on the big screen playing the lead role in Tunde Kelani’s feature film ‘Dazzling Mirage’ and a lot more people will know her name after that.
CEO of Gbagyichild entertainment and convener of Taruwa, a cult favourite hub for art lovers in the purest, undiluted form. Every session of Taruwa offers laughter, music, poetry, drama and this began from the founder’s need to provide a stage for the expression of art. Held monthly, Taruwa (a Hausa word for gathering) has also served as the priming pad for artistes like M.I and Bez Idakula who would go on to find success in the mainstream, Sobogun’s Gbagyichild also publishes Taruwa magazine and last year held the first season of the Taruwa festival, showcasing the best in art and culture – and home to many up and coming stars.
Ochai the assistant country director at the British Council Nigeria and this position makes her the head of the council’s arts and creative industry programme in Nigeria. In this capacity, she develops policies and creates capacity that will showcase Nigeria’s creative, cultural and artistic tendencies. She works on the council’s relationships with states and the federal government to develop a cultural environment that ensures that creative ideas among young people thrive. But its her passion for the work that sets her apart, going clearly above and beyond the call of duty to deepen the pool of artists who are exposed to recognition and opportunities and building a strong network through expos, seminars and play showcases that keep an industry vibrant.
Farafina is clearly the most important force in Nigera’s publishing scene – almost single-handedly reawakening the sector, and then sustaining it through its parent company Kachifo, alongside imprints like Prestige and Kamsi. Home to Chimamanda (who needs no surname) and many other of the country’s most prominent authors including Sefi Atta, it is run, managed, kept at optimum by PdD holder, father, husband and author of ‘Fine Boy’, Eghosa Imasuen.
Adegoke ran the serene and creative friendly ethnic hub that is The Life House. Located in the heart of Victoria Island, the cottage-styled Life House serves as the host for a lot of artistic endeavours; life jazz bands, documentaries, film screenings, yoga classes, even some quirky shopping experience. Then, she had to leave the place. But if there’s any evidence that one doesn’t need space to give dreams life, here it is. LifeHouse, without a venue, has become a spirit; a phenomenon. Film screenings, book readings and the annual Women Rising concert ensure that the crucial mix of art and high society continues to capture our imagination.
Steve Onu (Yaw)
For some reason, Onu continues to insist on stage-plays – no matter his mainstream entertainment success. The popular comedian and OAP with highflying Wazobia FM is also a producer and actor. From his days on the sitcoms ‘Twilight zone’ and ‘Flatmates’ to his current digs cracking ribs on the radio, Yaw is currently rocking the culture like no other OAP. A crowd favourite, Onu produces his own hit sitcom, t
he often funny ‘Yaws and Myn’ and his theatre appearances include ‘Po!’, ‘Private lies’ and ‘The Bar’ alongside Funke Akindele.
Kazeem is a publicist, event planner and social media expert. A lover of the arts and theatre, Kazeem works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the theatre alive, producing, financing and publicizing various stage productions. If you want to get your play to a wider audience, Kazeem is the person you call to make it happen. Apart from breathing lives into the stage, she can also be guaranteed to attract high profile personalities to attend her productions. Some of her credits are V-monologues, A husbands’s wife, To love a ghost and Bobo Omotayo’s Lagos life, London living. She is presently working on the play ‘Band Aid’ set to premiere in May.