For the seventh 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 and curators, these bright young minds have taken up the onerous task of preserving our heritage. And they make it all seem like fun too.
Think of Suka Andrew as the Clarence Peters of the sound engineering corner of the music business. His name has appeared on a significant number of the songs recorded in the last decade and his work has become indispensable to artistes, music studios and record labels looking for the perfect polish for their hit songs. The Plateau born Suka Andrew has mixed and mastered songs for everyone from Banky W to Brymo and his Suka Sounds has dominated the production and sound engineering sector in the music industry for the past half-decade.
Snapchat juggernaut, Internet sensation, premium account peddler, crossdresser, make-up lover, dealer in skin lightening products and lover/flaunter of bae. Nigeria wasn’t quite ready for Bobrisky (born Idris Okuneye) when (s)he burst on the scene marketing not just skin products, but a defiant alternative lifestyle. Bobrisky took gender-bending behaviour to new heights and even when the messaging was muddled, succeeded in sending a stake right through the heart of homophobia and social acceptability.
There is little that is sexy about infusing poetry into the pop culture space but Dike Chukwumerije has been present for a while and committed to the hard work. A prolific performance poet, Chukwumerije has put out performance poetry videos, a live Poetry show (NSW – Night of the Spoken Word) now in its 5th year, and a theatre production, the Made in Nigeria Poetry Show which has been successfully staged across the country. In a speech delivered at The Platform this year, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo recited Dike’s words from his poem, The revolution has no tribe.
Visual artist, Njideka Akunyili-Crosby made major ripples when her botanical painting, Bush Babies was recently sold for a staggering US$3.4 million during an auction at the Christie’s in London. Akunyili-Crosby’s work draws on her ethnic heritage and the unique experiences of Nigerian living that she portrays has provided visibility for persons from this part of the world. Born in Enugu, Akunyili was a recipient of the McArthur ‘Genius’ grant in 2017 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Seyi Oluyole is the founder of The Dream Catchers, a group of young underprivileged kids who use dance as a form of encouragement to remain in school. Oluyole is responsible for the welfare of the kids from education to shelter – she opened up her home to them – and actively seeks out opportunities for them to display their skills. After a viral video of the kids was reposted by celebrities like Rihanna, supermodel Naomi Campbell on a trip to Lagos sought an audience with the Dream Catchers.
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. Onikeku was visiting practitioner-in-residence at Columbia’s dance department and co-organised the Lagos Dance Gathering.
November in Lagos is art season and Tokini Peterside is mostly responsible for this. In 2016, she founded ART X Lagos, the first international art fair in West Africa and since its debut, ART X Lagos has attracted over 15,000 local and international visitors to Lagos to see the works of over 120 artists drawn from countries across Africa and the Diaspora. ART X Lagos has exhibited artists and speakers such as Yinka Shonibare and Njideka Akunyili-Crosby. In July, Peterside led French President Emmanuel Macron through a special exhibition of contemporary Nigerian art at the New Afrika Shrine.
Ayodeji Rotinwa is read all over the world. This year alone, Ayodeji Rotinwa, a freelance journalist and The Future Award Africa nominee has written about creative art hubs for Financial Times, satirists for Ozy and product designers for Vogue. He covers visual art, sustainable development and culture across the continent and has captured numerous breakthrough successes, bringing their stories to a wider audience. In 2017, Rotinwa was a BudgIT media fellow, and his work has also appeared on CNN, Mail & Guardian and The Africa Report.
This year, 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.
Making the case for the preservation and sustained relevance of the Yoruba language is linguist, writer and cultural activist, Kola Tubosun whose work meets at the intersection of education, technology, literature and journalism. A Fulbright fellow, Tubosun is the founder of YorubaName.com, an online intervention to preserve and document Yoruba names. His debut book Edwardsville by Heart billed as poetry travelogue and memoir is out this November.