Here’s to seeing more of them in the new year. Arranged in no particular order.
One of the best reviewed books of the year, Stay With Me, a bittersweet tale of the dissolution of a Nigerian marriage set against the backdrop of the political unrest in the nineties was written by Nigerian author, Ayobami Adebayo. A recipient of writing residencies from Ox-Bow School of Art, Siena Art Institute, and Ebedi Hills, Adebayo was hailed by Michiko Kakutani (who needs no introduction) as ‘’an exceptional storyteller.” Stay With Me was shortlisted for the Baileys Women Prize for Fiction.
Bisola Aiyeola may have finished second on the second edition of Big Brother Naija, a television ratings behemoth, but if there was a true star that came out of the season, it was her. Winning millions of fans with her lively personality and frank, no-nonsense approach to issues, Aiyeola has been quite busy post Big Brother, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly as a ONE ambassador, signing with Temple Management and starring in films (Picture Perfect) and television series (The Life of a Nigerian Couple.)
Nonso Amadi’s Tonight, a deceptively simple song that expresses its beauty in unusual ways was one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year. Abusive relationships never sounded so inviting as twenty-one-year-old Amadi who recently bagged a Master’s degree in Engineering Design from McMmaster University in Canada flits casually between cocksure showman and insecure lover. Amadi is also a producer and has worked with big names like Maleek Berry and Juls.
Lesley Nneka Arimah
What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, the debut short story collection by US-based writer, Lesley Nneka Arimah has been so hotly anticipated, almost no one is shocked by how fast the book has taken off. Arimah who has had her work published in The New Yorker has been on a roll since her book’s publication, scoring ecstatic reviews around the world, winning the $50,000 Kirkus Prize for Fiction abroad and longlisted for the 9Mobile Prize for Literature back home.
Born Otolorin Kehinde Peter, Kenny Blaq’s unusual career is divested off most of the tired tropes that have saturated today’s Instagram comedy starlets. Blaq’s anecdotal style, peppered with excellent and thoughtfully arranged music which he performs by himself, speaks to his discipline as an artist. Thankfully he has been a hit, transcending social media spaces and kicking off a brilliant and unusual career that has been exciting to watch.
Gloria Oloruntobi may be young but that hasn’t stopped her 620,000 strong fans on Instagram from voraciously consuming the content that she uploads every Monday on her Instagram and YouTube accounts. Maraji takes advantage of the opportunities on the Google toolkit box to create videos that skewer popular culture in fresh and immensely funny ways. These short videos score an average of 200,000 views on Instagram and 50,000 views on YouTube where she has 18,000 subscribers.
The city of Jos has contributed its fair share to the music business (2face, the Abaga brothers) but because of the humanitarian crises in that part of the country, somehow the North seems to have been written out of pop culture. Morell is here to address that. He takes on this responsibility without being self-aware and delivers a debut disc that is proudly reflective of his origins, yet bears a finish that is ready to cross over. Musa Jikan Musa his debut album, has a unique blend of traditional instrumentation, impressive songwriting and delicious rhymes is almost second to none.
The Nigerian Bobsled Team (Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga)
When this fabulous trio decided to represent Nigeria at the 2018 Winter Olympics, they did so knowing exactly how badly the cards were stacked against them. Hindered by a complex web of weather, inadequate funding and unanswered requests to the relevant local authorities, they remained undeterred and resolved to go it alone. They raised the funds through crowdfunding sites and qualified for the Winter Olympics, galvanising the nation behind them and making history in the process.
This hunky actor has been in the business for a while, parlaying his good looks into forgettable roles in uneven productions like Husbands of Lagos. This year Ninalowo took up a challenge and ditched the foreign accent – he kept the body – and immersed himself into the role of Jobe, a tout who finds love in the strangest place in Tope Alake’s Picture Perfect. Ninalowo’s embodiment of his character was one of the acting highlights of the year and single-handedly lifted what could have been a very conventional film.
The street anthem for the year came in the form of Penalty, the tempestuous breakout hit for 21-year-old Temitope Adekunle better known as Small Doctor. From east to west, north to south, Penalty swept the entire country, bringing a new lease on life for Small Doctor, who had previously been stuck in the underground. Even a self-inflicted micro-scandal that had Small Doctor pleasuring himself on Snapchat was not enough to derail a career so hot.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.