Tag: Africa

Will Ryan Coogler direct Black Panther 2?


The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) machine roars on, with its latest release – Avengers: Infinity War, expected to be the biggest Marvel film ever. Many people (who are not Marvel fans per se), including myself would not have much interest in the latest release if it wasn’t for Black Panther. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last three months, you’re aware of its global impact.

Ryan Coogler, on the Black Panther promotional trail in South Korea

The MCU is one of the most successful film franchises in the world, but the success of Black Panther put it in front of a new audience, taking it to a different level. Although not a Marvel fan, I’ve seen Thor, Captain America: Civil War Civil and Guardians of the Galaxy on TV because I watched it with people who are fans. I didn’t watch any of them with bated breath as I did Black Panther, after waiting a year for it’s release. The concept of an African country unaffected by slavery and colonisation was epic!

Black Panther introduced a whole new audience to the MCU franchise and succeeded as a stand-alone film – you didn’t have to know the back story for it to resonate. Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler (who adapted the screenplay from the original 1966 Marvel comic) was able to infuse his authentic voice throughout the whole film without depleting the traditional superhero narrative. References to black culture, history and emotion were simultaneously subtle and blatant. In a time when the validity of black (African) existence in the diaspora is constantly questioned, the positive portrayal of Africans came at a point when everyone needed a reminder of the richness of African culture.

In the midst of a superhero story, the allure of Africa encouraged Ryan Coogler to visit the continent before embarking on his Black Panther journey.

“I was very honest about the idea I wanted to explore in this film, which is what it means to be African. That was one of the first things I talked about. And they [Marvel] were completely interested.”Ryan Coogler, Rolling Stone interview

Coogler just finished directing his second film, Creed, when Marvel come knocking at the door. For any director, working with the Marvel franchise is big, but for a young filmmaker with only 2 films in his portfolio, Creed (2015, estimated budget $40 million) and Fruitvale Station (2013, estimated budget $900,000) shows it pays off when you are authentic. This is not always easy in Hollywood, but Coogler does it with a discreet defiance.

fruit vale pic
Ryan Coogler’s first film, is part of the Block Party Cinema Film Club series (photo credit)

“I wanted to tell epic stories, stories that felt big and fantastic. I liked that feeling as an audience member when it felt like I went on a flight and felt out of breath and I couldn’t stop thinking about it days later. I wanted to make stuff that gave people that feeling – but I wanted to do it for people who look like me and people I grew up with.”Ryan Coogler, Rolling Stone interview

While directing Black Panther, Cooger admitted he hadn’t directed two white men (Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis) in the same scene before. When I heard this, I immediately thought he was being restricted by the establishment, but Coogler’s apt response changed my perspective. This isn’t really an issue if you are portraying the stories you want to see.

“It’s not a situation where people are denying me that opportunity”. The stories [I’m telling] just haven’t lent themselves to me doing a scene with only white people in it. I’m making the movies that I want to make.”Ryan Coogler, Rolling Stone interview

After its release in mid-February, according to Forbes, Black Panther is STILL showing in 1,650 cinemas and is the second highest grossing (tickets sold) superhero movie in the US. When Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, was asked if Coogler will be directing the Black Panther sequel (#BlackPanther2), he was optimistic.

“We definitely want Ryan to come back and that’s actively being worked out right now. When will it be? A lot of it will be when Ryan wants to and not rushing anything, but I think we have an idea of when it will be… “The success of Panther is so amazing and makes us happy for so many reasons, and it certainly exceeded our lofty expectations. Kevin Feige interview with Collider

coogler letter
Coogler admitted he was overwhelmed by the response to Black Panther, in a letter to fans.

I’ve seen 2 out of 3 Coogler films (Black Panther and Creed). I’m all here for keeping the cultural finger on the pulse of the African diaspora narrative (the reason I started blogging), so I’ll be going back to the very beginning, to watch Coogler’s first film (no, I haven’t seen it before and yes, I’m late to the party lol). Fruitvale Station won awards at Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals and was produced through Forest Whitaker’s (played the character Zuri in Black Panther) production company, so I’m sure it’s going to be a good watch!

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Featured image: You Tube screenshot from The Van Jones show CNN

Does there need to be a Vogue Africa?


Lagos was the cradle of African fashion a few weeks ago, hosting 2 big fashion shows. Lagos Fashion Week Nigeria (23 – 25th March) Arise Fashion week 2018 (31 March – 2nd April). There was of course, the vibrancy, craftsmanship and distinctive style that has become ubiquitous over recent years in the African fashion industry. Images which only would have been available via fashion outlets are easily accessible anywhere in the world on social media (as you’ll see below).

During Arise Fashion Week 2018, the supermodel legend that is Naomi Campbell said the renowned fashion publication Vogue Magazine should be launched in Africa.

“Africa has never had the opportunity to be out there and their fabrics and their materials and their designs be accepted on the global platform … it shouldn’t be that way.” – Naomi Campbell

We’ve heard the reminder many times that “Africa is not a country”. When we dissect the continent’s textile heritage, we find there are beautiful fashion and style nuances across the continent. While I agree that the evolution and heritage of African fashion should have a dedicated global fashion platform showcasing to the world, it should be born and pushed by Africans – those on the continent and from the diaspora. Just like European fashion is controlled by Europeans.

Any African fashion publication must be sewn together with an integrated narrative identifying the contribution of each African country. It’s about time that African countries develop and control their own narratives without the, filtration and stamp of approval from Western fashion establishments, who have made fashion and style prestige synonymous with Western culture.

The fact that there is no Vogue Africa Magazine is an OPPORTUNITY, let Africa dictate her fashion industry in her own words and realise herself for herself!

Don’t get me wrong I was all here for Edward Enninful and Virgil Abloh rising to coveted gatekeeping positions in Western fashion establishments of British Vogue and Louis Vuitton, but I think it’s time in 2018 that Africans do not wait for the approval of Western fashion establishments to validate their fashion heritage and existence.

Since its first issue in 1892 Vogue has had 126 years to be inclusive. Strutting into the millennium it has tried with the Vogue Italia all black issue in 2008 (masterminded by Edward Enninful) and the latest most racially diverse cover for the May 2018 issue.

vogue may 2018 cover
Credit: Vogue Magazine

However, I think in 2018 African countries should take their fashion destiny into their own hands and be the global gatekeepers of African fashion and heritage. It can be done, yes creating a fashion publication costs money but there are very talented people in Africa and the diaspora that can make this happen and create jobs on the continent.

This is what we should be pushing for (just as is done in Europe) – African fashion controlled and narrated by Africans.

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Featured image: Arise Fashion Week Instagram : @femioso

Africa Utopia 2016: My Feature!


In its 5th year at the Southbank Centre in London, Africa Utopia festival didn’t disappoint! It’s amazing to have a festival which celebrates the fusion of African culture from the diaspora and the continent. A relationship that has blossomed in recent years, as the sons and daughters of the African diaspora realise they should carry the rich legacy of culture and history with them wherever they go.

Africa Utopia presents talks, workshops, music and performances that celebrate the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents.” – Southbank Centre

This year was even more special because it was the debut of the first official magazine in association with the festival and I was so excited to be one of the contributors to the magazine, DUAL. I was part of a small talented team from the magazine’s inception to it’s publication, all done in a hectic 24hrs, at the festival finale.

African magazine, southbank centre,
After a crazy and fun 24hrs, Dual Magazine made its debut on Sunday 4th September.

In addition to my feature No’Fro Zone”,  it was amazing to be part of the festival, were I interviewed performers and was backstage soaking up all the energy from the preparation of the fashion show, from excited models, hair, make up artists and cameras!

There were too many highlights to mention, but the #AfricaSquad catwalk show, in which I was in the photographers pit with the rest of the paparazzi had my adrenalin pumping! With pumping Afrobeat infused disco vibes, the centrepiece of the festival went down a storm. With creative director Agnes Cazin’s, theme of collaboration, models hit the runway wearing a mixture of designers from the continent and diaspora.

Southbank centre, Africa Utopia

African fashion, london fashon show
Snaps from the #AfricaSquad fashion show. Credits: Belinda Lawley and Steve Woodhead.

There was so much musical talent on show, including the Chineke! Orchestra, which comprises all black and ethnic minority musicians, featuring BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Festival goers were also treated to the talents of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra.

Check out some of the highlights from the festival here and I would definitely recommend going next year if you’re in London.

For the full extract of my feature, exploring whether natural hair prejudice is shrinking in the workplace, click here!

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House of Meena: SS16 Collection – WOW


Talk about finding a gem! I just happened to stumble across the Meena design label; established over 5 years ago. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to find the Nigerian fashion house and its Creative Director, Uju Offiah. As soon as I saw the SS16 collection, I was like, “WOW”.

meena1

The Lagos based designer has showcased previous work at regional fashion shows, Music Meets Runway 2011, Arise Magazine Fashion Week 2012 and the 2012 MTN Lagos Design & Fashion Week. However, it was at the Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2015, where she revealed her SS’16 collection of structured dresses and custom made prints, that stopped me in my tracks while surfing the net. The SS’16 lookbook, entitled ‘Ochiagha’ from the Igbo language, translates into ‘Neoteric Warriors’.

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According to Meena, the collection was inspired by ‘Nsibidi’ – a pre-colonial symbolic method of communication among the Igbo people, in the south eastern part of Nigeria: Symbols were arranged in clusters telling a story of victory, resilience, love & hate, peace and unity of Nigerians.

meena2

The collection artistically evokes unity and peace in spite of the recent challenges and insurgencies in northern Nigeria.

Neoteric:

A modern person; a person who advocates new ideas (noun).

Belonging to recent times; recent (adjective).

 meena Collage 5

 

meena Collage 3

 

meena Collage 2

meena Collage 4

Credits: PHOTOGRAPHY: Lakin Ogunbanwo (@lakinogunbanwo) | ART DIRECTION: Lakin Ogunbanwo & Uju Offiah | Model: Aduke (@adukebey_) of@bethmodelafrica | MAKE UP: Stella (@stellasaddiction ) | HAIR: Bernard (@bernardsmiless )

 

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A first: Made in Ghana Cars


Kantanka cars made in Ghana. Yes that’s right. An African company manufacturing cars in Africa. The name ‘Kantanka’ doesn’t roll off the tongue like BMW, Toyota, and Mercedes, which is understandable. These brands have been driven for decades all over the world – including in Africa. So can the new kid on the block make a dent in the tough exterior of the global automobile industry from a corner in West Africa?

According to the Africa Report, inflation in Ghana was around 18.5% in February 2016. Unsurprisingly the Bank of Ghana is part of an IMF programme on job creation and economic growth. For developing countries to move up the development index, home grown businesses, whether it be manufacturing, agriculture or services, are key.

The road to production has been long, with inception of Kantanka cars starting in the 1970’s. The Brain child of Kwadwo Safo, Kantanka cars are being rolled onto public roads in Ghana by his son, CEO Kwadwo Safo Jr, who is determined to make Kantanka a household name.

Unfortunately, the $18,000 to $35,000 price tag maybe out of reach for the average Ghanaian, but some businesses and the Ghana police service have started to use the cars. In a country which imports more foreign goods than it should, due to the fledging manufacturing industry in Ghana and the perception that foreign products are ‘better’ than domestic products, Kantanka has a lot of (PR) work to do!  Also, at the moment the Kantanka factory can only produce around 100 cars a month.

Some Ghanaians who can afford it are willing to buy homemade cars BUT want solid evidence that the cars can match up to international cars.

cars in Ghana, African cars
Safo Jr. keen to make his dad’s dream a reality on Ghanaian roads.

Kantanka want the “Made in Ghana” tag to become a slogan of pride and has developed cars for the domestic market. It is the first car brand to be designed and manufactured in Ghana.

Ghanaians are employed at the Safo Technology Research Centre located between Gomoa Mpota and Gomoa Asebu, just outside the capital Accra. Apparently, the research centre is located on part of the land acquired by Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The wood from the dashboard is sourced from Ghanaian forests and the leather seats are manufactured in Ghana’s second city – Kumasi.

Safo Jr. has big ambitions for the Kantanka brand and has already used African movie and music stars to test the cars. These African cars are for sale, watch this space.

Check out the video here and see the cars in action.

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You’re “too black” for carnival, luv


When the Guardian Newspaper brought to light that a Globeleza carnival queen lost her title because she is “too black”, I was shocked.

I still am; actually I feel sadness more than anything.

Racism and its cancerous child, colourism are such primitive constructs, but their foundations seem unshakable.

The video below, reminds me again that colourism, is very much a part of black culture in the diaspora.

colourism in the black community, racism, black men, black women

 

In Brazil, a country reported to contain the highest proportion of black people outside of Africa – a carnival samba queen who won by public vote, was subjected to racist comments online, by white, mixed and black Brazilians! Following the abuse that she suffered, she was then stripped of her crown without explanation. Later replaced by a lighter-skinned samba queen, who didn’t win by public vote.

I’ve been to Brazil and I noticed a socio-economic colour divide. I saw more brown skinned people when I visited the favelas than I did while walking through the pretty suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. I remember some of the surprised looks from hotel staff when they saw me walking through the hotel; maybe they were not used to seeing black people in hotels on the Copacabana beach front. Some people thought I was Brazilian, so maybe that’s what threw them off.

You can hear how the carnival queen, was stripped of her crown and how she felt in this video.

brazil samba queen, black brazilians, brazilian women

 

It’s enough that other races see black people at the bottom of the food chain, but how do we see ourselves?

The samba queen above was ridiculed because of her skin tone by black Brazilians too. I’m not giving a pass to some people of other races who may have an habitual disdain for dark skin, but we are also perpetrators in this colourism crime.

The inception of the trans-Atlantic slave trade solidified the perception that dark skin women are less ‘beautiful’ and even less human than their white and lighter skinned counterparts.

White supremacy notions of beauty and superiority have been propagated from generation to generation by black people to their children, because of oppression. Not surprising as this is what we’ve been taught. We’re still subjecting ourselves to these negative stereotypes consciously and/or subconsciously. Dispelling such stereotypes seems to be a never ending PR exercise, but will become an impossible task if we’re  complicit in keeping those ideologies alive. A waste product of being divided and conquered.

The US, is another country with a large proportion of black people and probably has the most famous civil rights history in the world. When rapper Kendrick Lamar, casted a dark skinned girl in his music video Poetic Justice, nearly three years ago, it became a talking point, within the black music culture community.

Why?

Why would casting a dark skinned black girl in a hip hop music video even be a cause for discussion?

 

This isn’t a pity party, yes there are black women who are given opportunities, like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o. However, the fact that their prominence was such landmark moment when it happened, during the millennium, shows there is still some way to go.

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