Category Archives: People

Nnedi Okorafor

Nigerian + American writer and professor, b. 1974

Science fiction/fantasy has an image of being white, male, and Western—certainly not African. Yet there are many writers challenging this, creating alternative stories and worlds. One of the most prominent of them is Nnedi Okorafor (probably the only African SF writer whose books you could find in an airport). She writes stories about Africans, with African settings, but from an outsider’s point of view.

Outcasts, freaks, the disfigured, the grotesquely enhanced…I write their narratives. [1]

Take for example, Who Fears Death (2010, winner of World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), a story about a young sorceress named Onyesonwu who is shunned because she is a child of rape. It’s an epic quest and coming-of-age story, one that begs to be made into a movie. And it will be, although it is hard to see how a story that disturbing could be filmed.

Some of her other novels include Zahrah the Windseeker (2005, winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize), The Shadow Speaker (2007), Akata Witch (2011), and more. She has also written many short stories, and a collection of them, called Kabu Kabu, will be released in fall 2013.

More:
official website
blog – for updates and interesting (often African) SF news
Who Fears Death: The Movie
“Spider the Artist,” in Lightspeed Magazine
Nnedi Okorafor on The Africa Channel’s “Behind the Words,” part 1
twitter: @Nnedi

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Proprioception, by Nnedi Okorafor

Tatenda Mbudzi

Zimbabwean filmmaker and comedian, b. 1987

If you watched the Oscars last weekend, you may have spotted Tatenda Mbudzi among the group of students who, as winners in the Oscar Experience College Search, got the chance to go on stage and hand the statuettes to the presenters.

In describing how he will change the future of movies, he said:

I’m going to tell stories that globally connect. As a foreigner, I know what it’s like to be an outsider, and I want to tell stories that help people believe in themselves, and believe in others, too. [1]

Mbudzi is currently a student in the Producer’s Program at the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA, where he also performs comedy. We’ll see what kinds of interesting things he produces in the future—this exposure should definitely help.

More:
Twitter: @ta10da
Film student prepares for his Oscars debut – UCLA Today

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Tatenda Mbudzi’s video submission

Ikenna Azuike

Nigerian + British journalist, b. 1979

What’s Up Africa? (“The best damn African comedy news show on the planet!”) is a hilarious African news video blog hosted by Ikenna Azuike, a journalist at the Africa desk of Radio Netherlands Worldwide. He stands in a corner of a room plastered with African news magazine covers and delivers sometimes incredulous, often sarcastic analyses of African news stories. There is usually at least one music video featured in each episode. It’s fast-paced, heavily cut, serious and critical, as well as funny and light-hearted.

WUA is not just about pointing out good stuff I use my show to be critical about serious issues, comedy is undoubtedly a powerful tool to change people’s attitudes.[1]

Azuike is also co-founder, with Mette te Velde, of Strawberry Earth, which started as a design blog “for creative people who care about the planet,” but now also includes a service where you can get deals on products and services from brands that they like, and events like the Green Film Making Competition, the Strawberry Earth Film Festival, and more.

For more:
What’s Up Africa?
What’s Up Africa on Facebook
Strawberry Earth
Twitter: @WhatsUpAfrica

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Interview with Africa is a Country

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nigerian novelist and writer, b. 1977

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells stories. Stories about war, stories about post-colonial life, stories about life in a new country, and more.

Her books include two novels, Purple Hibiscus (2003), which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), which won the Orange Prize in 2007, and has been made into a film that will be released later this year. She has also published many short stories, several of which are in her collection The Thing Around Your Neck (2009). In 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a.k.a., “genius grant.”

The thing you notice about her prose is how hands-off it is. She puts you deep into an individual point of view, whether her own or that of a fictional character, describing perception and reactions without judgment. Things just are.

That suspension of judgment is in part a recognition that events and situations can always be seen from multiple perspectives. Many stories can be told about a single event. She discusses this in her TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.”

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.[1]

Without many stories, it is easy to fall back on stereotypes, mistaking them for reality, the whole truth. It becomes inconceivable that those people in that other place could be anything like you.

But having many stories requires both that people are willing to tell their own stories, and that people are able to find these stories. Adichie’s prominence in the modern literary world is because she has seized the opportunity to tell her stories, and their truth cuts through the vague generalizations of the news to present complex human experience.

She uses that influence to help others to tell their own stories. She is a trustee of the Farafina Trust, a non-profit organization “established to promote reading, writing, and a culture of social introspection and engagement through the literary arts.”[2]

The organization’s goals and activities include writing workshops, donating books to public schools in Nigeria, helping editors in Nigeria develop their skills through an exchange program, creating an online community for African writers to discuss their art and industry, and the publication of a magazine.

For more:
Official site
Farafina Trust
The Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Website
TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story.”
“Why Are You Here?” in Guernica Magazine

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. TED.com, “The Danger of a Single Story.”
  2. Farafina Trust : About Us

Ozwald Boateng

Ghanaian + British menswear designer, b. 1967

When Ozwald Boateng opened his first shop on the venerable Savile Row in London, he was part of a new generation of innovative tailors out to transform the street and the industry.

I knew the concept of Savile Row on one hand and I wanted to breathe new life into it, and I knew it had something unique and should be on the global stage for menswear, and I knew what to do to make it be that. It just needed more of a designer approach.[1]

He has gone on to become one of the most well-known and influential tailors in the world, dressing high-profile clients like Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, P. Diddy, and many more. It’s almost a certainty that you’ve seen his work somewhere, as they are part of the aesthetic of the modern high-budget film. His clothes make the man.

His sleek designs are striking for their use of bright colors, and some more recent designs incorporate African fabrics.

For more information:
official site
Tumblr – see some of his work and the people he dresses
Facebook
twitter: @OzBoateng

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. The Story of Ozwald Boateng at lifeandtimes.com