2016 was the year of Team Africa!
Our people were slaying in all cultural arenas whether it was music, art, film or fashion internationally and on the home continent.
And despite a year where people in the USA needed to be reminded that black lives do indeed matter – #blacklivesmatter – Team Africa got our visas approved (for now), flew across the waters, and used a metaphorical cane to beat the competition to the top spot.
Here are 10 such people bringing their A-game to ‘The Land of Free’:
America’s new talk show sweetheart, Trevor Noah, had us in the palm of his hands from his first racist joke on his first aired episode. The South-African cutie’s star-power soared during the 2016 elections where his quick-witted, honest and yet still funny commentary on US politics won him fans from all sides.
In Behold the Dreamers, author Imbolo Mbue brought home the raw and heartfelt truth of the modern ‘American Dream’. Her novel asked whether success is found in money? Status? Or inner peace? We think success is being a bestseller and topping the charts with your debut novel!
Currently The New York Times’ ‘notable book for 2016’ as well topping its bestseller list , Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming (another literary first) has been called ‘the new Roots of our generation’. It tells the interwoven short stories of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, set amidst the backdrop of Ghana’s slave trade. We are already excited for this TCK (Third Culture Kid) and her next novel.
She’s the ‘one to watch’ in the contemporary art world – it has certainly been Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s year. A new auction record was set for the Nigerian-born artist in New York when her art work ‘Drown’ soared to sell for $1,092,500, over three times the high-estimate ($200,000-300,000), in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale.
You know you are a big deal when Beyoncé calls on you to paint on her beautiful, sensuous body as if it was your personal canvas. Laolu Senbanjo is a BIG DEAL (and a lucky man!). The hip artist and budding musician brought the spirit of ‘Ori’ and Nigerian culture to the music charts and NY fashion’s finest (he also did a massive collaboration with Nike on limited Nike Air Max sneakers). We expect to see the girls at Coachella 2017 covered in ‘Ori’ art.
If you haven’t watched HBO’s Insecure yet WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
The creator, writer and star of the show, Issa Rae, is Africa’s very own Lena Dunham, and we mean that in the most complimentary way – Lena the creator of the multi award-winning show Girls; not Lena the man-hating twitter troll.
Her co-star the equally talented and gorgeous Yvonne Orji is our new TV woman crush. Hard to believe that the weave-slaying, stylish, femme-fatale that is ‘Molly’ is a virgin in real life (true story!)
Africa has really claimed John Boyega. He is not even just a Nigerian anymore he has made all of ‘us’ proud! And it is only the beginning for this leading man (we still remember him in Attack the Block and we saw the star quality even then!) Boyega will be coming across our screens again in 2017 as ‘Finn’ in the next Star Wars movie. He will also be starring with Hollywood heavyweights Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton. Someone better start polishing this young man’s star for the walk of fame!
From being signed to Roc Nation, to literally flying across the country to stop a coat with blackface being auctioned by famous stylist Patricia Field, to launching Melanin Monday – a platform that showcases the beauty and diversity of people of colour – Young Paris has his fingers in many pies and his hustle is on the up and up.
Nigerian crooner Davido signed a new deal with Sony Music Worldwide at their New York office becoming the first African act to achieve the rare feat. West African music is making its mark on the international music scene (Drake’s ‘One Dance’ has been nominated for a Grammy for example) and Sony/RCA are betting big on African musicians. With one of the world’s biggest music conglomerates as his backer, America should get ready for Davido’s domination.