By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Nigerian-born Ayobola Kekere-Ekun has been selected as one of the winners of the prestigious 2021 Absa L’Atelier at an online event hosted on the Absa Art Hotspot.
The artist was among the finalists from Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and Namibia.
She is among the one ambassador per group chosen from the three groups of African countries. The others are Adelheid von Maltitz from South Africa and Blebo Michael Jackson from Ghana, while the winner Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto category was Abongile Sidzumo.
Absa, in partnership with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), hosts the event to celebrate African art.
These winning artists now take on the title of Absa L’Atelier Ambassador 2021 received trophies that depict hands, symbolising the physical manifestation of creation, designed, and produced by established South African artist Roberto Vacarro, while the Gerard Sekoto trophy depicts a bull, representing prosperity and resilience.
Since its inception 35 years ago, Absa L’Atelier has showcased and continues to invest in some of Africa’s finest young artists between the ages of 21 to 40.
This year, the competition established itself as the first African art competition to be hosted completely virtually; from entry, submission and adjudication of the artworks, to hosting a series of masterclasses and a mentorship programme for the 2019 Absa L’Atelier ambassadors, culminating in the online awards ceremony.
Entries were received from across Africa and judged by an independent panel of adjudicators including acclaimed artist and Director at BKhz, Banele Khoza as well as Armelle Dakouo, independent curator and artistic director at AKAA Art & Design Fair.
Criteria for selecting the Ambassador included technical execution, conceptual and thematic engagement, the freshness of artistic vision within the context of the contemporary African art landscape; as well as aesthetic appeal.
Established 17 years ago, the Gerard Sekoto award goes to a South African artist, aged between 25 and 35 years, who has continued to demonstrate integrity in the quality of their artwork.
The award is made possible by the Embassy of France in South Africa, the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), which is the cultural arm of the Embassy, and the Alliance Française network in South Africa.
“With our partners Absa and SANAVA, we are proud to support the Gerard Sekoto award and to accompany young artists to share their work both nationally and internationally.
“We believe in this award which grants a talented young South African artist an amazing opportunity: to expand his or her horizons with a 3-month artistic residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and, of course, gain greater exposure as a result.
“The artists are inspired and inspire. They learn, and they teach. They explore, and exhibit, allowing people in France and in South Africa to learn more about their individual style and vision”, says Aurelien Lechevallier, who is France’s Ambassador to South Africa.
Though COVID-19 provided its challenges, the past two years were likewise a period of innovation and technological progression.
“The pandemic has allowed us to advance our digital art presence with the launch of the Absa Art Hotspot. This unique virtual experience platform made it possible for us to host live events such as webinars, art exhibitions, art masterclasses, and art auctions, while certain elements of our art-related sponsorships and partnerships such as this year’s awards event were also migrated to the platform,” says Paul Bayliss Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa.
Hosting the competition digitally allowed for the removal of any barriers to entry as all the artist required was a smart phone or access to the internet.
“With this year’s theme The Act of Art, we called our continent’s fearless creators to act and to enter. This years’ competition once again provided an opportunity for visual artists to respond and make their voices heard.
“We are committed to putting the basic building blocks in place to ensure that young artists from across the African continent can reimagine their futures and bring their possibility to life,” says Bayliss.
SANAVA President, Dr Avitha Sooful, commended her partner, Absa, for forging ahead and continuously seeking ways to impact the African visual arts scene even during the ongoing pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic derailed our plans for 2020 but through some innovative thinking, we were able to come back stronger this year and we actually have more entries than we have ever had for this competition. I commend the work that our partners, Absa, have done in making sure that African artists continue to reap the rewards of their hard work,” Dr Sooful said.
“We look forward to working with this year’s ambassadors and Gerard Sekoto winner and providing the next generation of young African artists with the support, recognition, and exposure they need to solidify their careers and build their brands,” concluded Bayliss.
What’s Behind Nigeria’s Love of Local Music?
Music is an integral part of Nigerian life and there’s no doubt that Nigerians love music — whether it’s local or international. But in recent times Nigerians have consistently demonstrated their love for local artists, with many of these musicians outranking their foreign counterparts in the West, including those who are the biggest names in entertainment.
This is borne out by data from Spotify Wrapped — their annual round-up of the top artists, albums, songs and playlists of the year as streamed by users on the platform from around the world.
That love of local can even go down to city level, as proven by the fact that Lagos native Wizkid was the most streamed artist in Nigeria’s biggest city this year. And what other country on the planet would celebrate its cities’ notorious traffic jams with a four hour-long playlist primarily comprising local artists?
Given that the music and entertainment industry is set to generate around $8-billion for the economy this year, it’s a phenomenon that should undoubtedly be celebrated and encouraged.
But what drives this passion? Music from Naija (as Nigerians lovingly refer to their country) is going places and gaining worldwide popularity. This is thanks to a new wave of Nigerian artists who are creating innovative music and drawing interest from beyond the region’s borders by showcasing the vitality of the local music industry.
Afrobeats, the heavy-beat, electronic music from Nigeria, has become pop music gaining a global fan base and establishing a path to worldwide domination. Thanks to the Afrobeats’ growing popularity, renowned artists like Snoop Dogg, Drake and Ed Sheeran have collaborated with Nigerian artists, bringing them worldwide attention.
This is a point of pride for Nigerians and could provide a clue as to why they prefer local artists and music, whether they’re listening in nightclubs, at weddings or music festivals, or just through street DJs.
In Spotify’s recently released Wrapped data, Nigerian artists singing and rapping in the Afropop genre dominated the local music scene, with artists like WizKid, Burna Boy, DaVido, and Olamide topping the list of five most-streamed artists. International singer Drake is the only foreign hitmaker in the top five list.
The fact that these artists’ songs tend to revolve around love, wealth, partying, and some of society’s vices — like online fraud — all things which Nigerians deal with on a daily basis may provide some context as to why they resonate more than songs by foreign artists. .
It’s not just the latest club bangers driving Nigeria’s love of local music either. They’re also streaming local albums much more regularly than their international counterparts. Of the top 10 albums streamed by Nigerian Spotify listeners, seven were local. WizKid’s rave of the moment album Made in Lagos topped the chart, beating international artist Justin Bieber’s Justice.
Interestingly, the Wrapped data shows that Nigerians also enjoyed their local music to make the most of the time they spend in traffic. On the top five car data charts, homegrown talents and music dominated the list with LADIPOE’s Feeling topping the chart, followed by Essence, Wizkid featuring Tems, and Bounce by Ruger. Lojay’s Monalisa and DaVido’s Ke Star Remix ranked fourth and fifth respectively.
The Wrapped data shows that the love of Nigerian music cuts across age groups too. Even Gen Zs, who’ve grown up with easy access to international artists, show a strong preference for local performers. Top on the list of these artists and songs are Gbese by Yung Felix and Positivv, Feeling by LADIPOE and Bounce by Ruger.
Across the African continent, other data from Wrapped shows that Nigerian artists also ranked among the top 40 artists in sub-Saharan African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
GUS Viewers Anticipate Return of Evicted Contestant With Boomerang to Camp
By Dipo Olowookere
Viewers of the ongoing Gulder Ultimate Search (GUS) season 12 are looking forward to when they would have the rare opportunity to vote to return an evicted contestant with boomerang back to the Amorokin Camp.
This edition of the show gave GUS viewers the avenue to return one contestant back to the television reality series to partake in the search of Akolo’s chest, which was lost a long time ago.
It was a twist introduced in the GUS Age of Craftsmanship, with boomerangs scattered around the jungle, allowing contenders who find any of them and are evicted to have the opportunity to return to the show with the support of viewers.
Among those who have been evicted so far, Esitima, Tosin and Osas have boomerangs and have the opportunity to return to the jungle. Viewers would be able to vote for one person that would return to Amorokin camp to fight for the N50 million prize.
Before now, evictions marked the total end of the road contestants until the introduction of the boomerang, which the host, Toke Makinwa, informed the warriors of.
Last week, Yankari and Esitima were evicted from the show, leaving only five in the jungle.
Esitima, who found three boomerangs during her stay at the camp, but had to let go of two, has the opportunity to return if voted by viewers.
With less than two weeks left to end the programme, one question of the lips of viewers is; when will we have the opportunity to vote one of our favourite evicted contestants back to Amoroki camp? This is left for the organisers to answer.
But the show producers have promised that viewers will surely have the opportunity to vote back their favourite warrior when voting is open and the contender with the highest votes will return to the jungle to participate in the final task in the search for Akolo’s chest.
More than 20,000 Nigerians applied for the Gulder Ultimate Search Season 12 Age of Craftsmanship and after a regional selection process followed by a two-day trip to the Sea School, the number was pruned to just 18, who made it into the jungle and were divided into three clans of Amo, Irin and Iroko.
Nigerian Music Has Spiralled Out of Control—Yemi Alade
By Dipo Olowookere
The music scene in Nigeria is unarguably one of the biggest in Africa. In fact, it is like what the American music industry is to the world and the key stakeholders are loving the attention.
A popular female artiste, Yemi Alade, attested to this when she told CNN International in the latest episode of Africa Avant-Garde that, “The music industry in Nigeria is ever-growing, it is huge. The music has spiralled out of control. It’s international, the entire world is into it, the spotlight is on Africa and we’re loving it.”
Unfortunately, the outside world sees the sounds from Nigeria as purely Afrobeats, which some people like Yemi Alade, who gained limelight after she won the maiden edition of a now-rested Peak Talent Hunt in 2009, said was worrying.
“I like to call my genre of music Afropolitan. For me it’s a mix of highlife, Afrobeats, R’n’B and pop,” she stated.
“I’m not an Afrobeats artist, my own genre of music is Afro House. Afro House is a fusion of African music, there’s the African influence in terms of the beat, and my vocals – I love to sing in Yoruba language,” another female singer and songwriter, Niniola, said.
Afrobeats is the sounds produced from West African and was made very popular by late music legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and music executives, Kenny Keke Ogungbe and Dayo D1 Adeneye, who started Kennis Music, one of Nigeria’s best-known music labels, in the late 1990s, cautioned that not everything should be grouped under the Afrobeats label,
“I hope as we keep moving, the world will learn to recognise that everything that comes out of Nigeria is not Afrobeats,” the submitted.
As for Mr Obi Asika, the founder of Yam Carnival, a festival in London, England celebrating Black music, culture, and food, he is hopeful that African music will continue to grow in popularity internationally.
However, he cautioned that the genre shouldn’t lose its African roots, “I hope that it keeps its foundations strong, and I hope that African people remain stakeholders in it – that it’s not just gobbled up by the industry, because then it will last forever.”
A renowned music producer and founder of Mavin Global, Don Jazzy, said streaming is increasing the popularity of African music globally.
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