Tastemaker’s Taste of Summer

Native American RnB with a Ghanaian twist, Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum and black indie cinema – Culture vultures at Arik destinations run through the highlights of June through August.

Words Nana Ocran

New York filmmaker and video artist Zina Saro-Wiwa, Ghana-based musician Wanlov the Kubolor, UK-based writer and performance poet Nii Parkes and London and Accra-based writer and cultural historian Nana Oforiatta-Ayim are four dynamic individuals, each worthy of multiple column inches and considered cutting-edge leaders for their visual, poetic or lyrical outputs. All have made a significant mark on our cultural landscape. Now that holidays are upon us and carefree days beckon, we find out what their expert ears and eyes are into.
New York

Zina Saro-Wiwa

Filmmaker, BBC presenter, and director of award-winning documentary, This Is My Africa

Jazz pianist Robert Glasper
This artist is fast becoming one of my favourite jazz musicians. Already well-known in the jazz and hip-hop world, he is about to graduate to the next level if his single with Erykah Badu (Afro Blue) is anything to go by. Known for lending his unique and utterly sexy piano style to collaborations with soul and hip-hop artists, his album Black Radio features collaborations with Mos Def, Erykah and Music Soulchild, amongst others.

Black indie cinema is experiencing something of a resurgence. This movement is being spearheaded by the film Pariah, starring the wonderful Nigerian actress Adepero Aduye, who has since appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. The story is a beautifully shot and tenderly told coming-of-age tale set in Brooklyn.


Clifford Owen
Performance and show at PS1 MoMa
One of the most exciting contemporary artists I have encountered is the performance artist Clifford Owen. He has a wonderful show at PS1 MoMA, New York where you can watch him perform Ð and participate in unexpected ways.

Looking For Transwonderland
by Noo Saro-Wiwa
Looking For Transwonderland is a wonderful way of experiencing all corners of Nigeria through a very new kind of voice Ð a female, African travel writer, who is funny, tender and excoriating in equal measure. Very rarely has Nigeria been explored in this way. It’s eye-wateringly funny but also heart-wrenchingly sad.

Target First
Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum
If you find yourself in New York on the First Saturday of the month, you must experience the free Target First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum. The museum’s galleries are open to the public and there are lectures, performances and dance parties. Brooklyn’s finest turn out and the evenings offer visually and intellectually stimulating treats.

Nii Parkes

Performance poet, sociocultural commentator and shortlisted writer for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize

Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Informers is a fantastic novel that’s as much an exploration of the shifting relationships between fathers and sons, as a picture of German migration to Columbia during WWII. The story is so well rendered that the line between fiction and fact blurs.

Meanwhile, My Father’s Wives by José Eduardo Agualusa is fiction masquerading as fact; a son retracing a peregrinating father’s footsteps. It’s fun-filled, mischievous, and contains beautiful prose. I find myself drawn to novels where fact and fiction meld, so I’m looking forward to reading Chuma Nwoloko’s The Ghost of Sani Abacha next.

In poetry, I have been privileged to do some work with Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somalian writer based in London, who has just released her first pamphlet. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth is a searingly honest collection of tales of endurance, buttressed by memorable metaphors.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a short story that was in Prospect Magazine about five years ago called Tomorrow is Too Far, which I recently read again along with two other stories that hovered in my mind for ages after reading them – Mohammed Naseehu Ali’s Mallam Sile (published in The New Yorker) and Petina Gappah’s bittersweet The Mupandawana Dancing Champion from her collection An Elegy for Easterly.

I love Skintalk by Martha Redbone, who should be an international superstar. Part Native-American, part African-American, she fuses R&B with Native-American music and even borrows chants from Ghana in the process. Skintalk is a perfect blend of poetic lyrics from one of the warmest soul voices out there.

Nana Oforiatta-Ayim

Writer, filmmaker and curator of events including the Visionary African Festival

Lagos, Nigeria
Over the last few years, the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA,Lagos) has become an exciting hub of international contemporary art with work ranging from the personal to highly political. Exhibitions have included All We Ever Wanted featuring personal maps of Temitayo Ogunbiyi’s mixed-media collage using Facebook pages, Odun Orimolade’s intricate monochrome drawings that allude to Yoruba philosophy, Otobong Nkanga’s exploration of archive architecture and Adejoke Tugbiyele’s Moskito Ministry showing copper wire insects sucking on torn naira notes.

George Osodi
Oil Rich Niger Delta, Raw Material Company, Dakar, Senegal
The Raw Material Company art centre opened earlier in Dakar last year, and is already making waves in the international community. Nigerian artist George Osodi’s photographic essay, Oil Rich Niger Delta, marked the opening, and through his fiercely beautiful, unforgiving and direct images, he tells the story of the delta area of the Niger River.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
This exhibition in Cape Town looks at the different manifestations of love, from Zina Saro- Wiwa’s film, Sarogua Mourning in which the filmmaker herself gives an enormously personal performance of the different aspects of mourning, to the rituals of matrimony put on display in Meschac Gaba’s Marriage Room. Artist Zanele Muholi’s ongoing engagement with reactions to homosexuality makes a poignant documentation, while the idiosyncratic and delicate drawings of both Dineo Seshee Bopape and Penny Siopis shows love in both its vulnerability and its violence.

Wanlov The Kubolor

Musician and Ghanaian/Romanian, self-proclaimed, “Afrogypsy”

King Ayisoba
This living legend is a sight to behold even before he opens his mouth to thrill you with one of his three voices or starts strumming his Kologo (a two-stringed banjo) to deep simple lyrics and quirky dances. Check out his albums “Modern Ghanaians” & “Africa” on iTunes.

Sankwas Bois
The most unorthodox rap group in Ghana. Their awkward lyrics, most times outrageously silly, are peppered with social commentary. Their high-energy concerts never fail to make me lose my voice. They have put out a handful of free singles online.

These guys are so daring, creative, authentic and funny. They are way ahead of the times. The boys tour the world constantly and are extremely prolific. They wrote and star in the world’s first pidgin musical, Coz Ov Moni. Their albums are on iTunes and they have hilarious videos on YouTube.

Yaa Pono
The best emcee in Ghana. His lyrics always steal the show. I have made a point never to have money on me when he performs because I always run to the stage and spray all my cash at him. He’s currently filming his musical documentary. Youtube him.

Eccentric, quirky, soulful, earthy and sexy, EFYA possesses the most powerful yet sultry voice. Her edgy lyrics are heartfelt and the ease with which she sings leaves me in awe.

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