by Azeezat Fadekemi Sulaiman
That Nigerians are arguably one of the most resourceful people on the planet is not a subject up for discussion. It’s a fact. If you take a cursory look around you, you’re bound to find a Nigerian in some shape or form making an impact (good or bad) in their local community. 2014 has been a year of mixed fortunes for citizens from the most populous black nation in the world. While the headlines were dominated by images and stories of the horrors of Boko Haram and our brief, but no less traumatic encounter with Ebola, elsewhere in the world, sons and daughters from this great country were busy making amazing contributions in their little corners of the world, particularly in the world of entertainment. For most of them, you would probably never hear the word Nigeria associated with them, but rest assured, they’re of Nigerian descent.
We take a look at some of this year’s stand out talents, both home-grown and internationally.
Chiwetel Ejiofor- Oscar/ Golden Globes Nominee/Winner BAFTA, Best Performing Actor
The 37-year-old actor almost made history this year with an Oscar nomination for his role in historical movie ’12 Years A slave’. His performance as Solomon Northup in the movie also earned him a Golden Globe nomination as well as a BAFTA nomination. Ejiofor was hotly tipped to win at the Oscars, but lost out to Mathew Mcconaughey at the ceremony held earlier this year. He did however win at the BAFTAS, which are the British equivalent of the Oscars, so that’s good enough for us.
Even though the actor has starred in big box office hits including Love Actually, American Gangster, Salt among many others (over 30 titles), 2014 was the year the whole world really discovered who Chiwetel Ejiofor was and rightly recognised him for the amazing talent that he is. Perhaps what’s more endearing about this British actor, born to Nigerian parents is the fact that he never shies away from his Nigerian roots and actively supports the industry there.
Leaving the glittering lights of Hollywood behind, he took off to Calabar in Nigeria to play the role of ‘Odenigbo’ in the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s best-selling book, Half of A Yellow Sun. The actor said he was drawn to the film because it played a huge part in his family history. “I was attracted to Half of a Yellow Sun because of the story. Chimamanda’s book was something my mother had talked to me about years ago, when it first came out, and so I read it back then and I loved it. It’s a beautiful chronicle of this incredible time in Nigerian history that not only stands alone as a book but was also very personally involving for me because it detailed some of the historical experiences of my family.”
We can’t wait to see what he gets up to in 2015.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ft BEYONCÉ in ‘Flawless’/ Movie Adaptation of ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’
She’s one of the most recognisable names in the literary world and now, she’s probably one of the few to have been conferred (and revered by) Hollywood royalty. 2014 is widely being hailed as the year that feminism won, and Beyoncé’s self titled visual album was the soundtrack to that movement. Her hit track ‘Flawless’ sampled lyrics from Adichie’s TEDxEuston speech titled, ‘We Should All Be feminists’. Of course Adichie was already famous for her work way before Beyoncé’s album dropped, but the fact that the track was even titled ‘Flawless Ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie opened up Adichie- and her message into mainstream pop culture. Even people who’d never heard of Adichie before suddenly knew about this Nigerian writer who’s such a genius, Beyoncé borrowed lyrics from her. Now that’s a first for a Nigerian author.
In addition to her new-found pop fame, Adichie’s prize-winning novel ‘Half Of A yellow Sun‘, was adapted into a movie by renowned British playwright Biyi Bandele. Her latest work ‘Americanah‘ will also be coming to a screen near you in 2015 after Kenyan/American actress Lupita Nyong’o secured rights to the movie, which will also star David Oyelowo.
David Oyelowo- Plays Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in historical Movie ‘Selma’
Now Selma isn’t due out in cinemas around the world until 2015, but the movie- chronicling a tumultuous 3 week period which saw Dr Martin Luther King Jr., march from Selma to Montgomery at the height of the civil rights movement, is already receiving raving reviews in the US and the man at the centre of all the attention is British actor David Oyelowo.
While we may have narrowly missed out on the Oscars in 2014, 2015 is looking up to be the year it may finally happen as Oyelowo is already being tipped for Oscar glory by critics, hailing his portrayal of one of the greatest men of our time as ‘outstanding’. Even if he doesn’t win the Oscars, the mere fact that the production team, led by Oprah Winfrey felt that an actor not of American roots, but of Nigerian roots was the best man for the job is a testament to his talents and achievement in the entertainment industry. In his own words, the actor told Indie Wire, “I’m very aware that on paper, I’m not the first actor you would think of for this, and yet here it is. It’s so rare in life that you have a dream, something you so want to do before you die, and not only does it happen, but it happens even better than you thought it would.”.
If you were ever in doubt of Oyelowo’s affiliation to his Nigerian roots, just watch this video where he explains to The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, how to correctly pronounce his surname. His Yoruba accent is flawless.
Uzo Aduba- Orange Is The Black- Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Guest actress in a Comedy Series
Not many people know Uzo Aduba, but 2014 is the year the American actress hit the headlines for her sterling performance as Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ on the hit Netflix show, ‘Orange Is The New Black. After auditioning for every single role on the show, producers finally cast her as the deranged lesbian inmate known as ‘Crazy Eyes’, a character that earned her an Emmy award for Outstanding Guest Actress in A comedy Series. Aduba was born in Boston after her mum moved to the US like many other Nigerians in search of greener pastures. A fact she didn’t hesitate to tell the A list crowd after she received her award with her mum in the audience. Aduba is not only insanely talented, she is also incredibly humble and never fails to mention her Nigerian roots.
D’Banj- ONE.org ambassador, African ambassador to Beats by Dre
2014 has been a rollercoaster for the Kokomaster a.k.a D’Banj. When he burst unto the scenes in 2005 with the raunchy tune ‘Tongolo’, we knew he had something, what we didn’t know was that he would become one of Africa’s most talked about artists in a decade’s time. D’Banj is so far the only Nigerian artist to nail a UK top 10 hit with his 2012 summer track, ‘Oliver’ which reached number 2 in the charts. 2014 saw him travelling around the world as an ambassador for Bono’s ONE.org campaign, which earned him an enviable visit to the White House, alongside other Nigerian artists including Cobhams Asuquo and Femi Kuti, as part of a campaign urging young people to get into farming as an alternative to developing upcoming economies in the world. He even gave a TedxWBG speech on Ending poverty in Washington, sharing the same stage with World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim. In October, the Afrobeats maestro joined the likes of Will.i.am, Usher and Nicki Minaj when he got signed by headphone brand Beats by Dre as an African Ambassador for the brand.
Entertainment doesn’t sound like such a bad career choice right now dear Nigerian parents.
John Boyega- First Black Stormtrooper in Star Wars
Born in Peckham, South London, the young John Boyega began his acting career very early on, landing his first role in a play at 5. The 22-year-old Brit actor born to Nigerian parents caused a bit of a stir earlier this year, when he became the first black actor to be cast in a lead role in the Star Wars movie franchise. His cryptic reply on Social media for critics to ‘Get used to it’, quite simply put any more comments regarding his casting in the epic movie to a screeching halt. Good on him.
Kayus Bankole- Band Member, Young Fathers
You may not have heard of them yet, but you will get to know Young Fathers in 2015. The Scottish alternative hip hop group consists of an unlikely, eclectic mix of nationalities including Liberia, Nigeria and Scotland. Kayus Bankole makes up the Nigerian bit of the band with his other two band mates Alloysious Massaquoi and G Hastings. Together, they beat the odds by winning this year’s Mercury Prize for their album ‘Dead’, which was not even in the charts at the time of their win.
Their music is a fusion of all their influences (you can hear a bit of Fela in there somewhere), and the band have been hotly tipped for great things in 2015.
He’s the first Nigerian artist to gather over a million followers on Twitter and that’s just a slice of this 24 year old’s appeal. Weezy as he is popularly called has had a rather busy and high-profile year. He’s been jetting to and from the US working on his upcoming album, while hanging out with the likes of Justin Bieber, Akon, Chris Brown and Tyga and is even rumoured to be working on a track with Rihanna. He may have only won one award this year at the Afrikan Music Magazine Awards, but he is arguably one of the hottest names in the Nigerian entertainment scene right now with huge international appeal.
Not only did Mrs Billz have one of Nigeria’s most high-profile Nigerian weddings this year, she’s also grown in leaps and bounds as an artist in 2014. It appears signing on to Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records was possibly the best career move the singer has made yet, as per the Nigerian music scene. She was one of the few African artists invited to perform at the BET Awards earlier this year where she received the Best International Act Africa Award. In total, Savage has totted up to 7 awards, this year alone including the MOBO’s for female artist of the year, MTV Africa Music Video Awards for Best Female, and Channel O Music Video awards for Most gifted female.