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Spotlight on Africa

ART MASTER: Yinka Shonibare MBE

LONDON’S SPITALFIELDS Market recently played host to Africa @ Spitalfields; a unique one-day event that saw a host of designers showcasing an array of African-inspired clothing, accessories, toys, artwork and much more.

Inspired by the successful event, which demonstrated the ever-growing popularity of African culture in mainstream UK, we decided to highlight a few designers and upcoming events that celebrate the continent.



ART MASTER: Yinka Shonibare MBE

AN exciting new show created by The Africa Channel explores how the African art scene is emerging as a dynamic global force.So it stands to reason that one of the artists featured in the programme titled African Masters is Yinka Shonibare MBE.

The renowned British-Nigerian artist, famed for exploring cultural identity through his brightly coloured work, is one of black Britain’s most celebrated artists, with a career spanning over 20 years.

Featuring on the programme this week, Shonibare tells Davina Hamilton why he decided to get involved with the show, and why he doesn’t consider himself part of the collective known as Young British Artists (YBAs).

How did you come to be involved in African Masters?
I was approached and I said yes [laughs]! It’s a worthwhile thing to be a part of. I think it’s a good programme and it comes at the right time, as African art is really growing globally now and there are a number of African artists who are doing well on the international stage.

Why do you think African art is now enjoying such prominence in the global market?
Where art goes, I guess money follows. A lot of the African states now have democratic governments and there is a lot of money around. Also, African people are looking to support their own culture and their own artists, and so the scene has grown.

What do you consider to be your big break?
The first major collector of my work was [advertising executive and art collector] Charles Saatchi. After he bought my work in 1996, other collectors came forward too. I was working before then and I was relatively known, but I wasn’t commercial. I guess I became commercial after he bought my work.

What inspired your love of art?
I did art when I was at school and I loved it, so I wanted to continue doing it [as a career].

Were your parents supportive of your career choice?
No, my parents wanted me to study law. That’s what people do in Nigeria; you’re a doctor or a lawyer – not an artist. So my parents weren’t pleased with me at first. Whenever I would run out of money and phone home for help, they would say ‘well, we told you so!’ I had to get a part time job for a while. You know, you leave college and things don’t work out immediately, so I did have those wilderness years. But things worked out in the end.

Which of your fellow art contemporaries are you a fan of?
I don’t like any of them – I think my work is best [laughs]. No, I like the work of lots of artists. I’m not in with the so-called YBA [Young British Artists] – I’ve never considered myself part of the YBA, although sometimes I’m written in as part of that. I’ve always considered myself completely independent. My work has a political edge to it that I don’t think some of the [YBA] work has. We’ve all got different experiences and my work is based on my own experience, which I don’t share with anyone in that group, really.

What are your plans for the future?
My biggest plan at the moment is to have a museum of contemporary art and design built in Lagos. I’ve been working with people in the Nigerian community here in London and also in Nigeria. I’m very ambitious about this and I’ve spoken to quite a few people who want to support the initiative.

Do you feel like a veteran of the arts world?
Everything I do feels new, but that’s because I only work on things that I enjoy. So I still enjoy the work now as much as I did 20 years ago.

Yinka Shonibare MBE features on African Masters on June 11 on The Africa Channel (Sky channel 209 and Virgin channel 828). For more information, visit



TALENT: Bukky Ekpenyong

DESIGNING African-inspired accessories, Bukky Ekpenyong has been creating unique pieces since 2011.

What inspired your love of fashion?
I love to see how people style themselves, to see if they are on point or off point! When I see they are off point, I tend to style them in my head and that keeps me creative; it lets me think of new styles and new designs to experiment with. When people are on point, I still think of other styles to add to what they are wearing. By doing this, it gives me new ideas and ways of designing.

Why do you think African-inspired prints have become more and more popular in recent years?
African music has taken the western world by storm so everything African is popular and fashionable. Everyone wants to be a part it. African fashion print has been around for years, just never brought to the attention of the world. But now it's fashionable to wear anything African. I believe African inspired print has become popular because people are learning about the culture, the people and about African style.

Where would you like your business to be in five years time?
I would like it to be in a place where it can inspire other people, either in their own business or in style. I would like it to be in a place of recognition, so that when people talk or think about customized accessories, they think of my items. I would also like my business to be successful in five years time and to have a branch or two here in the UK and Nigeria. I would love my business to be the main point of contact for accessories.

What makes your items unique?
My accessories are unique because I get to know what you need. It's like customizing a car to your taste! You tell me what statement you’re trying to make, I come back with two ideas and you select which suits you best. I have a signature style and make sure my clients stand out from the rest. I let the accessories do the talking.

For more information email or find the company on Twitter @ladybeechic




TO celebrate the 25th anniversary of the hit Eddie Murphy film Coming to America, African vibes will hit east London for the exciting event, Coming To America is 25.

The classic 1988 comedy told the story of African Prince Akeem Joffer (Murphy), who left his homeland, the fictitious nation of Zamunda and ventured to New York to find a wife. Also starring James Earl Jones and Arsenio Hall, the film became a cult classic.

With 2013 marking the film’s 25th anniversary, events organisation We Are Parable celebrates the milestone with a special screening of the movie at Stratford Picturehouse. The event will be made complete with African dancers and drummers, who will bring Zamunda to east London for a night of entertainment.

Teanne Andrews, co-founder of We Are Parable, said: “I absolutely loved this film when I was growing up and even 25 years later, a whole new group of people are discovering how groundbreaking and funny it is.”

Coming To America is coming to Stratford and bringing African flavour with it!

Coming To America Is 25 is at Stratford Picturehouse, Salway Road, London E15 on June 20. For more information visit




ORGANISED by the Royal African Society, in partnership with The British Library, Africa Writes, a festival of African literature will take place next month.

Featuring exciting events and writers including Ngugi wa Thiong'o (right) and his son, fellow writer Mukoma Wa Ngugi in conversation with each other, the festival is a celebration of contemporary literature from across the continent and the diaspora.

Other featured writers include Warsan Shire, winner of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize; Chibundo Onuzo, author of The Spider King's Daughter; and Tendai Huchu, author of The Hairdresser of Harare.

The event will also include a tribute to renowned Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, who died earlier this year. 

At the British Library, Euston Road, London NW1 from July 5-7. For more information visit



REMARKING comically on the political landscape of contemporary Africa, Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again is social and political satire at its best.

The play follows Major Lejoka-Brown, whose already complicated life becomes complicated further with the unexpected arrival of his American wife Liza – who discovers two more marriages without her knowledge, and her husband beset by political problems.

Written by leading Nigerian playwright Ola Rotimi, and produced by British actress Jo Melville, Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again is both hilarious and poignant in its examination of life and marriage.

At Millfield Arts Centre, Silvertown Street, London N18 from June 12-14. Call 020 8807 6680 or visit

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