As Black History Month draws to a close, here at tiata fahodzi we’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a part of the African diaspora in 2016 – particularly in the UK. Migrants and refugees are hot topics across the front pages of newspapers, racist incidents are on the increase, tensions are running high. At times it has felt as though things both at home and abroad are getting worse; people seem more fractured than ever. Saying all that, everything might feel a bit bleak at the moment but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a lot to celebrate across the British African diaspora. The future – especially when it comes to the arts – is looking bright, so we thought we’d share news about some of the people we’re looking forward to hearing more about. Here are 5 British African creatives to look out for over the next few months or so; people doing exciting things and telling our stories, in a variety of ways. Keep an eye out here, too, you might even catch more in depth interviews with one or two of them on our blog later in the year…
1) Inua Ellams
Poet, playwright, graphic artist, and self-titled geek, Inua Ellams is a Nigerian writer who’s based in London. Currently making waves as one of the contributors to The Good Immigrant – a hugely anticipated collection of essays by British writers of colour – Inua is also the man behind this weekend’s music and poetry event The Young Nigerians. A celebration of Nigerian talent as part of the Roundhouse’s Black History Month activities, The Young Nigerians is also hosted by our own Bridget Minamore – a Ghanaian.
October might be Black History Month, but the 6th was also National Poetry Day. While children of the Africa diaspora in Britain are currently killing the poetry and spoken word game – with British-Somali poet Warsan Shire collaborating on Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and Brit-Nigerian Caleb Femi recently being chosen as this year’s Young Poet Laureate for London – Zimbabwean/British poet Belinda Zhawi is a cut above most. Working in books, and a graduate of the highly competitive Spoken Word Education MA at Goldsmiths, Belinda’s work often directly addresses her relationship with Africa and what it means to be a child of the diaspora. Recently chosen as the Institute for Contemporary Arts’ Associate Poet, here’s looking to a big 2017 for the young writer and performer.
3) Arinzé Kene
Arinzé Kene might be the man behind tiata fahodzi’s own exciting spring 2017 production good dog, but he’s also an actor – and a great one at that. In the coming months, Arinzé will appear with tiata fahodzi fave Susan Wokonma in E4’s new series Crazyhead, as well as in films The Pass (about gay Premier League footballers) and the next Harry Potter movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. For now though, the British-Nigerian East Londoner is currently wowing audiences at the Donmar Warehouse’s One Night In Miami. Directed by the acclaimed Kwame Kwei-Armah, Arinzé’s role as Sam Cooke has been singled out for praise pretty much across the board. This in-depth article about him came out a couple of weeks ago, and it’s worth reading – if only to learn more about someone we’ll clearly be seeing and hearing so much more of.
4) Bim Adewunmi
New York-based but East London-born Brit-Nigerian journalist Bim Adewunmi has been loved by us here at tiata fahodzi since her Yoruba Girl Dancing and #Bims10Things days, but now she’s crossed the pond and is making waves internationally. Joining Buzzfeed UK as their Culture Editor at the beginning of 2015, she commissioned some great articles during her time there that so often looked at the Black British experience. But this year Bim joined the US Buzzfeed team, and their content ha been richer because of it. She’s both funny and poignant, writing about everything from how being a child of immigrant meant Brexit broke her heart to what her favourite vines from Nollywood movies are. She’s really shone thought over the pat few months, as the presidential campaigns have reached continually bizarre heights. Despite a deeply depressing and often unbelievable election season, Bim’s US election coverage has been second-to-none. It was an inspired choice to ask a British person to cover distinctly American things like the Republican and Democratic National Conventions or the presidential debates, but boy does it work – it’s too hard to choose one or two standout pieces, so instead go through her recent back catalogue and get familiar with her writing. Bim has also got a great voice, and her guest appearances on podcasts Black Girls Talking and Another Round were such, such treats.
5) Daniel Kaluuya
A well-known face on British TV over the past few years, you might recognise British-Ugandan actor and writer Daniel Kaluuya from shows like Black Mirror and Skins, or big-screen titles Johnny English Reborn and Kick-Ass 2. However Daniel has really stretched his acting chops on the British stage, in the Royal Court’s wonderful 2010 Sucker Punch, and this year’s Young Vic production of Blue/Orange. An unflinching look at mental health in the black community, the play was a feat of physicality, with the script constantly demanding Kaluuya hoist himself up from, down from and through a moat-like space that framed the stage. We absolutely can’t wait to see Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s satirical horror movie Get Out next year – if the trailer is anything to go by, the film is definitely going to get us talking.