Category Archives: SUPAFRIK

Interview: Shasha Nakhai, Director of “Take Light”

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Thursday August 14, 2003. Most people in Toronto – and most of Ontario for that matter – still have a vivid memory of that day. My recollection starts around 4pm on that sweltering summer afternoon. I was sitting in front of my computer editing my design portfolio in preparation for a job interview. I briefly stood up to stretch out my legs and just as I was sitting back down, the screen suddenly went blank. I thought I might have mistakenly kicked the extension cord underneath my cramped desk. I kissed my teeth thinking of all the unsaved edits I would have to recreate from scratch. I crouched down underneath the desk, pushed the plugs into the power bar and flicked the power switch a few times but the computer still wouldn’t come on. I looked over at the boxed fan in the corner and noticed that its spinning blades were gradually slowing down to a halt. It took a few more switch flicks and a trip to the circuit breaker to confirm what I had once concieved impossible – there was a power outage. As we say in Nigeria, they have taken light in Toronto!

Outside on the street, the scene felt vaguely apocalyptic. The unresponsive traffic lights created a noisy chaotic mess of car horns honking and screeching breaks. Initially, long queues of people looking for any drink or snack to keep them cool, formed outside convenient stores. A few hours later those same shops were practically giving away tubs of ice creams as they melted down to liquid sludge. By night fall, the mood had turned from restless to festive (or at least resigned). Barbecues were popping up everywhere as people resolved to rescue their meats by eating or sharing as much as possible. Phone lines were down so we roamed the streets paying unscheduled visits to anybody we knew along the way. That night, in pitch darkness, I lay on a mattress in a friend’s backyard and looked up at the sky. It was the first time I had seen so many stars so clearly in the city. For Toronto, the power outage had turned into a big adventure. By the time the problem was fixed the next day, quite a few people were disappointed it had not lasted longer. When the anniversary of “The Blackout” came around, there were even jokes about reenacting it.

In the developing world where more than 1 billion people currently live without electricity, nobody wishes for a power outage. It’s not an adventure, it’s a frustrating nightmare. Throughout my childhood and my frequents visits back to Nigeria, few things have been more constant and disappointing than the electricity issue. We find ways to work around it but we should not have to: Nigeria has one of the world’s largest gas reserves and is Africa’s top energy producer. So why is electricity often limited to a few hours a day to the less than 50% of  Nigerians that even have access to electricity?  In her new documentary, “Take Light”,  opening soon at Hot Docs Festival, Director Shasha Nakhai, explores the Nigerian electricity issue (and it’s many consequences) through the stories of everyday people connected by the grid.

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Your new documentary takes an unflinching look at the electricity crisis that has plagued Nigeria for decades. What is your connection with Nigeria and why did you choose to make this documentary?

Shasha Nekhai: I grew up in Nigeria. I lived there for the first 15 years of my life and my family has been there for about 40 years. Growing up my entire childhood has been framed by the power issues in the country. Almost all of my childhood memories have something to do with NEPA*. I remember some nights my parents would fan me to sleep because there was “no light” and it was too hot and I couldn’t fall asleep. When I came to Canada at 15 and started moving between Canada and Nigeria, it was only then that I realized how absurd the situation was and I think coming up with the idea for the film is rooted in moving between the two worlds.

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Mr. Eazi: A Man in his Moment

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Almost two weeks later, the city is still buzzing with talk of Mr. Eazi’s epic Toronto show. There are a few video clips floating online that might approximate the experience but it was certainly one of those “you had to be there” moments.   By the time his 16 song run of back to back hits had concluded, the rising Afrobeats star had made it clear that if his time had not already arrived before, it had certainly arrived NOW. Shedding off his usually laid-back stage demeanour, Mr. Eazi energetically attacked his performance like a man possessed with purpose. He utilized every inch of the massive stage at Rebel, at times walking on the thin side walls separating the VIP section and then finally wading through the almost 1500 strong crowd just to “feel what the vibe felt like in the middle”.

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Backed by a DJ, a 6 -piece band and a trio of dancers, Mr. Eazi commanded the crowd like a seasoned veteran. At times it was easy to forget that the “Skintight” single that catapulted him onto the radar of the burgeoning Afrobeats scene (in Nigeria/Ghana/UK) was only released in 2015. How many times have you seen a performance with a relatively new artist where every single song in his set gets the full “sing along” from the crowd? Despite his somewhat defensive insistence that he was not a “singer”, Mr. Eazi has nothing to worry about his vocal performance going forward if his shows remain at this high energy level where he sounds best. This was not his first live show of this magnitude but it was certainly one of his top ones. The Toronto performance seemed to mark a turning point from being reluctantly thrust into the spotlight to boldly and believably owning every second of the moment. The concert concluded with a long awaited performance of his summer smash “Leg Over” and then quickly pivoted into a big after-party in the nightclub upstairs. With Mr. Eazi staying on as the party’s host and hype man, the night ended on a euphoric high note long after the 2am last call had been announced. Toronto’s “Summer of Afrobeats” had found its crowning moment.

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Mr. Eazi’s morning the day of the show had started out on a low key note. When we met up with the artist at his suite in the King Edward Hotel to take him out for an exclusive photoshoot, we found him sitting on the carpeted floor, slouched against the wall, trying to stave off the jet lag and tour exhaustion with a tall cup of coffee. We had expected to find him in a celebratory mood. Just two days prior, he had been announced as Apple’s coveted “Up Next” artist of the month. His image was already gracing Apple billboards around the world and he had just performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden. After cornering the Afrobeats market as its second most streamed artist, Mr. Eazi was about to become known to an even wider demographic: potentially all 27 million subscribers of Apple Music. He had every good reason to pop champagne at 11am if he so desired but his mind was already elsewhere: two steps ahead plotting how to maximize the opportunity. We observed his pensive mood and decided to shoot him in that intimate moment rather than force our original vision.

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As he tried on different outfits for the shoot, phone calls kept pouring in from friends calling to congratulate him on his moves: “Chale, I just dey watch your instagram and it’s like wow!”. There were also business calls. There seemed to be a lot of things in motion and Mr. Eazi was certainly hands on with his career. When the shoot was over, I had a chance to talk to him about his career and the future of Afrobeats: a genre whose DNA is already being grafted into songs on the pop-charts without the involvement of African artists themselves.  He was appreciative of the attention his music was getting but was under no delusion nor apprehension about the hard work it would take to reach his full potential especially outside Africa. So why not just sign to a major label? Labels have been sniffing around almost since the beginning of his career but him and his team have a long term strategy. “The machine” still had it’s use but they have come so far without it, they had the liberty to pick and choose which cog of the machine they wanted working for them. It was refreshing to hear.

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We strolled up Yonge St and made a detour through the Apple store so he could pick up a charger for his MacBook. Some of the blue-shirted staff stared at him as we walked around the store. We were both puzzled as to what was going until one of them pointed at one of the display iMacs which was a running a video loop of Apple “Up Next” artists. He explained that Mr. Eazi was featured as the default screen on devices across Apple’s 498 stores in 22 countries. Big! Before he was ferried off to his rehearsal for the night’s show, I remarked that 2017 had been his best year so far. He was quiet for a moment, perhaps weighing his present status against his vision for the future then he smiled and replied “Ehn? You think so? Just wait for 2018!”

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Words/Styling/Direction: Chinedu Ukabam for SUPAFRIK
Photography: SoTeeOh
All clothing: Chinedesign (except artist’s own black pants)
Accessories: Papaya & Co (Ankara Tie and pocket square), Bohten (all glasses)

Note: SUPAFRIK was a co-presenter for Mr. Eazi’s Toronto show “Life is Eazi”. More photos from the shoot can be found on the Chinedesign facebook page here: Also check out the official mixtape of Mr. Eazi’s Toronto stop.  Compiled and mixed by DJ Revy B, The Eazi Motion Mixtape is a quick 25 minute intro the sounds of Mr. Eazi.

 

Recap: SUPAFRIK at FNLROM

Thank you for joining us at Royal Ontario Museum earlier this February as we programmed and activated some spaces for their #FNLROM Black History Month Special. We converted the Rotunda into “The Afro Lounge” and Bronfman Hall became “SUPAFRIK Central”.

The Afro Lounge: Designer Chinedu Ukabam invited FNLROM guests to the coolest new spot in town, “The Afro Lounge” where they could order Suya, grab a drink, and play the African strategy game Oware(also called Ayo or Mancala). There was also a dressing room in the back to try on exclusive pieces from ILU, his unreleased Chinedesign summer collection inspired by Igbo proverbs from Nigeria and the ROM exhibition Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana. Photographer Jalani Morgan was on hand to capture images for an interactive lookbook edited by Maz Osman. You can find the look-book we created on our page.

SUPAFRIK Central: To bring the #SUPAFRIK effect to the ROM,we assembled an art-dance-food party. It featured some new talent like ADL dance crew as well as frequent collaborators like Golden Stool Restaurant (whose Jollof rice was sold out before 10pm!), DJ Revy B and DJ Deemaks, who debuted a live Afrobeats video mix. By the time the spontaneous electric slide broke out in the middle of an Afro house set, it was clear that this was one of the best FNLROMs yet!

Stay tuned for what we have coming up in spring!

DJ RQAway on: “The Sound of New Orleans”

New Orleans native DJ RQ Away will be our featured guest DJ at tomorrow’s GUMBO! He has made a name for himself by being able to create a distinct vibe no matter where he spins. His eclectic sound and ability to bend genres has captured ears in intimate spaces of downtown New Orleans, neighborhood bars in Brooklyn and the pubs of London.

For a decade DJ RQ Away’s career has thrived off his unique artistry and leadership. In addition to curating inimitable experiences that strengthen community ties through dance he also operates as Founder and lead organizer of the citywide brand, #AWAYTEAM. His high quality works have made him a beloved household name as well as the go to DJ for worldwide acts and brands like Robert Glasper, The Foreign Exchange, Erykah Badu and Bilal. DJ RQAway recently put together an exclusive mix from the Gumbo crew highlighting the sounds of New Orleans so we picked his brain about the history and happenings of his hometown music scene.

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DJ RQ Away. NOLA’s Finest DJ. These are his tees too and you’ll spot them all over the city.

You come from a city with a rich and varied musical heritage. Tell us briefly about the music scene in Nola today?

The music scene in NOLA is as it has always been in the sense that it is a sampling of a hometown interpretation of the many influences and styles that come here from all over the world. It’s hard to give a simple answer as we have so many different things happening here all the time artist like Trombone Shorty and Christian Scott carry the New Orleans’ banner across the world via Jazz and their own tailored version of that and many other genres. Tank and the Bangas are the closet thing we have to The Roots (in my opinion) consistently creating a unique showing of sound via R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, and Poetry. Artist like Dominic Minx create their own sound from pieces of Rock, Hip Hop, and Jazz, while Chase N. Cash and Ciel Rouge carry their own unique interpretations of the classic Hip Hop sound. Artist Like Chris Royal, Stefan Rene(Prosper Jone$), Mykia Jovan, and so many others share powerful sounds from across genre’s all while sharing the love for music that is truly New Orleans. This is definitely a short answer.  Continue reading

David Oyelowo introduces Nollywood at TIFF16!

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*TORONTO* Nollywood has invaded your city for #TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and we are excited to get in on the action! Nigeria’s homegrown film industry has blossomed into the 2nd largest film industry in the world with an avid fanbase spread across Africa and the Caribbean. In addition to checking out all 8 movies that are part of TIFF’s City to City focus on Lagos, Team #SUPAFRIK will be popping up at some of the Nollywood X TIFF parties, talks and special events. So follow us on Facebook and Instagram for reviews/happenings. Tickets are still on sale through ticketmaster here and we have already given away 6 pairs of tickets through the @SUPAFRIK instagram account and we have still lots more film and after-party tickets to give away. Follow us on instagram and twitter right now! The odds are in your favour.

The City to City focus on Lagos opened up the full exuberance and drama of Nollywood with a screening of “The Wedding Party” which chose TIFF to make its world premiere. The film was well received after this celebratory intro by British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo set the tone for the rest of the evening.

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MEET THE FRIKS – The Interns

Next up in our Team Tuesdays Series – our interns!

SUPAFRIK welcomed a new batch of interns onto our team for our early 2016 projects. They’ve been working hard helping us on our mission to saturate Toronto with contemporary African awesomeness. Get to know them a little bit better…

 Studio Manager

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Name: Rufaro Matanda
Meaning of Name: Happiness
City/Cities of origin: Harare

Why did you decide to become involved with SUPAFRIK?
Supafrik, in the past, has had amazing projects that showcase Contemporary African fashion and art. I had been an avid fan and follower of their curatorial lens, so when the opportunity jumped out for me to participate I immediately jumped on it.

What is your favourite part about working on these projects?
The hands on experience is by far my favourite part. Working on the canvases and having input on the creative process behind the curtain has helped me enhance my perceptual abilities as an artist and an aspiring art connoisseur.

What SUPAFRIK projects are you most looking forward to?
Ahhhh! Water Carry Me Go is amazing! It is a must see!

What is your favourite Afrobeats song right now?
Patoranking ft. Wande Coal – My Woman, My Everything

PR and Communications Intern

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Name: Hawa Noor
Meaning of Name: My first name, Hawa, means different things in different languages. In Swahili, it means Desire or Longing. It’s the Quranic (Arabic) version of Eve (as in Adam and Eve). In Hindi, it means Breeze. My last name, Noor, means light.
Cities of origin: Faza and Mombasa (Kenya), Moshi (Tanzania), Toronto (Canada)

Why did you decide to become involved with SUPAFRIK?
My friend Souleik went to a few of SUPAFRIK’s parties last year, which I could never make it to because I was always at work! She’s the one who introduced me to SUPAFRIK and their projects. I’ve never encountered a collective that’s so much of a combination of everything that I love – art, music, fashion, and Africa!

What is your favourite part about working on these projects?
I’m never bored here. I have a notoriously short attention span, so I knew I was at home here when I went 9 hours without tweeting. I also love everyone I work with. I’m learning so much.

What SUPAFRIK projects are you most looking forward to?
All of them! I can’t choose. Right now, I’m looking forward to the next project, Water Carry Me Go. The garments are under lock and key and we only get tiny sneak peeks – I can’t wait to see them all together.

What is your favourite Afrobeats song right now?
I have way too many. I’ll name the first song in my Soundcloud playlist right now – Lil Kesh – Ibile. It’s probably going to change tomorrow, though.

Artist Assistant

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Name: Oyinkansola Olalekan
Meaning of Name: My name is a Yoruba name that means “Honey has dropped into my wealth”. I’ve always teased my Mom saying that with a name like this one, how could she ever be surprised that she gave birth to an artist.
Cities of origin: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. But grew up in New York and Calgary before I found myself in Toronto.

Why did you decide to become involved with SUPAFRIK?
It didn’t take much for me to know I would want to work with the Supafrik team. I saw the work they had previously done with their pop-up shops on the blog. Their events found a way of blending all of my favorite things: art, design, fashion, and of course foo

What is your favourite part about working on these projects?
I love the conceptualization process that happens with the Supafrik team. It’s a beautiful thing seeing how an idea that gets tossed around becomes something real and tangible. I think part of that is definitely the atmosphere that’s been built as we put in the long hours at the studio. Its a space that allows for us to share the ideas we have and play with them until they feel right.

What SUPAFRIK projects are you most looking forward to?
I really cannot wait to see the final pieces for Water Carry Me Go. It has been so exciting to get sneak peeks as the designers finish their projects. Each piece is so detailed and specific to the designer’s interpretation of the theme and I think it will be incredible to see it all live at the ROM.
What is your favourite Afrobeats song right now?
Definitely still bumping Aye by Davido, Standing Ovation by Tiwa Savage ft. Olamide, and even though they aren’t Afrobeat, the Ibeyi twins have been getting steady play.

 

Behind the Scenes at Style and Profile!

We can’t believe that Chinedu Ukabam’s Style and Profile is just about coming to a close. Tonight, the SUPAFRIK fam will be at the Come Up To My Room Love Design Party to celebrate our hard work and long nights. Chinedu partnered up with Gregorio Jimenez from Honour Carpentry to create some amazing pieces for Style and Profile. Here’s a look back on a few moments (out of the countless hours!) spent putting it all together. The show is still on until Sunday evening – if you’re in Toronto and haven’t checked it out already, make sure that you do!