Sunday, 30 December 2012

7 Sisters to watch in 2013

As the effects of Xmas' indulgences fade and the prepping for New Year celebrations begin, it is always expected that one will be bombarded with write-ups and all sorts of media-driven assaults, all put together by people who somehow have convinced themselves they can genuinely foretell the trends of the upcoming year.

All manners of lists emerge (I am one of the annoying assailants by the way) and we are told who and what will be the personalities and styles that will attract our future interest and drive our impending purchases. By the way, you might be wondering why I have restricted my list to just sisters, well, why not? You hardly find anyone paying attention to this deserving demographic and besides, it's my blog and I can do what I please...haha. That arrogant attitude also explains why I have restricted this to 7 profiles. Everyone does a top 10 and most importantly, 7 is my favourite number.

So, without further ado, let me unleash the Black women who will turn heads for various reasons in 2013:

1. Taiye Selisa - b. 1979. Writer.

When you are at the relatively early stages of your writing career and well regarded novelists like Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie are already fans, you definitely don't need anyone to inform you the only way is up. With her impressive novel, 'The Sex Lives of African Girls' still making waves on the literary scene, Taiye has backed up her CV by putting out a new novel, 'Ghana Go home'.

Born in London to Ghanaian and Nigerian parents, she was raised in America and regularly shuttles all three continents. Oh, by the way, she is also known for coining the term, 'Afropolitans'.

2. Laura Mvula - b. 1986 Musician.

Imagine you were 25 years old and you just happened to be a classically trained musician who has been playing the piano since 8 and the violin since 10 and somehow, you end up finding yourself being a receptionist (albeit at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra). Would you be tempted to give up and accept your lot or would you like our second subject, keep the hope alive?

If you chose the latter, then you would love Laura Mvula's meteoric rise to recognition. A year later and with a Brits Critics' Choice Award and BBC Sound of 2013 nominations in the bag, LM is in perfect timing to rock us in 2013. Born in Birmingham, UK to West Indian parents, Laura's debut album, 'Sing to the Moon' drops in March and you can expect influences ranging from jazz, R&B, pop and classical music.

Asked how she is adjusting to her new surroundings, she replied:

"My mum always used to say to me, and it always used to p*ss me off, that there will always be someone better than you. I used to think that's so discouraging, but her message was that there is a place, there is a point, in my existence and in yours, in our journeys, where you can absolutely be fulfilled and also at the same time, feel excited for what you don't know is coming."

Clever mum.....definitely clever girl.

3. Anais Mali - b. 1991 Model.

 From Naomi to Iman and Tyra, there is nothing as invaluable to a model, as a memorable first name and a banging body. At only 21 Anais has those and much more. She has already appeared in American, French and Italian Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and is the first black model to don the cover of W Korea magazine.

Having worked with celebrated photographers from Steven Meisel and Mario Testino, she is already a well-sought after model by the high and mighty fashion houses. Name the designer and it is almost certain Miss Mali has already walked for them. Born in France to a Chadian mother and a Polish father, she is also involved in charitable activism for YNTIAFRICA to help raise aid for impoverished children in Africa.

Beautiful inside and out, she once said her personal motto was simply; "always reach for the moon, and even if you cannot do something, you will fall into the stars."

Need I say more?

Anais Mali - Photo Gallery

4. Carmen Ejogo - b. 1974 Actress.

Not satisfied with being a member of MENSA and a talented crafter, this gifted, but nearly famous actress is the standout performer in the movie, 'Sparkle' starring the late Whitney Houston. As far as one critic was concerned;

"Very few people will walk out of Sparkle talking about Houston or Sparks, at least not at first. instead they will be saying, "who was that?" And they will be referring to Ejogo....if there was any justice, Ejogo will be famous very soon. As in maybe is rare to see someone become a movie star right in front of your eyes, but that is what happens with Ejogo in Sparkle...."

Hugely tipped for an Oscar nomination for that role, Ejogo is also in another high-profile film of 2012, 'Alex Cross' with Tyler Perry. In the upcoming ABC drama, 'Zero Hour' she plays an FBI agent tracking down a kidnap victim and it has been muted that this could be the role that catapults her into American consciousness. Married to the ridiculously talented actor, Jeffrey Wright (Shaft, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Manchurian Candidate and Hunger Games etc), Ejogo was born in London to a Nigerian father and Scottish mother.

Carmen Ejogo Trivia

5. Toyin Odutola - b. 1985 Artist.

 Born in Ife, Nigeria and raised in Alabama, USA, this is what this artist had to say about herself on her blog:

"I am that strange, dark girl in the back of a densely-aired, dimly-lit bar: talking loudly, smoking copious amounts of cigarettes, and drinking loads of chardonnay. You think I may have a compromising sexuality due to my ambiguous attire and androgynous appearance. Furthermore, there is a puzzling mixture in my unnecessarily aggressive, unwavering independent, and fiercely passionate disposition while muddled with abrupt bouts into quiet contemplation, all during 'intellectual' conversation."

With a truly spellbinding genius, Toyin's work involves the principal use of  ballpoint pens to create intricate portraits. So, it is even more impressive that she will then have already completed 2 residencies, including one at the prestigious Tamarind Institute. In truth, one could call her a lithographer, but her work may well transcend such description.

2013 seems to be the year when Toyin's star will shine even brighter and bring her the overdue credibility and recognition. A major solo exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery for April.  The sky is truly the limit for this uniquely raw talent.

6. Chika Unigwe - b. 1974 Writer. 

Fresh from winning the $100,000 Nigerian Prize for Literature for her novel, 'On Black Sister' Street,' this Nigerian-born and Belgian resident, writes in both English and Dutch. Armed with a Ph.D in Literature and numerous other citations, Unigwe has also claimed the Caine Prize for African Writing (2003) and the BBC Short Story Competition (2004).

The award-winning and highly respected British author, Bernardine Evaristo, on reviewing Unigwe's novel, 'Night Dancer,' describes her as:

" of the most probing and thought-provoking writers of the recent renaissance of African fiction......she continues her project of tackling big issues through superb portrayals of complex female characters, and immersing us in the dramas of their lives."

The widely-held educated opinion is that 2013 will be Unigwe's breakthrough year.

7. Carly Cushnie - b. 1984 Designer.

One half of the talented duo Cushnie et Ochs, Cushine has recently being named in Forbes Magazine's "30 under 30" list, which in brief is a roll-call of the emerging leaders in their chosen fields. With an A-list clientele  
from Michelle Obama, Rihanna to Kelly Rowland, CEO are known for their delicate and inventive ensemble of minimalist colours and cut.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Cushnie said:

"We felt there wasn't clothing out there for a sophisticated woman who wanted to be sexy without being vulgar."

Born in London and of Jamaican heritage, Cushnie and her business partner, Michelle Ochs are definitely in perfect position to dominate their field in 2013.

Carly Cushnie Trivia

So, there we are. Of course, there are many more also worthy of mention, but I can only have a finite list of seven (something to do with my crazy editor). Having said that, it is only fair that I name those who would have completed my top 10 list.

8. NoViolet Bulawayo - b. 1981 Writer.

9. Zawe Ashton - b. 1984 Actress.

Zawe Ashton Trivia

10. Katarina Johnson-Thompson - b. 1993 Athlete.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson Trivia

By the way, for those who can't stand lists in any way shape or form, you will be delighted to know I will revert to my usual format come 2013....for those who crave more lists, well....maybe if you invade my blog overwhelmingly, I may be forced to review my stand...

Have a great 2013!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

My 5 Predictions for 2013

I don't know about you, but 2012 was a difficult year on this side of the fence. So, in the spirit of looking forward, I have decided to leave 2012 behind and cleave onto a new chapter. 

Everything must be brand new! Brand new attitude…. brand new swag… brand new dreams and brand new vision for the new year.

Talking of visions, I would love to tease and pretend I have some psychic powers that have given me a special insight (or should that be foresight?) into the future. The truth is, I don't even know what going to happen in the next 5 minutes. In any case, in the spirit of being laid-back armed with a somewhat frivolous artistic licence, these are the events I see shaping 2013:

  1. A new Nigerian terror organisation will rise. Koko Bambam will concentrate on kidnapping and extortion. With members in almost every country on earth, KB will be the first outfit to take advantage of the cumulative dissatisfaction within the Nigerian Diaspora. Before the end of 2013, in their most audacious plot, they will kidnap the Nigerian President. Incredibly, to their chagrin, no one will want him back.
  2. In a move that rattles the free world, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, will become an international pop star with over 2 billion You Tube hits for his first single; Kim Rule the World. Heavily sampling BeyoncĂ©’s Run the World (Girls) and blatantly giving her no credit on the CD, Kim’s video will feature a slimmed-down version of the portly leader doing his popular dance, Jongun- Jongun style. In a fierce backlash to Time Magazine’s refusal to name him as ‘Person of the Year 2012’ (even though he had clearly won the poll) and the smashing success of South Korean’s Psy and his Gangnam style, Kim will conquer all manner of media next year. In a final relish, as a perfect icing on the cake, he will repeat his ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ award from the prestigious news website; The Onion (
  3. David Cameron has an Annus Horibilis, as his deputy, Nick Clegg is forced to resign from the coalition government, as his time as Lib-Dem leader comes to an abrupt and shocking end. Forced to uphold the spirit of the coalition, Cameron has to choose a deputy from the Lib-Dem ranks. After an excruciating period of political-trading, he finally settles (to the sheer horror of his Conservative mates) for the newly reinstated David Laws, who had been forced to step down in 2010, when he was found to have diverted up to £40,000 expenses to his gay lover. In an incredible twist, Mr Laws who had held the unenviable record of being the shortest serving minister of modern times (17 days!) will go on to be the first publicly known gay person to rise so high in British public office. By the end of the year, Cameron's star is faded and calls to unseat him grow ever louder.
  4. High-ranking members of the Illuminati hold a ground-breaking world conference where they unveil their identities and state their intention to take on the NRA, Koko Bambam, Al-Qaeda, Iran and the Church of Scientology. In a development that pitches Hollywood neighbour against neighbour, The House of Carter (Jay-Z and B) will fall out with The House of Grease (John Travolta and his missus).  Tom Cruise is shocked to find out Will Smith and Jada secretly go to a Pentecostal church, once the Scientology sermons end. Their VIP status is brutally removed and their names expunged from the list of those who would have been on the Scientology spaceship, when the world ends in 2014. To finally consolidate their grip on the world, The Illuminati expel all registered members from Nigeria, Russia and Iran, for their part in a massive fraud that also sees the end of the Barclays brand worldwide.
  5. President Obama and quite frankly the whole world, are shocked to their very core when Mitt Romney defects to the Democratic Party. Within months, he is made SOSTUS (to the utter annoyance of John Kerry who has to give way) and by the end of 2013, he is being touted as the 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate. In recoils of massive proportions, Romney is banned from all Deep South states and the NRA commission target practice boards with his emblazoned image. Romney ends the year as a champion of abortion, gay and minority rights. Phew....who knew?

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait. Happy 2013!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

My Top 5 moments of 2012

Let's be frank, 2012 has just been like every other year. Seasons changed, people were born, people died, governments fell, regimes rose and of course Nigeria stayed the same!

But in all the maddening events, I thought it might be pleasurable for some, to share my stand-out moments of the year……just so you can see how some of us roll.  So, here we go:

  1.  The look on my Banker friend’s face, when my prediction that the Facebook stock could only go in the downward direction, came true. Hours later in a hideously expensive steak house, he had to pick up the tab, as a forfeit. I never knew meat could taste that good.
  2.  Being mistaken for the UBS Banker, Kweku Adoboli. The elderly Jewish couple pledged their sympathy and assured me of their prayers to ensure I avoided jail. Clearly, they forgot to go on their knees once they got back home.
  3.  My 5 year old son telling a fierce-looking man to pick up his dog’s poo from the pavement. As I dragged my son away in trepidation….I looked back and unbelievably, the man did pick up the brown stuff!!!
  4.  Finally reading Tony Blair’s autobiography (A Journey) and realising I was completely vindicated in my disdain for the man. It’s the first personal life memoirs that have left me cold – here was a deluded man who has somehow lived a completely blameless life –  and made me wonder how far his head was up his a**e!
  5. The infectious laughter that spread through a pub’s four walls, when a group of friends descended upon their ‘prepper’ mate. The unfortunate fella had spent the last two years preparing for the end of the world and had spent a fortune. His friends mercilessly ripped him apart, but credit to the dude…….......he handled it all with a painful smile ;-)
Wishing everyone a Merry Xmas and a happy 2013!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Is Nigeria the Problem?

As another year comes to an end and the world continues to witness the many wondrous actions of her inhabitants, certain things have remained constant. 

The world still looks the other way as crises engulf Congo, Mail and Somalia (the other way being the Middle East). Barack Obama has ensured the Republican Party has been made to accept the errors of their ways, after they stubbornly stuck to the latest blueprints of the Tory and Labour parties in 'how not to choose a leader'. Putin still has an iron grip on Russia, the Politburo do same in China, North Korea still has a comical buffoon in charge (albeit a much younger and chubbier version), Brazil and India are still on course to justify their 'nations to watch' statuses, and yes, the answer to Nigeria's perennial  problems is still blowing in the wind.

I must apologise, but due to my inherently narrow-minded and selfish DNA, only one of those issues has any resonance with me and as such, I would like to unapologetically move on to the crux of this piece.

So, to paraphrase a song from that ubiquitous film from my childhood; how do you solve a problem like (Maria) Nigeria?

Clearly, this has been a conundrum for many greater minds than mine and if sheer effort invested in writing about the country's malaise, were a guarantee for the nation's progress, then our dear country would probably be on par economically with any of the BRIC nations at the very least. 

That of course is one of the downsides of criticism - it does not always achieve what we crave for it to do. Not everyone reacts positively to it. In fact, in some extreme cases, it often exacerbates the unacceptable behaviour and a kind of ‘siege mentality’ style of government ensues. A leadership pattern reserved solely to a class of people who believe they have an almost divine right to dominate others, without question. 

Don't get me wrong, I am quite willing to have a Nigeria where there is a form of dictatorship, as long as it is steeped in benevolence....a country (not much unlike Putin's) where our rulers have a fierce nationalistic streak which means they push Nigeria forward, but may break the rules every now and then. You know what I mean...look at China! 

The Politburo will let you conduct your business and do all they can to provide security and a viable social terrain, just as long as you do not question their authority. It seems to work for them and judging by the amount of us who can't wait to jump on the first plane to Guangdong in search of the next big thing, it definitely suits us too.

Unlike when a foreigner plans a business trip to our country, a Nigerian going to China doesn’t have to review his or her Will, or place security at the forefront of their fears. The governments in Brazil, China and India have ensured (well, maybe we should take out Brazil) foreigners are considerably safe in their countries. They have taken steps to guarantee constant supply of electricity, adequate security relatively clean and non-violent surroundings. Basically, environments where business can be conducted in comparative peace. Not so in our so-called giant of Africa!

If you ask me, the Politburo rule in these aforementioned countries, is not much different from the systems in place prior to the arrival of the colonialists in Nigeria. We spoke our own languages, worshiped our own gods and most of all, we had our own nation states. The difference is, they have stuck to their identity and have made external influence virtually impotent.

Before the advent colonialism, what we now call Nigeria was a collection of proud and subsisting societies. Fast forward to 2012 and tell me exactly what we have. National pride - zero, Cultural pride - zilch…somebody please tell me:

·         How highly can you rate a country where speaking a foreign language before your mother's tongue, is   considered a status symbol?
·         How seriously can you take a people who leave their shores and start to change the spelling of their names to fit into their new environment?
·         Are we victims of extreme assimilation or colonial mentality?
·         Finally, why are we the ones always changing to fit in?

Could it be most of us are acutely aware there really isn’t much to be proud of?

So, yes, I would favour a divine rewind which should at least guarantee a semblance of a worthy society. Say what you will about the Chinese and Russians, but at least their countries are not tittering on the abyss, nor are they somebody else's diplomatic bitch! 

Of course the irony in all this centres around the fact that unlike China and Russia, Nigeria in its current state, may have slipped past her expiry-date. Like a bumbling, senile patriarch burdened with the wear and tear of juggling 36 children, it appears the game is up. In most sane environments, the havoc wreaked by the 36 children should make Nigeria stop conception and more child birth. But, on the contrary, some regions clamour for creation of more states.

We have moved from the relatively proud spot of 'developing' nation and achieved in reverse, catapulting ourselves to the golden standard of 'underdeveloped,' with the wanton relish of a deranged and reckless prince who threw it all away. 

That recklessness, which ensured that in spite of a quarter of a trillion dollars in oil exports, Nigeria's leaders have somehow managed to fritter most away and keep the rest in spurious Western banks. Banks that then went on to do everything in their power, not to return the money to us when the illicit funds were tracked down. It beggars belief and this is why I believe that perhaps, it is time to start to rule Nigeria with a different approach. 

I remember a few years ago, Lauryn Hill of the celebrated band, the Fugees, released her debut album; a Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was a remarkable eclectic collection of styles and genres, laced with heavy social commentary and spiritual lyrics. I played it non-stop in my car for a few months and believe it or not, these three lines in the last track always stayed with me:

"I look around my environment
And wonder where the fire went
What happened to everything we used to be…"

They are poignant lyrics that continually invoke the sorry state of a country destined for greatness, but one that is now defiantly heading for mediocrity. So:

·         What happened to put Nigeria in perpetual reverse?
·         What happened to our purpose?
·         What is so defective in our DNA?
·         Why is chaos and anarchy our watchwords?

Well, a millions words detailing our ills have not changed anything, so perhaps we should concentrate on how to move forward. Yes, Mr So and So is responsible, and this and that have to be done. All of the verbal and written decibels ala Shakespeare has been full of sound and fury, unmistakably signifying nothing.

Our current system of government is evidently unfit for purpose. There is too much power in Abuja (in a few hands) and that centralisation means it is inevitable for people feel marginalised and out of the loop. What we have on ground today is an 'us and them' scenario where certain ethnic groups feel they are not genuine stakeholders in the idea of Nigeria.

In his much heralded book; "This House has fallen - Nigeria in Crisis," Karl Maier, that obsessive observer of Nigerian affairs concluded the following:

“One of the most eloquent arguments for redrawing Nigeria’s map to collapse the currently unworkable federation of thirty-six states into six powerful regions from an unlikely source: northern businessman. Their fundamental premise is that simplification would be more efficient; six regions would mean leaner, more efficient government. As long as you keep that structure going, you are going to have problems in Nigeria”.

Yes, Mr Maier is often seen to be prone to hyperbole, but I think he hit the nail on the head, on this one. Let the regions take care of each other's affairs. It is time for the autonomous region discussion. All the BRIC countries have it and like us, they possess many ethnic groups and endless resources, so the least we can do is use them as viable templates.

It cannot be worse than what currently subsists and admittedly, it will not stem the generational plundering of resources. But it will surely move us all closer to the various seats of power and induce our sense of involvement. An audit trail from Lagos to Ibadan is clearly easier to track than one from Onitsha to Abuja. 

If there are those amongst us, who are worried about the six-region idea leading to the end of Nigeria, please do not fret. I am aware there are some who propagate the break-up of the country, but I am not in that number. I don't want Nigeria to cease to exist. I am not suggesting any form of secession. We all live with the lingering effects of the last time that occurred - no one truly benefits in the end.

I have no fight with Nigeria as an entity. Clinically, as far as I am concerned it is a word that just distinguishes us from the guys in the Republic of Benin, Chad, Niger and Cameroun. In my opinion, we need to start seeing it as nothing more than that.

Maybe Maier is not completely right....maybe the house is not collapsed, but may I be allowed to announce that the house is definitely fragmented. 

Nigeria itself is the problem.

It may not go down well in some quarters, but it is time to accept we do not have the organisational capacity to handle Nigeria in its current form. It is too big to govern for our short-sighted way of doing things. We need to take off our cloak of self-denial, so we don’t end up like the derided family down the street, who harbour their carjacker son and tell their neighbours their child is a successful mechanic. As the Yorubas say; the pungent smell is currently emanating from our own garments. No amount of air freshening will save us now….what is required is a combination of a good, long bath and a thorough washing of every item in our wardrobe.

Nobody is coming to save us. We have to sit together and tell each other the grim facts. We are not a great nation. What we are is a potentially great nation. A nation that can lift itself if only it observes the first rule of conquering an addiction….we need to own up to it and say yes, we have a problem.

Our problem is not corruption or nepotism or Boko Haram or fetish practices. All great countries still have those niggling delinquencies. Our issue is not division or hatred or backwardness. We have all the resources beyond imagination, we have individuals universally recognised as leaders in their respectively fields, we have highly competent people backed with first-class education and social exposure. We have all the equipment to stop; breathe and reprogram our stuttering polity.

Our problem is Nigeria.

Can anyone really justify why we require so many states and so many legislators, when we can have a regionalised system where we have political autonomy at its core? As noted earlier in this piece, China, Russia and even India have it. Are these not the countries we are trying to outstrip? Even the great USA has it!

Why can’t the Eastern, Western and Northern regions have their own Police Forces? Why do we have to rely on Abuja for every meaningful aspect of our lives? Why do we have to wait until the big boys in Abuja decide to repair the Lagos to Ibadan expressway, before we can sort it out ourselves? After all, are we not the ones using the blasted expressway anyway?

Granted, we are not going to resolve all our ills in one big bang manoeuvre - no other country does. The difference though, is they know how to manage a bad thing. They know how to break down responsibility and delegate power. The simple truth is; we are not at that point yet, but we can at least begin the conversation.

We can begin by admitting that maybe after all is said and done; Nigeria, in its current arrangement and state, may indeed be the problem.