With its vibrant culture, sense of humor, and adaptability, Nigeria has become the "Giant of Africa" in more ways than just population size. The Nigerian winning mentality is visible at home and abroad, with Nigerians listed as the most successful immigrant group in the United States. Each year there are countless examples of Nigerian success seen in the literary world, international music charts and throughout the diaspora.
Here is our list of Nigerians who continue to highlight the best of Nigerian culture in their individual fields.
Artist Kehinde Wiley reinvents classical portraits with models dressed in their everyday clothing posed as Western Icons representative of the history of their surroundings.
Wiley’s portraits were initially based on photographs taken of young men found on the streets of Harlem but later veered to the international view, including models found in urban landscapes throughout the world--such as Senegal, Dakar, and Rio de Janeiro. In the famous Painting “Napoleon leading the army across the Alps, Wiley, an African-American artist, strategically re-creates a French masterpiece from two hundred years before but with key differences. This act of appropriation reveals issues about the tradition of portraiture and all that it implies about power and privilege.
In 2018 he was selected to paint President Obama, becoming one of the two first African American artists to create Smithsonian-commissioned portraits of a former President and First Lady.
Photo Source: Time
Laolu Senbanjo otherwise known as “Laolu NYC,” is a visual artist, musician, human rights lawyer and activist. Laolu puts his mark on everything from canvas, to shoes, to walls and buildings, to clothing and even the body with his Sacred Art of the Ori. His Yoruba heritage is ever-present in his work, which marries modern detail and ornate style to create a unique vision of Afrofuturism. Although his background is in law , he moved to New York City where he has devoted his time to being a full time artist ever since.
Laolu is guided by the idea that all things; be it paper, walls, people, buildings, cars, you name it — are his canvas. By placing his artwork on just about any and everything he can get his hands on, Laolu seeks to leave a part of his art and Yoruba heritage wherever he goes through one canvas at a time.
The artist has worked with many stars including those such as Taraji P. Henson, Lupita Nyongo, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beats, Danielle Brooks, and has had his Sacred Art of the Ori body ritual featured on Beyoncé’s 2016 Grammy award winning “Lemonade”. Laolu has graced the covers of The New York Times alongside having features in The Fader, Vogue, Vice, CNN, BBC, and more. His ever growing list of collaborations currently include those such as Kenneth Cole, Nike, Equinox Fitness, Starbucks, Belvedere, Bvlgari, TED, and many more.
Photo Source: The Guardian
Photo Credit: CNN
Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. After graduating from Harvard University with an honors degree in English literature, she received a fellowship that allowed her to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. Named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people, Tomi Adeyemi is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Nigerian-American writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles.
Her first novel, Children of Blood and Bone, debuted at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller list and is being developed into a movie by Disney's Fox & Lucasfilm. Its highly anticipated sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, also debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. When she’s not working or playing with puppies, Tomi can be found teaching creative writing.. In 2020, she was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, and her website has been named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest.
Photo Source: Time
Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters and creating a unique sense on African fantasy that is lacking in the literary world.
Nnedi Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and Le Prix Imaginales for Best Translated Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her latest releases include her short story collection Kabu Kabu (A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book for Fall 2013) and science fiction novel Lagoon (finalist for Best Novel in the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and a Red Tentacle Award for Best Novel).
Photo Source: Good Reads
Lagos bred and New York Based Yewande Akomolafe is a regular author of I am a regular contributor to New York Times Cooking and wrote the very popular feature piece: “10 Essential Nigerian Recipes”. She has styled food for the Times Cooking, Food52, and Munchies with recipes appearing in several publications. The talented chef currently runs a regular dinner series out of my kitchen in Brooklyn called “My Immigrant Food is…”
She has worked in several renowned kitchens including Momofuku Milk Bar in Manhattan and has developed and tested hundreds of recipes for the James Beard Foundation, Bon Appétit, Saveur, and The New York Times.
Her approach to food is informed and inspired by her background, travels, and experiences as a food professional. Her work is inspired by global narratives using ingredients and recipes as a medium.
Photo Source: The New York Times
Photo Source: The New York Times
Victor Ofunime Okunowo
Victor Okunowo is head chef at Talking Drum restaurant on Old Kent Road in London which specializes in creating West African culture through a modern lens. Ushering in a new standard for Nigerian cuisine, Talking Drum is serving up West Africa dining in HD. The stunning restaurant located in the heart of South London offers delicious dishes coupled with bespoke and flavoursome cocktails.
The London-based chef competed on MasterChef UK where he debuted his culinary innovation and 'revolutionized' the making of amala. The egusi-filled amala ravioli impressed the judges significantly, earning VIctor a spot as a finalist.
Before becoming a head chef, Victor worked at Chris & Jeff Galvin's Cafe au Vin Galvin, The Wolseley and Dukes hotel. He has also cooked at Chiltern Firehouse, Bingham River House, Charles Napier, and Stork Mayfair.
Photo Source: Masterchef
Which Nigerian creatives are on your radar?