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John Akomfrah OBE is a film-maker and video artist. He was born in Accra and is one of five children of Ghanaian political activists. Akomfrah is best known for being one of the founding members of Black Audio Film Collective, an artist group that addressed issues of Black British identity. Besides making theatrical films, Akomfrah has directed many television programmes, including one about Martin Luther King and another on Louis Armstrong for the BBC. A critic as well as a film-maker, Akomfrah has written widely about African cinema. He has been a member of the Arts Council Film Committee, and is currently a Governor of the British Film Institute. In 2008 he was made an OBE.
www.smokingdogsfilms.com
www.blackaudiofilmcollective.com

 

Oladipo Agboluaje is an award-winning Nigerian playwright and screenwriter. One of the United Kingdom Film Council's Breakthrough Brits, 2009, he is adapting his stage play The Estate for the screen with NFH Films. He is also developing the screenplay of Area Boys (dir. Mel Mwanguma) with Focus Features. He is currently writing plays for the Unicorn Theatre, the National Theatre, Soho Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company, all based in London. His last play “Iya Ile” (Yoruba for “The First Wife”) was co-produced by Tiata Fahodzi and Soho Theatre in 2009, for which he won the Alfred Fagon Award.

 

Yinka Shonibare, MBE is a leading contemporary artist. Yinka was born in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art first at the Byam Shaw School of Art, London and then at Goldsmiths College, London where he received his MFA. Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and, most recently, film. His signature material is the brightly coloured ‘African’ fabric he buys at Brixton market. Yinka is one of the leading lights in the contemporary art world and has been chosen to be the artist to fill Trafalgar Square’s empty fourth plinth. His work for the Fourth Plinth entitled ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ will be unveiled at Trafalgar Square in April 2010. His major touring survey exhibition recently closed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and reopened at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, in November 2009. A solo commission by the artist for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will open in 2010. Other recent solo shows have taken place in Dublin City Gallery, Newark Museum, the Second Moscow Bienniale of Contemporary Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2009) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Australia.
http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/shonibare/
http://www.london.gov.uk/fourthplinth/plinth/shonibare.jsp

 

Lupita Nyong’o is an actress and filmmaker from Kenya. She has worked on the production of critically-acclaimed films including The Constant Gardener (2005) directed by Fernando Mereilles and The Namesake (2006) directed by Mira Nair. She has directed and produced “In My Genes” a celebrated feature-length documentary about the experience of having albinism in Kenya. Apart from her passion behind the camera, Lupita also has over ten years experience in acting. In 2009 she featured as the lead role, Ayira, in MTV’s hit TV series, SHUGA, an innovative campaign to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and its stigma in developing countries. Lupita is currently in the USA and enrolled at the Yale School of Drama where she is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Acting.
Check out her documentary here: http://www.inmygenes.co.ke/home/
and watch Lupita act in 'Shuga'.

 

Njide and Nneka Ugboma are the publishers of Let Them Eat Cake Magazine, a cutting-edge style title for a new generation of fashion conscious consumers and intelligent trendsetters.

Njide, the Editor-in Chief of Let Them Eat Cake magazine has an MA in Fashion Journalism from The London College of Fashion. She also works as a trend consultant and writes for The Observer newspaper, contributes to BBC Radio and lectures at The University of the Arts, London.

Nneka is co-publisher for Let Them Eat Cake as well as a cultural strategist and creative consultant. She has an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries from Kings College, University of London. She has led a series of projects including a ‘Creative Cluster Strategy for Lebanon’, a ‘Cultural Vision for Margate & Turner Contemporary’, a Creative Economy Strategy for West London, plus a series of evaluations and strategies that focus on creativity, visual culture and collaboration. They currently both live and work in London.
www.mush-rooms.com
www.letthemeatcakemagazine.com

 

Josephine Amankwah is a mezzo soprano classical singer. She trained at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and also studied at the London Academy of Radio, Film and Television in London. She has performed in a plethora of productions, had pieces commissioned specifically for her to sing and has recently written, directed and performed in the show Celebration Africa! which ran in London and 2009’s Edinburgh Festival. She has sung on the soundtrack for the movie “America” by Rosie O' Donnell and was one of the lead soloists for The Black British Classical Foundation Inaugural Gala 2008 alongside Sir Willard White. Josephine was also a lead soloist at Ghana’s Independence celebrations, where she sang the National Anthem in the presence of the Ghanaian President, the Duke of Kent and numerous other international dignitaries.
www.joamankwah.com

 

Colin Firth is one of the UK’s top actors. Firth first gained wide public attention, especially in the United Kingdom, for his portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 television adaption of Pride and Prejudice. He subsequently achieved film stardom with the international box-office success of Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), where he co-starred with Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant. Other films in which he has starred include Mamma Mia!, The English Patient, Shakespeare In Love, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Nanny McPhee, Easy Virtue and Dorian Gray amongst many others. For his leading role in the film A Single Man (directed by Tom Ford) Colin won a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival (2009), received a Global Globe nomination (2010) and on February 2, 2010, he received an Academy Award nomination for the same role. Firth is also a writer, accomplished musician as well as an environmental and political activist. He spent part of his childhood in Nigeria and is a lover of Fela Kuti and Ethiopian food.
www.brightwide.com

 

Noo Saro-Wiwa is a travel writer. She was born in Nigeria in 1976, and raised in England. She studied at King's College London and Columbia University, New York. She has written on Africa for both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide travel guides and is currently completing a book about her travels around Nigeria (Searching For Transwonderland), to be published by Granta in 2011. Besides Nigeria, Noo has visited Togo, Benin, Ghana, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Sao Tome, Cape Verde, South Africa, Madagascar and Egypt.

 

Jon Snow is one of the UK’s best known and best-loved newscasters and presenters. He has presented the Channel 4 News for over 20 years and during this time has been reported from many of the world’s major political events, war zones and environmental disasters. John spent a year working in East Africa with VSO in his youth and has travelled all over Africa for both work and pleasure.
www.Channel4news.com

 

Chiwetel Ejiofor is British-Nigerian actor of stage and screen. He appeared in Steven Spielberg's Amistad but his first leading film role was in the 2002's Dirty Pretty Things, for which he won a British Independent Film Award for best actor. Other starring roles include Red Dust with Hillary Swank, Talk to Me with Don Cheadle, Children of Men, American Gangster, Tonight At Noon, Redbelt, Love Actually, 2012 and Woody Allen’s Melinda & Melinda. Chiwetel has won many awards: His singing and acting performance in Kinky Boots received Golden Globe and British Independent Film Award nominations. He was also nominated for the 2006 BAFTA Rising Star Award. Ejiofor's performance in Tsunami: The Aftermath received a 2007 Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a miniseries or film made for TV. Chiwetel’s stage work has earned him an Ian Charleson Award for his performance as Romeo in William Shakespeare's  Romeo and Juliet, the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer at the 2000 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards and in 2000 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer as well as a 2001 nomination for the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award Best Supporting Actor. In 2007 he reprised his role as Othello at the Donmar Warehouse and was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance. Ejiofor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

 

Mpho Skeef – her name is a SeSotho word meaning "gift" – was born in South Africa to Sipho Mabuse and her mother, Mary Edwards, with whom she spent her first birthday in jail. She moved to the UK at the age of 4 and was brought up in South London by her mother and her step-dad, Eugene Skeef. She is a singer with a five-album deal with EMI/Parlophone. www.mphosounds.com

 

Biyi Bandele was born in Nigeria in 1967, and now lives in London. He has written several plays and has worked with the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as writing radio drama and screenplays for television. He was Judith E. Wilson Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge from 2000-2002, and Royal Literary Fund Resident Playwright at Bush Theatre from 2002-2003. His plays are: Rain; Marching for Fausa (1993); Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought (1994); Two Horsemen (1994) - selected as Best New Play at the 1994 London New Plays Festival - Death Catches the Hunter and Me and the Boys (published in one volume, 1995). Brixton Stories, his stage adaptation of his own novel The Street (1999), premiered in 2001 and was published in one volume with his play, Happy Birthday Mister Deka, which premiered in 1999. Biyi Bandele has also written five novels: The Man Who Came In From the Back of Beyond (1991); The Sympathetic Undertaker: and Other Dreams (1991); The Street (1999); Burma Boy (2007): and The King's Rifle (2009). In 1997 he adapted Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for the stage, and in 1999 wrote a new adaptation of Aphra Benn’s Oroonoko, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

Mazzi Binaisa is a Ugandan writer, speaker and social commentator. Her first book Heaven in Your Handbag was a modern take on the medieval Christian devotional and she has since gone on to found a non-denominational movement called Cool Chic and In Christ which seeks to debunk the myth that a life of faith is at odds with a modern and urbane existence. Mazzi has also lived and worked in Nigeria where she was a columnist for leading newspaper Next, chronicling her time as an African ex-pat whilst working as a brand manager and consultant for a bank and Nigerian luxury brands. A holder of a Masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics she is currently writing her second book, a novel and launching Cool Chic and in Christ events internationally. www.heaveninyourhandbag.com

 

Mourad Mazouz was born in Algeria and is one of the most innovative and successful restaurateurs in Europe. He has single-handedly made North African cuisine in Europe both hip and better appreciated. In 1991 Mourad opened his first North African restaurant ‘404’ in Paris. He then opened ‘Momo Restaurant and Kemia Bar’ in 1997 in London, winning the Evening Standard ‘Bar of the Year’ award in its opening year. Mourad published his first North Africa cookbook in 2000 ‘The Momo Cook Book’. The book has subsequently been translated into five other languages. In 2002 Mourad opened his most visionary project to date, ‘Sketch’, with three Michelin starred Chef Pierre Gagnaire. A tribute to superb gastronomy and cutting edge art, Sketch gained infamy for being the most expensive restaurant in London but is now a London institution having won a host major awards including a Michelin Star. Mourad has opened restaurants in Dubai and later this year Lebanon. Mourad has a keen interest in contemporary art and in 2008 he participated in a unique ‘pop-up’ project called the ‘Double Club’ with artist Carsten Holler and the Prada Foundation. The Double Club was a club, bar and restaurant that created a dialogue between Congolese and Western contemporary music, cusine and design. Mourad Mazouz is also the founder of Mo’zik Records. His latest album is titled ‘Arabesque 4’.  www.momoresto.com

 

Tony Nwachukwuis a British-Nigerian DJ and producer who runs his own label NEPA Recordings. He was the producer, beat programmer and keyboard player of a group called Attica Blues and he has also remixed artists as diverse as Macy Gray, U.N.K.L.E, Robert Owens, DJ Krush, Jazzanova, Spacek, Courtney Pine and Ben Folds. His passion for new music and artistic development led him to found establish a regular club night held in London called CD-R where bedroom music producers are invited to play their unreleased work to a crowd of interested listeners and fellow music makers. He can be heard djing in clubs all over London and the world. Having spent time writing producing and writing tracks for Wunmi and Randolph Matthews, Tony is putting finishing touches to his own LP.
http://redbullmusicacademyradio.com/shows/462/

 

Duncan Brooker is a British DJ who owns the label Kona Records. He has been a vinyl fanatic since the age of 13 and has spent much of his adult life travelling around Africa looking for old records, painstakingly tracking down the artists that created them and putting out these old records on new CDs. Read his incredible story here: www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2001/jul/27/artsfeatures
and watch this: www.matsuli.blogspot.com/2008/03/blog-post.html

 

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a cultural historian, writer and filmmaker based in Accra and London. She is currently working on a research publication and exhibition for the EU/AU on cultural heritage and contemporary arts institutions in Africa with architect David Adjaye (2011, Bozar, Brussels) and a book on Ghanaian photographer James Barnor (2010, Trolley Books, London). Her writing has appeared in publications such as The National Geographic, The Statesman, The Dubliner and Time Out. She has lectured and presented her scholarship at Universities, including Cambridge, Kumasi, London and Oxford. She has curated exhibitions and events for institutions such as The British Council, The British Museum, The Liverpool Biennial, The Royal Festival Hall and The Victoria and Albert Museum. In her fiction and short films she deals with the themes of translation and the gaps within language. Her first fiction book 'The Tightrope Walker' will be published in May 2010. Her films have been nominated for awards at various festivals, such as The Milan African Film Festival, The RAI Ethnographic Film Festival and The Real Life Documentary Film Festival. They have also been shown at venues such as The Museum of African Diaspora and used in university curricula. She is a founding director of ANO, a non-profit organization dedicated to the interface of culture and development in Africa and its Diaspora. She has an MA in African Art History and is completing a PhD in African Languages and Cultures at the University of London.

 

Mustafa Maluka is a South African contemporary artist. Born in South Africa in 1976 he has had many shows in the country before moving to Amsterdam in late 1998 where he studied at De Ateliers, and was enrolled as a PhD candidate at ASCA (the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam). He returned to South Africa in May 2004. He was the winner of the 2004 Tollman Award for a young artist. In July 2005 he attended a residency at Art OMI in New York. Recent group exhibitions include Flow at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2008); World Histories at Des Moines Art Centre, Iowa (2008); Common Affairs as part of the Steirischer Herbst festival in Graz, Austria (2008); Cape 07 (2007); the 7th São Paulo Bienal (2006); What Lies Beneath at Galerie Mikael Andersen in Copenhagen, Denmark (2006); Nie Meer at De Warande in Turnhout, Belgium (2006) and New Painting at the KZNSA Gallery, Unisa Gallery and Johannesburg Art Gallery (2006). He recently had a solo show at the Jack Tilton Gallery in New York. http://www.mustafamaluka.com

 

Paul Boateng is a British Labour politician, who became the UK's first black Cabinet Minister in May 2002, when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Following his departure from the House of Commons, he served as the British High Commissioner to South Africa from March 2005 to April 2009. Of mixed Ghanaian and Scottish heritage. He lived in Ghana, where his father, Kwaku Boateng, was a cabinet minister under Kwame Nkrumah, until the 1966 coup that ousted Nkrumah. In Ghana, he attended the prestigious Accra Academy High School  before returning to the UK with his family. After graduating from the University of Bristol, he became a civil rights lawyer, originally as a solicitor, though he later retrained as a barrister. He gained some notoriety through this work in Lambeth in the late 1970s, when he was a familiar figure at protests against the kinds of police activity that built up to the 1981 Brixton Riot. He is an active Methodist and Methodist lay preacher.

 

Bayo Oduwole is a Nigerian-born fashion designer. He lives and works in London where he and his wife run the label and shop Pokit. www.pokit.co.uk