Africa is blessed with so much creativity. It reflects in our type of music, fashion, food, art, and even our sense of humor. Last year we saw a lot of these creative minds shine in their various crafts. They took advantage of an evolving Africa to develop their creativity, monetize their craft, and export to the deep ends of the world. Did someone say Africa to the world? While we cannot wait to see what African creatives have for us this year, there are just some creatives that have begun rolling the ball. So, for the sake of this article and in no particular order, here are 15 African creatives to watch out for in 2023.
Temilade Openiyi has had one of the fastest rises to stardom. One minute the Try me, crooner, is featuring on Wizkid’s 2021 summer hit, Essence, and the next minute she is getting nominated for a Grammy. Her distinctive Afrobeats/R&B fusion and deep-textured, velvety style has gained so much attention. And music critic platform Pitchfork, once referred to her voice as “thick and smooth as cold butter”. In a short while, Tems has earned the number one spot on Billboard’s next big sound chart, number five on the Billboard emerging artist chart, and her much-lauded EP If Orange Was a Place reached the top ten on the Billboard world albums chart.
Last year, the singer earned three BET nominations- won two, was featured on Black panther: Wakanda forever soundtrack, became the first Nigerian female artist to bag two Grammy awards ahead of the 65th edition taking place this year, and was arguably the most sought-after female African singer. Whether it is for her songwriting prowress or her signature tone, the buzz around Tems has shown no signs of dwindling soon. One can only wait to see what the music “IT girl” has for us in 2023.
Thusu Mbedu is a great actress on the rise and we are here for it. The South African actress became a household name following her international debut in the 2021 Amazon Video historical limited series, The Underground Railroad. She went on to make her feature film debut with a highly appraised performance in the movie The Woman King. Her performance as lead role of Nawi in The Woman King earned her several appraisals including landing in the New York Times’ Top 10 Best Actors of 2022. While Thusu’s acting is getting all the attention it deserves, the young actress has shown that her talent goes beyond the screen as she kicks off the year with a new project and personal dream of hers’ to shine as a comic writer. Thebe is starting the new year co-writing comic series Niobe: She-Tribe, with Stranger Comics president Sebastian A. Jones.
Elozonam Ogbolu, is possibly one out of the two talented people to ever come out of a reality show, no shade intended. The young creative acts, sings, produces music and creates incredible Ads for internet and mainstream media. His style is a show of originality sprinkled with adventurous, futuristic elements, riveting enough to have you requesting for more. His contents are always well thought out and almost always exude paranormal movie cinematics. He has created Ads for brands like Premier cool, Star Radler, and Interswitch. Last year, he released his first EP titled, love and everything in between and directed the video for the first single on the project, Shook. Elozonam was also nominated at the AMVCA 8th edition in the best online social content creator category and became the host of the first edition of the big brother eviction podcast. Surely, Elozonam is a star of many talents and one we shouldn’t sleep on this year.
Triplet ghetto kids
Triplet Ghetto kids is a dance group and NGO based in Kampala, Uganda. Founder, Kavuma Dauda started the group to provide disadvantaged children with an education and has chosen do so through the universal language of dance. In 2013, their dance cover of the song Eddy Kenzo’s Sytia Loss, went viral on YouTube and social media. Since then, the group of youngsters has garnered global attention, performing on international stages. They performed on The Tonight show a U.S. talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon and performed with singer French Montana. Recently, the group got to perform at the Qatar world cup event after a video they recorded a while back expressing what they anticipate the World Cup to be like, went viral. 2023 is already off to a good start for the group, as the sensational dancers just bagged the African Entertainment Awards, USA – aeausa for best dancer/group category, beating competition like Poco lee, Kamo Mphela and Izzy Odigie.
Eniola Olanrewaju, is an indie filmmaker and youtuber popularly known as Korty EO. In 2019, Korty made a decision to quit her job and start a YouTube channel, a decision she has not looked back on. And for good reason. She has successfully marked herself in the African creator space by exploring unique stories in a laid back, conversational style. Although she started with documenting the thought process of moving out of her parents’ house and quitting her job at tech company emPawa, to create videos for YouTube, her brand has since evolved, anchored by two shows; Flow with Korty, a series where she interviews celebrities and Love and lies, a series where she explores different and sometimes controversial love stories in the city of Lagos. Last year, she went over and beyond by waiting outside Wizkid‘s hotel for three days, till he sent her out, just to get a clip of the Grammy award-winning singerfor her documentary. Interestingly, Korty has moved around the creative space as an artist, model, and graphics designer.
Zibusiso Mpofu is a fast rising Zimbabwean writer and poet. His writing has been described as an act of weaving the dark effects of trauma and memory into light and healing. Beyond writing, Zubisiso dreams of making Afro-futuristic films exploring the continent’s hidden histories. He was shortlisted for the Intwasa Short Story Competition (2021) for his story Culo and the Witch. He was longlisted for the BabishaiNiwe Poetry Prize and his short story The Healer is forthcoming from A Long House Journal. He won the 2022 Brunel International African Poetry Prize where the judges described his poems as “allusive, lyrical poems opening a new itinerary in African poetry, drawing in Shona and Mandarin and mapping a journey of the Black body through India, Hong Kong, the Philippines and China. Superbly crafted, the poems unfold in unexpected directions, balancing raw realism and nearly mystical understatement…” Mpofu’s win is also historic as he is the first winner from Zimbabwe and also the first winning poet not from recurring favorites: Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt and Somalia.
Unarguably Nigeria’s biggest breakout star of 2022, Asake, boasts a unique sound that give a new vibe to the Afrobeats sound. His debut LP Mr. Money With The Vibe was released to instant critical and commercial acclaim, even earning him an endorsement deal with sports betting company Parimatch. Signed to YBNL nation/Empire, Asake has not only maintained a continual presence on the charts with multiple hits but also given the Midas touch by featuring songs by the likes of Fireboy DML and Tiwa Savage. In November 2022, Asake, who emerged as Artist of the Year at the 2022 African Muzik Magazine Awards, was named in the YouTube Black Voices Fund Music Class of 2023. In December, streaming platform Audiomack announced Asake as its Artist of the Year for 2022. In the same month, the singer sold out his O2 Arena Academy tickets for his performance at London’s O2 Arena in a record 5 minutes. With his track record of dropping hits back to back and what appears to be a stardom hungry energy, one can only expect to get more hits from the musician.
Jade Osiberu is what you call an oldie but goodie. The award winning filmmaker has successfully left us asking more with back to back blockbusters like Sugar Rush, Ayinla, Isoken, and Gidi Up. Last year, Jade co-wrote and directed Amazon prime first Nigerian original feature length film, Gangs of Lagos and directed the much anticipated crime action thriller, Brotherhood. The movie Brotherhood opened with 53.23 million naira, earning 118.50 million naira by the second week and has since earned 328 million naira and become Nollywood’s highest-grossing title of the year. After spending 14 weeks on the big screens, the series is headed for Amazon prime following Osiberu’s first of its kind deal with the Amazon studio that will see her company, Greoh studios, create and develop TV shows and movies exclusively for the platform. Jade is the first talent in Africa to strike an overall or first-look development deal with Prime video and Amazon studios. With this deal, it is safe to say that the next three years is looking good for Nigerian film industry.
Omar Ba is a Geneva- and Dakar-based painter acclaimed for his site-specific installations and kaleidoscopic layouts on black backgrounds, associated with the grandeur of contemporary history painting. His work touches on colonialism, and violence, but also hope. Omar has participated in exhibitions in Africa, Europe, and the United States. Last year, he had a survey at the Royal Museum of Fine arts of Belgium in Brussels, and in November, the Baltimore Museum of Art hosted Ba’s first institutional exhibition in the U.S. His work was also the main exhibition at the launch of France’s leading gallery, Galerie Templon, in New York.
Claire Idera Nnnani is a spectrum of creativity. The Lagos based creative is a multidisciplinary artist with a love for whimsical elements and colours. She paints, designs and shines as a fashion illustrator. She has had collaborations with top brands like Hugo Boss, Maki Oh, and Lisa Folawiyo. Claire is also the founder of the first fashion illustration workshop in Lagos, Nigeria, the CIWorkshop, and she enjoys guiding young creatives interested in creative practices, particularly fashion illustration.
As an artist, she creates delicate representations of the young black woman who is in a transformative state of introspection. Her work centers around her personal journals from childhood to motherhood, portraiture and ethereal aesthetics. With every painting, she attempts to relate the physical and mental metamorphosis about the female being. Her art has been showcased in galleries across Lagos, London, Dubai and South Africa. Her consistency and ever-evolving expression of her love for art, proves Claire idera is one creative to keep up with.
If you were on the internet during the lockdown, you would know Elsa Majimbo. The young Kenyan gained 2.5 million Instagram followers by eating potato chips in bed, encouraging her followers to party to the point of reporting fraudulent activity to their banks and laughing maniacally. Her videos resonated with many people including celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o, Steve Harvey, and Rihanna. Two years on, and this comedian is exploring newer ways to evolve her craft. Majimbo recently relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career of comedic greatness, complete with endorsement deals like the ones she has with Fenty and Logitech. Just when you think what she’s done, the young starlet is also on her way to make some Hollywood money with her short documentary, Elsa, set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June 2023.
South African fashion designer, Thebe Magugu represents a fresh image for the African design space. Since winning the LVMH prize in 2019 and being the first African designer to do so, Thebe has been on an upward trail. He has collaborated with Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccoli to his work with Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, through the Thebe Magugu x DIOR capsule collection to benefit the health, education, and safety of young Southern Africans. Last year, tennis players Dana Mathewson, Dominic Thiem, Jessica Pegula, and Stefanos Tsitsipas all wore his debut performance collection for the U.S. Open. His clothes have also been worn by celebrities such as Rihanna and Miley Cyrus.
Magugu recently launched a new collection with the global sportswear brand Adidas. And his SS23 collection, aims to repackage streetwear as a must-have luxury item. “The collection experiments with the idea of a trickle-up fashion theory,” he told Dazed magazine. Thebe has also collaborated with Christian Dior for a charity project in his home country and was selected as one of the 100 “Vogue Business” innovators of 2022.
Kamo Mphela is the picture of artistry. Her style is as swift and graceful as it is strong and enthralling. The South African born creative is a dual-talented artist who prides herself in her signature sound and majestic dance steps. She first gained attention as a dancer after she posted a video of her dancing on her social media but has since gone on to release hits like Jele and Nkulunkulu. Kamo is an acclaimed originator of South Africa’s hottest music sound, Amapiano and her dancing skills eventually got her the name “Queen of Amapiano”. She has graced international stages in Ghana, Portugal, and London. Last year, she was one of the artists featured on the Black Panther: Wakanda forever soundtrack on the track love and loyalty.
Enioluwa Adeoluwa has to be the poster boy for African content creation. After gaining popularity for his Instagram videos where he puts on lip gloss and makes observations about his daily life in Lagos, earning him the gimmick “Lip-gloss boy” or “Beauty boy” his content has attracted attention from top brands and platforms like MAC cosmetics, the European Union-Africa, and becoming the first Nigerian ambassador for Crocs. Talk about giving them back-to-back. Not the first or most unique creator to grace the scene but Eni’s rise to creator fame has been unmatched.
Perhaps, it is his audacious femme-boy style, or being a Gen Z and catering to the next generation of consumers – the Gen Zs, I think it is safe to say that when it comes to Africa’s creator economy, Enioluwa would be on the radar for many brand collaborations in the next few years. Meanwhile, Eni is also a multi-talented individual who shines as a writer, host, media expert, and public speaker.
If you have been the slightest bit attentive to storytelling in Africa, you can tell that Africa is ready for the next generation of storytellers. Moshood Fattah is one of those storytellers. His work spreads across film, television, and stage. On stage, the theatre arts alumni has starred in successful stage plays like, in the spirit of David musical, the butcher and the bridge. In 2017, he got cast to play detective Babankowa in Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, a hugely successful musical that has been staged in Lagos, Abuja, Egypt, and South Africa. When he is not on stage indulging in his first love, he is gracing our screen with intense performances, like his role in Fishbone, a film about the dark world of drug counterfeiting in Lagos. This thespian is steadily becoming a household face after stellar performances as Ademide in Funke Akindele’s Battle on Buka Street and Michael in the Netflix limited series Far From Home. He has received several appraisals and was once nominated for Future Awards Africa for acting. Whether it is on the screen or on the stage, clearly Moshood is a lover of the arts, and we can’t wait to see where this love takes him next.