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Image courtesy of @br0wnn_sugar

13 young artists shaping Nigeria’s creative scene

For Nigeria Day, designer Mowalola Ogunlesi selects the country’s most exciting new boundary-pushers

Today we explore Nigeria’s youth culture community, through the lens of some of the country’s most influential young thinkers.

Mowalola Ogunlesi’s debut collection for CSM — seen here styled by Ib Kamara — was a wildly sexy ensemble inspired by Lagos petrolheads. Here, she chooses 13 young artists and collectives repping the country’s thriving creative scene, from dream-pop producer LA Timpa to graf collecive, WAFFLESNCREAM.


Kenneth Ize is a Lagos-born fashion designer, and a close friend of Ogunlesi. His creative process is intrinsically Nigerian, she explains: “He hand-makes all his fabrics in Nigeria. He travels around Nigeria looking for all these textile designers, brings them all together and teaches them to other people in Lagos. So his work has a really strong sense of community, and communal love in creating the clothes...his work is just really timeless.”


Ogunlesi’s next choice are WAFFLESNCREAM, a collective of “skateboarders, BMX riders, graffiti artists, photographers, musicians, graphic designers and video directors.” The group design and sell their own merchandise, from skateboards to linen shirts, out of their Lagos-based store. “It’s just great that they’re celebrating that culture in Nigeria,” Ogunlesi says. “They also travel around Africa supporting different skate communities...I just think that they bring a great energy to Africa in general.”


Baingor Joiner is a 24 year-old model, photographer, videographer, writer and DJ (his moniker is ‘Joiné’). A graduate of UCL, he has been collaborating with the WAFFLESNCREAM collective since 2013. Ogunlesi explains: “In Nigeria, all these creative people exchange ideas and work with each other. It’s a really big community.” Check out his multidisciplinary work on his website.


Ruth Ossai is familiar to Dazed – her latest exhibition, AM I MAKING SENSE, was curated with our Arts & Culture editor Ashleigh Kane. In Ossai’s words, her work seeks to “celebrate, to question the standard of beauty, empower and represent Nigeria and Nigerians, Africa and Africans in and away from home.” Ogunlesi agrees: “Her work is just really authentic – she lives with her family and her community and her cousins in Nsukka, which is like a country in Nigeria. There’s so much love in everything she does.”


Dafe Oboro is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His work’s subjects are varied; Slum Dwellers: Not Dead, Not Living filmed the demolition of African slums; his collaboration with Ogunlesi, Kilón Shélé Gán Gán, drew on 70s/80s psychedelic rock. Most recently, for Dazed’s spring issue, he produced a photo-essay for photographer Harley Weir. “He’s got a really amazing eye,” says Ogunlesi. “The way he creates his films in Nigeria is really beautiful and unexpected. He also does a lot of real reporting about issues that go on in Lagos that no-one really talks about, but are really important conversations.”


Favour (br0wnn_sugar) is a Nigerian artist. Ogunlesi: “She’s a dear friend and does a lot of different works — she paints, she does photography, she does self-portraits.” Ogunlesi points to her “passport photo-series” A Statement of Pride as most resonant, a project which led to Favour being selected to take part in a recent iPhone X campaign, Selfies. “She did her hair in a different style everyday and she took passport photos of it and the whole collection together was so beautiful. It was really like a self-love, self-realisation piece, and I really love that from her. So I’m excited to see what more she gets up to.”


Sunkanmi Abayomi is a model who Ogunlesi recently collaborated with: “His energy is just really great. He’s amazing on set and he like embodies my collection so well,” Ogunlesi says. “He was a big muse when I worked out in Nigeria. I really hope he can transcend the modelling industry and become more global. That’s why I like using real Nigerian boys in Nigeria.” 


A model of Nigerian, Chinese and Thai descent with a massive Instagram following, Aighewi has written about the politics of black hairstyles for The Guardian. Ogunlesi: “Adesuwa is an inspiring friend and model. She is unapologetically herself and I love that about her. She has a contagious energy and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.”


Ogunlesi is effusive about influencer DetoBlack: “She’s a person who is starting a lot of much-needed conversations in Nigeria. She questions everything, and the way our society is is that we kind of just agree with our parents and keep doing down a straight road, but she questions why we do this. It just changes a lot of people’s ideas and makes them question things too and makes them think differently. So I’m really excited to see how changes in views will create a change in Nigeria’s future, and she is someone who does it so well.”


Adey is a musician and producer. He was responsible for one of the biggest Afrobeat tracks of last year, Ycee’s banger “Juice”. “He’s my brother!” says Ogunlesi: “He’s an amazing producer and has always been like that. He can do everything!”


LA Timpa (Christopher Soetan) is a Toronto-based, Nigerian-born dreampop producer and singer. His debut EP, “Animal”, came out in 2016. Ogunlesi: “I only came across him recently, but his work is really amazing. I loved the song Blue Animal.”


DemiGosh is a Nigerian-Irish artist based in Dublin and London who makes, as Ogunlesi puts it, “Yoruba indie songs”. A member of @Blackfishcollective, he describes his music as, “Fela Kuti meets Yeezus and Bon Iver with some King Krule and Spooky Black cadence.” “His songs are really beautiful” Ogunlesi says, “and really something I haven’t heard before.”


DJ Wayne is an Afrobeat DJ — Ogunlesi is excited about his future: “He’s super, super talented. He’s quite young, but he’s already doing so much in Nigeria,” she enthuses.


“He’s a producer as well and a DJ. He always has the newest trap music, but he loves all kinds of genres,” explains Ogunlesi. “So we would have late nights together playing random guitar songs with really sick solos. I love that he’s able to mix trap with all kinds of different songs. I can’t wait to see him when next I go out and he’s deejaying.”