Mr. Bonna, did you always know you wanted to get into photography?
My first camera was a canon 40D. It seemed well suited for the kind of images I wanted to take and it was rugged enough to endure the terrain. I still have it. I started off with graphic design and later moved into motion picture. This was separate from my music production and performance activities. I later settled into photography out of interest and yearning to expand my capabilities.
What makes you want to take a picture?
I need to have passion for the subject. Mainly for the human body and the millions of ways to form the composition. I let my architectural background guide my composition and presentation of the images. I can photograph anything but I choose what I shoot. It is important to learn without limits and understand all aspects first. I subscribe to the idea of generalize then specialize – much like the field of medicine.
Have you ever turned down a subject?
I turn down subjects frequently because I'm not meant to shoot everything. I have my style and I think it's best to leave the other aspects to those whose specialty it is. Secondly, I'm very aware of my aesthetic so it won't do me any good to lose my identity in trying to grab all.
Terry Apala, did you play around with the sound of your voice at a young age to discover your ability?
I started experimenting with my voice around the age of nine by mimicking voices of performers like Musiliu Ishola. In church, I would change the rhythm and tempo of songs by turning them into Apala sounds. People started noticing and as I matured, I got better at performing Apala music.
Where were you when you realized you could combine Apala music with Hip Hop?
Prior to making the hit song Champagne Shower, I created a few songs that were on a different wave, but last year one of my friends brought up the idea that I should attempt to mix the two genres.
And you listened to him?
Yes - it was a good idea, so I reached out to my producer and asked him to provide a trap beat. I ended up making my first hit song Champagne Shower, which has received a tight reception and more acceptance than I expected.
Ms. Okore, do you consider yourself to be the best in your field?
(Laughs)…I am not pompous enough to think of myself in those terms. What I want my work to do is to have an impact on others and contribute to contemporary conversations both in Africa and abroad. While my works have been recognized, it doesn't influence my person or practice.
Have your recognitions affected what you create?
While it is great to be recognized, I am not moved to create based on the possibility that I might be acknowledged through awards. The work is based on what I find interesting, what I am passionate about and how I can convey the best message. I move in different directions based on the immediacy of my interests or the things that stimulate creativity in me.
Do you follow any rules with the art you create?
I don’t have any specific rules I follow but one principle that is important to me is to avoid boxing myself into an idea and allow the materials to express themselves because they come alive in ways one doesn’t anticipate. For example, I work with paper that I shred, pulp, twist, braid, dye and wax. I am interested in the process whereby these materials dictate what I do next; and the journey becomes a conversation between the materials and my artistry.
Mr. Olekarin, your art stretches the audiences’ imagination; do you do this deliberately?
I don’t make a conscious attempt to stretch anyone’s imagination. The art is an expression of things that have inspired, influenced and that I’ve seen over my lifetime. My photography is a combination of culture, science fiction and fantasy. These aspects sum up who I am. While the photographs may trigger the audiences’ imagination, I’ve never attempted to go out and create a certain aesthetic. I shoot and create only things that are interesting to me – no trends, no fads.
You mentioned science fiction and fantasy, do you dream often about another world?
Dreams of another world don’t play a role in my photography. The work originates from images that stuck with me as a kid and into adulthood. I believe that we experience a huge transformation in adolescence – say from ages 11 to 14. The things we see during this period has a way of affecting how we see the world and make decisions. These experiences act as the catalyst for the visual cues that affect the look, feel and the result of my creations as it relates to my understanding of my culture.
Many artists shy away from admiring their own art, how you do feel about your art after you give it to the public?
The work is a part of me, so I don’t shy away but I do look critically at the creation. I may come to the conclusion that I am not happy about certain aspects of the work or it could’ve come out better, but these mistakes embody my imperfection as a human. Strangely, there’s beauty in that the creation becomes right over time. I look back years after and see how I’ve improved and it becomes my journey.
Writing on the topics you select seem like a huge responsibility. How do you deal with the pressure?
I write what I want to write about, so that reduces the pressure. Writing about The Chibok Girls or the Niger Delta is equally as hard as writing about a family in a suburb, or a love story. The responsibility is to write a good book, to tell a good story.
Have you come to terms through your writing with regards to the political dysfunction and military dictatorships you lived through as a young boy?
I guess so. For a writer the past is an experience to be used over and over again to make sense of the present and the future. History tends to repeat itself, not always in the same formulation, but similar in its effect and its intention.
Will that journey of reconciliation ever finish?
There is nothing to reconcile. I wasn’t a particular victim of the dictatorship. There are some who lost family, or who were incarcerated. I was just a general victim, like everyone else. The past is what it is, we cannot change it.
Ms. Naya, how was your 2016?
2016 was my happiest and most prosperous year I’ve had in Nigeria. I have matured both professionally and personally and I am looking forward to what’s next for me.
How did you reach this point?
I came to an understanding this year that I can only worry about things that I can control. I am not bitter about things I don’t get and I learned to let go and let God, while also realizing that no doesn’t mean never, it just means not now.
Are these some of the lessons you pass on the girls in 50 Shades of Black?
While I haven’t had much time to engage with girls due to work, I make sure that I share with them these core principles. I want the girls to understand that they are worthy and to never allow themselves to be a victim. I hope to convey to them that if they truly believe in their abilities, then they deserve to go wherever they want.
Mr. Ayuba, if you think back over your journey, what do you remember with fondness and what do you regret?
I am actually happy that I introduced a great style of Fuji to Nigeria and Africa, I am happy that the younger generations can get inspirations from my classics or even do remixes of my past songs. It is a good thing to still appeal to every generation of people in the world. I don’t have any regrets as I take everything as a lesson, I do not beat myself over something I missed nor force myself to do something I’d rather not do.
At a young age, you became a professional musician, how certain were you that you would succeed?
What I know is nobody can predict tomorrow. I never knew what would become of me, but I knew I loved music so much I could care less if it made me rich. I enjoy creating and music is what I practically live off and I thank God I am a successful product of the phenomenon.
You gained prominence in the early 90’s, how would you define your impact on Fuji music?
My style of music has made me understand that I indeed stand out. I took the tempo of my style of music to another level and it led to many people loving my style. Before the other tribes in Nigeria began to enjoy Fuji, I brought a sound they could dance joyfully too while also understanding the genre.
Mr. Wey, in your TEDTalk you mentioned that being a restauranteur, writer and a chef is no different – How so?
In my TED Talk, I don’t think I articulated my points very well. I knew what I wanted to communicate but I was all over the place. What I wanted to get across is that these different areas that I engage in are not very different. To me, these three areas that I work in are just expressed differently in that I try to achieve an end with what I do. I think our society tends to put things we do in silos that can’t crossover into other areas. It makes it easier for us to understand but ultimately, I am trying to solve a problem and I use these different methods to achieve.