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Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Ken Nwadiogbu harnesses his artistic talent to highlight the socio-political issues facing young Africans. He’s part of an emerging hyperrealism art scene in Nigeria.

How did you discover your talent and when did you decide to make a career of it?​

I was a high-school science student, so my plan was to go to university to study something science related, and then graduate and search for job. I never prepared for a life and career in the art world. Six years ago, I began studying a Civil and Environmental Engineering degree at the University of Lagos. During my first year of study there, I met a young man who was painting the then Vice Chancellor. I used to doodle in my books while in class, but that was just a bad habit, I thought. Once I saw this young man painting this amazing work of art, I wanted to know more. So I went back and started to research. My research turned into hunger, hunger turned into addiction, addiction turned into love… And that was when I fell deeply in love with art. My career in art wasn’t planned, but it changed my life. I was always very enthusiastic to create, and this was a perfect way for me. Over the past five years, I’ve read, studied, practiced, and grown, not just in my craft, but in the art world. I fell in love with hyperrealism, and it influenced me so strongly that I became a figurative hyperrealist.

You have a BSc in Civil and Environmental Engineering, how hard was it for you to convince your parents of your new-found path?​

In an African home, there are few career choices parents impose upon their children: lawyer, doctor, engineer, or scientist. Any other career choice, especially a creative one, is ‘second rate’. It’s not because they do not appreciate the talent their children possess, but they fear that society, particularly Nigerian society, will dismiss and devalue this type of career choice. My father had this ideology, but my mother was very supportive. Fear is one of the greatest issues in any man, and the growth of a family or a nation lies in its defeat. Convincing my parents of the people around me wasn’t necessary – I had to show them! I spent many nights creating art while reading on the side, trying to balance both career paths, just so that my parents were happy and fulfilled. It took a lot out of me and I sacrificed a lot of time, energy, socialising, etc. But it was the sacrifice I paid for success.

What made you decide to use your artistic talent to talk about socio-political issues and to ‘advocate for positive change’?

A painting becomes art when it transcends merely looking aesthetically pleasing and speaks about a cause. In my country, my society, my environment, you’ll experience so much pain, war, fights, mental battles, problematic ideologies, feminine denigration, and more. It affected me as a person, and my family, too – every day became another fight for survival; a fight to breathe and grow. This happens all over the world, too, and no one seemed to be talking about it, and even if they were, the public wasn’t listening. I knew hyperrealism had great appeal, especially when carried out on a large scale. I began to use that as a platform to speak out about these things, so that people would be attracted to listen and ask questions. In this way, I could drive home my ideologies and narratives, speak about socio-political issues and advocate for positive change.

‘Fear is young people’s biggest barrier. The fear to start. The fear to succeed. The fear to grow. The society in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, breathes fear into young kids.’

What would you say is the biggest barrier for a young person in Africa who’s looking to realise their full potential?

Fear! Fear is young people’s biggest barrier. The fear to start. The fear to succeed. The fear to grow. The society in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, breathes fear into young kids. Start from the issue with slavery, then move on to racism, then tribalism, educational institutions and the numerous obstacles you have to pass before you can be admitted into schools. It continues on to corruption, the unemployment and poverty rates, and then on to wars: Boko Haram, xenophobic attacks, etc, and then on to money and its value… I can keep naming issues and problems. These things collectively kill the dream of every young person and drive them into bad businesses, scamming, killing, etc. If only we could conquer that fear and strive to be who we want to be, every young person in Nigeria would have a brighter future. That’s why I’m here, my goal is to inspire people, even just one person, to follow their dreams. If I can do it, they can do it.

‘In the end, it’s your relentless attitude, your precision, your perseverance and your patience that wins. Success, for me, is only brewed for the strong!’

How has the world opened up for you since you decided to follow, or rather create, your own path?

The world is an amazing place if you keep growing, think positively, approach the world with optimism, and turn deaf ears to discouragement. I can’t say I’ve had a smooth journey because honestly, I’ve hit some bumps along the way. Bumps like my age bracket [he was born in 1994], my location, my chosen genre, as well as many other things. But in the end, it’s your relentless attitude, your precision, your perseverance and your patience that wins. Success, for me, is only brewed for the strong!

What is the inspiration behind The Black Mentality series?

The Black Mentality series brings together the relationship between black resistance and survival. It strives to explain that the mentality of survival can be painful and destructive, as well as inspiring and powerful. It speaks in-depth about the meaning of survival to humans and the extent they will go to achieve it.

Tell us more about The King’s Diary.

The King’s Diary is an ongoing series that attempts to present African women in the light of kingly power; decorated in the regalia of the traditional rulers. The motive is to encourage the acceptance and respect otherwise ascribed to the kings of Africa – and any realm, actually – as a right of the African female, which is depicted in the art pieces. This new light will help see the girl-child in sub-Saharan Africa, and all of Africa, as privileged as the sons, and not doomed to the woes of forbidden education, and early marriage against her will.

Any African artist/creative we should be looking at?

I would recommend you check out Nigerian artist Babajide B Olatunji – @babajideolatunji on Instagram.

Any upcoming events?

I’ll be showing at Art X Africa from 2-4 November 2018. Also I’m starting a new installation project called 1005 Portraits. It’s inspired by my quest and hunger for feminine empowerment. In this project exists 1005 portraits of different women of different races from different countries coming together against feminine denigration. Women sent in pictures of themselves through any of the 1005portraits platforms, along with a caption on what they feel about feminine empowerment. Together, they can collectively have a voice against feminine denigration.




Beauty Editor Alice Coloriti goes graphic to illustrate the bold make-up trend

The super-natural and minimal make-up look is on the out. We still have the light, fresh base, but on the rest of the face, we’re free to play more with colours and shapes. Plenty of beauty brands, such as NYX Professional Makeup @nyxcosmetics_sa, have launched neon eyeshadow palettes, punchy eyeliners, highlighters, glitters and illuminating products. We zoned in on neon orange and yellow to illustrate the trend.


Take a look around Instagram and you’ll see thick sculpted eyebrows, heavy contouring, false eyelashes and paint-job lips. Long before the Kardashians were contouring themselves silly and even triggering a bizarre lip-plumping craze, drag queens had ‘mistressed’ the art of make-up. They’ve been influencing the beauty world for decades and this trend is a clear nod to their dramatic creative approach.


If you keep your foundation natural, you can go wild with colours on your eyes and lips because there’s a good balance. If everything is bold, it can be overwhelming.

It was dubbed the Fenty beauty effect, and over the past few years, many other brands have launched or expanded their foundation lines to include more shades, especially for darker skin. Now MAC Cosmetics is making a big statement of its own. The brand will be offering an additional 18 shades of its best-selling Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 The brand is also offering more shades for the entire Studio Fix Line, as well as additional shades of its concealer and contour palettes. The new Studio Conceal and Correct Palette is a must-buy for every woman with darker skin.

We used NYX Professional Makeup Vivid Brights Eyeliner in Delight once more, but this time we got creative with the shape. The key here is to make it easy and to first draw a guideline that follows your natural eye shape (don’t pull the side of your eye to smooth your skin). Then you can perfect your liner.

This eye colour is a blend of two colours from the new-to-SA brand Makeup Revolution SA Revolution Pro Pigment Pomade Classic Red and Revolution Pro Pigment Pomade Lemon Yellow. Take same amount of each colour and blend them in the palm of your hand, and then apply on the lid. Be creative and play with colours. Start off with primary colours and mix to create your personal colour blend. Their products are good quality and prices are affordable. For the gloss effect, we added MAC Lipglass Clear.

To highlight the face, we used NYX Professional Makeup Bright Idea Illuminating Stick in Rose Petal Pop. Whether you go for a natural look or full highlighting, the areas to highlight are always the same: cheekbones, tip of the nose, cupid’s bow and corners of the eyes.

MAC Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in What A Blast saturates the lips with colour and won’t wipe off easily.

We applied MAC Lipmix in Orange which is a highly pigmented cream that can be used to mix and customise lip colours. It’s great for creating your own unique shade




Beauty Editor Alice Coloriti on healthy, glowing summer skin.

The rich, deep beauty of your dark skin is special, and melanin is what makes all the difference. A pigment that gives your skin its colour, melanin is present in all skin types and colours, but darker skins have more of it. The plus side is that melanin offers you some protection from damaging UV rays, as your extra melanin is what helps absorb and disperse the sun’s rays. But while it does offer a little protection, dark skins can still get sun damage and skin cancer, so it’s important to always use sunscreen.

Be sun wise. When you go into the sun, you produce more melanin and if you don’t use sun protection, you’re prone to getting skin problems like bumps, rashes and dark marks. An excess production of melanin, produced in specialised skin cells called melanocytes, can lead to hyperpigmentation, where patches of skin become darker. There are numerous causes of hyperpigmentation, from post-pimple scarring to a skin condition like eczema.

If you’re worried about hyperpigmentation and other skin conditions, it’s best to make an appointment with a dermatologist who will diagnose and treat your skin accordingly.


As always, the first thing to do is exfoliate your skin. There’s no sense in moisturising your skin if you don’t first remove the layer of dead skin cells. The products will absorb better and hydrate your skin more effectively. I discovered local brand Bee Natural which makes products using pollen, beeswax, raw honey and propolis as their principal ingredients. They’re gentle on the skin and work well, too. I used Bee Natural Honey and Vanilla Body Scrub which is made with all-natural ingredients, including honey, brown sugar and vanilla, that wash away dirt and dead skin cells, leaving your skin polished and smooth. Using a scrub is essential to maintaining and replenishing your skin. But how often you exfoliate depends on your skin type. The oilier your skin, the more regularly you can use a scrub.


I applied the Bee Natural Head to Toe Healing and Beauty Balm. Like the scrub, this balm also contains gentle, natural ingredients that are super-hydrating: beeswax helps to reconstruct the skin and forms a protective barrier, keeping moisture locked in; raw honey opens up the pores so they can be properly cleansed; bee pollen nourishes the skin, keeping it healthy; propolis acts as an antioxidant and healing anti-inflammatory; and finally, cold-pressed avocado oil, which is packed with essential nutrients, conditions the skin.

To protect the skin, I used one of my favourite brands for skincare and sunscreen – Eucerin. Their products are especially good in terms of hydration and the sunscreen products are light in consistency and don’t irritate the skin.

It’s a good idea to use a sunscreen formulated for the face such as Eucerin Sun Creme SPF50+ and a different one for the body like Nivea Sun SPF50.

Nandipha, Kathlego and Kitso, who modelled for us in the sun-kissed body shoot, give us their top five tips to keep skin hydrated and glowing

Nandipha Gumede @blaqjello

Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise! In winter, my skin is forever dry, but I’ve noticed in summer I have a natural glow, so I don’t have to do too much work. After taking a shower, I use unscented coconut oil and it stays locked in.

Always use sunscreen. I know black don’t crack, but I don’t feel like tempting fate. I use sunscreen before applying my foundation and even my foundation has an SPF to keep me protected.

Try not to wear make-up. All right I know I just mentioned foundation, but it’s a good idea to let your skin breathe when you can. So, if I’m not working, I usually don’t wear any make-up, not even mascara. Just clean skin, moisturiser and sunscreen, and I’m good to go.

Drink water. It may sound obvious, but it really works. Drink enough water to keep your skin and
body hydrated.

My last tip is don’t let people make you feel self-conscious. We all have different skin types and skin tones, and what might work for you, may not work for me – and vice versa. If you’re unsure, get advice from a skin specialist. Also, get enough Vitamin D – get out in the sunshine for 15 minutes a day!

Kathlego @katomarley

Exfoliate your skin regularly

Use bathing gloves every day as a light exfoliator.

Give yourself monthly exfoliating body-scrub treatments – I use a mixture of lemon drops, coconut oil and bicarbonate of soda

Drink as much water as you can.

Exercise to keep the blood flowing.

Kitso @kitsokgori

I like to use a shower gel like Sanex which cleanses my skin well.

I follow this up with a nourishing lotion like Nivea Q10 Firming Body Lotion
and Bio-Oil.

I drink water as much as I can and try to eat fresh salads and non-oily meals.

Sunscreen is vital! Even when you’re dark skinned, you need to protect your skin the same as any other skin colour.

Always remove your make-up before you sleep.



Imprint ZA

Luxury African Fashion Brand, Imprint ZA took AFI Cape Town Fashion week by storm with two different runway collections. One of which was in collaboration with Fashion Revolution SA and AFRICA IS NOW Magazine. The collaborative runway show featured original designs from Imprint ZA styled with our signature AFRICA IS NOW white T-shirt. We caught up with Mzukisi Mbane, the designer behind Imprint ZA to find out how he got started and what inspires him.

When did you know you wanted to become a fashion designer and how did you make this dream a reality?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a fashion designer. However, life worked out differently. I went off to varsity and studied a BCom Accounting. It was only when I was in my final year that I decided to take a gap year to explore fashion. I began by playing around with my mom’s old sewing machine. And just like that my dream of becoming a fashion designer came to life.

Any advice for aspiring African designers? 

Stay true to who you are. Most importantly, find out who you are and what statement you want to make with your clothes. Tom Ford says you have to define yourself, and in so doing, ask yourself why would anyone need what you are creating. There is already so much out there, so why would people want to buy your creations.

Where do you go to find inspiration for your work?

I see my brand as a storytelling tool. Celebrating the stories and glamour of our African ancestors with a very modern and futuristic feel. So for me, inspiration comes from understanding who I am, where I am and where I want to be.

How would you describe your brand’s style and how has your style evolved over the years?

It’s an African luxury brand with an Afro-futuristic aesthetic. When I started, it already had its distinct look and feel, but over the years it has grown to be more about a shared African identity rather than just mine as a Xhosa South African man. Today, the brand reveals my understanding of what it means to be African.

What have you learned about African identity through your work? 

Africa is more than its beautiful prints and colours. It’s very rich in culture, history and art, and the beautiful prints and colours are merely symbols of this. Most importantly, Africa has always been and always will be the root that gave life to all. Understanding that has made me able to claim my African identity with such pride and power. My work is limitless.

If you’re not busy working on Imprint, what are you doing?

Chilling with my friends or mostly just catching up on some series.

What’s your favourite hang-out spot in Cape Town? 

I’m tempted to say my studio, but it’s got to be anywhere in the township. Any of these new places that are being created with the aim of rebranding the townships.

If you had to describe your AW18 collection in three words, what would they be?

Our Future Africa.



AFRICA IS NOW went behind the scenes at both South African Menswear Week events this year to take a look at this platform from a whole new perspective.

February saw almost 25 designers showcase their Autumn/Winter collections in the iconic Cape Town City Hall. And July saw our Spring/Summer fashions showcased at the V&A Waterfront.

South African Menswear Week just celebrated its 8th season, and after exploring the backstage and watching from front row, we realised just what makes this platform tick, and what makes it different from the other fashion weeks in South Africa. SAMW is all about passion, and sure, it’s become a little more polished as time has gone on, but it’s still all about that raw discovery and promotion of talent.

SAMW was the first catwalk in SA (and among the first in the world, actually) to showcase a number of consecutive gender-neutral collections. The push by the platform to include more streetwear from South African designers over traditional suiting initially raised eyebrows. But it also showed that as a platform, the dynamic young team, who cut their teeth on platforms such as London Collections Men (now London Fashion Week Men), could see beyond the curve. The young designers, including Rich Mnisi, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Nao Serati, being added each season proved to be another innovation, as they genuinely are the names of the future.

Chatting to the team, we learned they do not believe in competitions (if you’ve wondered why every other fashion week appears to offer some form of competition and they don’t). Head of the platform, Simon Deiner, explains: ‘Design is a business, not a lucky draw. We ensure that the designers have the basics correct and then they are invited to show.’

Backstage the energy between the various teams – many of whom donate their skills and time to the non-profit platform – is electric. The passion can be felt, the enthusiasm seen, and most importantly the combined effort witnessed as each collection makes its way down the catwalk.

Enjoy these photographs, from the print-filled Chulaap through to the current rulers of streetwear Good Good Good, and the intricate tailoring of Tokyo James, we hope you enjoy the efforts of SA MENSWEAR from AW18 and SA MENSWEAR from SS19 in our visual journey backstage at SA Menswear Week.

SA Menswear Week AW 2019: 7-9 February 2019, Cape Town.







AFRICA IS NOW brings you a behind-the-scenes look at the SA Menswear show in February 2018. With exclusive backstage access, Sinjin Sullwald captures some candid moments featuring AW18’s top trends.



Die Darkies

Creative Director Julien Ntamakemwa on how Die Darkies came about and what’s up next.

africa is now magazine

How did Die Darkies start and where did the name come from?

We initially started off as five friends who wanted to create a brand. We struggled to find a name, so we ended up postponing the whole idea. Then one day one of the members suggested we create a group chat titled ‘Die Darkies’ (in the Afrikaans sense, not as in ‘die/death’), after seeing an Instagram caption I had posted. We later decided to run with the name as it was provocative and we knew it would capture people’s attention. We then made it more conceptual by breaking it down. Once broken down to its essence, it actually became Dark Key (Darkie). This was symbolic – you are your own key to success as young black Africans – ‘The dark ones opening their own doors.’

Who are the members of Die Darkies?

I’m the Creative Director and photographer. Prince Mukiza is studying film at AFDA. Gandhi Mukiza is an experienced model who recently worked with Gucci. Kevin Mukena just shot an international KFC advert, and Paradis Munyamana is also a creative director and model. As a collective, we are all able to bring our own perspectives towards the brand. We aspire to grow as a brand and together.

What’s different about your parties?

Our parties initially started off as an alternative nightlife option to what Cape Town had to offer. We’ve never really enjoyed the clubs, mainly because it felt like everyone in those spaces tried to be better than the next person. So with our parties, we’ve mainly focused on not having any VIP sections, and allowing people to bring their own booze. This gives people a chance to socialise with others that they might not usually socialise with because there are no barriers, as well as giving people the freedom to drink whatever they want. We also try to focus on providing our crowds with an experience, exposing them to new sounds, DJs and artists they wouldn’t normally ever come across. But we do mainly focus on Trap (heavy bass hip-hop).

What’s next for Die Darkies?

We have a party coming up on 22 September and it will be slightly different. We will be hosting it at the Youngblood gallery. This party won’t have exactly the original feel of a house party since there won’t be any BYOB, but people will be able to say, ‘I partied in an art gallery last night!’




We sat down with Jean-Luc to find out about his path to creating arresting digital artworks.


Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in rural Rwanda until the age of nine when my family relocated to Cape Town. I’m the youngest of four siblings and I’m currently in my second year studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Information Systems at the University of Western Cape. I also work part-time as a bartender.

How did you start making digital art?

My interest in art began with free-hand sketching, which I pursued for many years but felt that I hadn’t made the kind of progress I could be proud of. I found sketching challenging, which might have been one of the reasons I found it so appealing… or maybe it was a movie I’d seen in the past where there might have been a mention that girls like guys who can sketch.

I was introduced to digital art through BlackBerry mobile applications, namely PicMix and Photo Studio all the way back in 2011/12. I would use these ‘primitive’ applications to compulsively add filters, change contrast and continuously experiment with any and all the features available.

I didn’t start making decent digital art until I owned an Android smartphone. The app which I used and still use to this date is called PicsArt. It was a revolutionary addition to my then minute artistic artillery. With more features, I was able to combine images, download and install fonts, add stickers and all for the pursuit of a greater aesthetic appeal.

In 2017 after my phone got stolen I lost the app and some works of art that I hadn’t backed up – a blemish but it was not the demise of my artistic endeavours. As a countermeasure I finally got Photoshop and with no prior experience with the program, I once again began experimenting with filters, layers and masks. Something clicked, I guess I had found my niche.

What I loved most about creating via Photoshop was that it I did not need to premeditate. All I had to do was sit in front of my laptop and see how far my imagination could go – before it got to 4am! I realised there was so much that I was still oblivious to, so I began downloading and watching tutorials on how to use the program. This basically lead me to where I am today.

What inspires your pieces?

My art is inspired by all that my eyes consume and my somewhat loose imagination. To find inspiration I usually log into my Tumblr account and save pictures that I find aesthetically appealing, provocative or even, on rare occasions, repulsive. At a later stage, I go through these saved photos and more often than not an idea is sparked. My other source of inspiration comes from artists whom I admire like Jean-Michel Basquiat.

What conversations are you hoping to start?

Right now, I’m more focused on making aesthetically pleasing art with the exception of a few

pieces that focus on current political, social and ecological issues. In the future, I’d like to be able to make art that conveys strong messages about different factions of our society, but still make art that provokes emotion whether in the viewer admiring the art piece or via the message behind it.

What influence does social media have on your work and why do you think Instagram is a good platform to promote your work?

What I value most about social media is how easy it makes it for me to connect and interact with likeminded people on a global scale. These interactions allow me to see, appreciate and be inspired by a wide spectrum of art, poetry, memes, current events and even history. I find this exposure highly influential as it offers me my widest window and stage to the rest of the world. Personally, I think Instagram is currently one of the best platforms to promote anything, especially as someone starting out. It has a large community, simple and clean interface, as well as a large number of up-and-coming artists and creatives. It can be seen as a competitive environment where everyone is competing for likes and followers, but the way I see it is that by being exposed to so many people doing and creating one cannot help but be fueled to resist being mediocre and actually start making something.

What are your favourite three accounts to follow on Insta?

*In no particular order*




What do you hope to achieve with your work and where do you see your career going in the future?

I’d like to one day see my art being used as cover art for music albums. I’ve also started doing commissions and in the future, I’d like to have an exhibition in an art gallery and to have my creations become a prominent feature in people’s homes. But most importantly, I’d love it if my art could open wonderful new and spontaneous opportunities such as getting featured in the first-ever issue of AFRICA IS NOW magazine (laughs). Lastly, I would like to collaborate with other artists and creatives.


How does being African influence your work?

The influence that being African has on my work is that I am and will always try to create art that celebrates what it means to be African. Of late my focus has been to celebrate African women by showcasing them as the centers of my work. This is not because I to conform to modern society, but rather to position myself as an expressionist who believes in making a statement against what the contemporary world considers as beautiful. I accept the responsibility that it’s up to African creatives to bring our cultures to the rest of the world in ways that the world has never seen.

Why do you think African representation is important?

African representation now more than ever is of paramount importance in our global society. We, as African creatives, need not conform to Western standards of what African art is, but to rather celebrate the values and cultures that make us a unique people, and use to these aspects fuel our creative minds. We need to learn to appreciate our differences and that the best representation of who we are can only be done by us.

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