As Nollywood’s business continues to boom, so does Adesua Etomi’s career. The popular actress, now 29, hails from Owerri, Nigeria and is the child of a soldier and a civil engineer. She took to acting at a young age, opting to join her elementary school’s drama club at seven years old.
When LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen began to rope in U.S. audiences with Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle (an evolution of Jimmy Fallon’s late night segment), it was bound to go international. Lip Sync Battle Africa, one of nearly 15 global spinoffs, is recorded in Johannesburg with star hosts of their own: Denrele Edun and hometown representative, Pearl Thusi. Thusi, nicknamed “The Real Black Pearl,” is an actress, model, radio and TV personality who calls KwaNdengezi in Durban, South African home.
As hard as it is to imagine, one of television and film’s fastest rising darlings originally had no interest in acting. As a child, the native New Yorker, born to an African-American mother and a Senegalese father who later separated, participated in school plays from time to time, but hardly qualifies that as formal training.
Uzo Aduba, born Uzoamaka Aduba in Medfield, Mass., is proud of her name, but she is even more proud of the rich culture that bestowed it. Uzoamaka comes from the Igbo word for “the road is good.” On numerous occasions, the all-around theater talent has talked about how she had to outgrow the discomfort that came with peers trying to pronounce and make sense of her “complicated” name, a distinctive mark of her Nigerian heritage.
Kay Oyegun’s relatives can spin a tale like you wouldn’t believe. The L.A.-born filmmaker credits the family who surrounded her while growing up in Nigeria for instilling a knack for storytelling. Crafting tales that twist and tug at the emotions is simply in her DNA.
For South African actress, humanitarian, producer and spokesmodel, Nomzamo Mbatha, the pursuit of happiness is everything. What she loves most about her job (or many jobs, rather) is knowing that she is following her true passions, which are storytelling and assisting those in need.
Being dubbed “the Shonda Rhimes of Ghana,” is a weighty accolade, but Nicole Amarteifio is eager to measure up to the honor. The self-taught TV producer and director has made waves locally and abroad with her work. Born in Accra, her family fled for London when she was three months old amid a series of political coups and relocated to Westchester, New York when she was six. While Amarteifio, now 35, studied African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and earned her Master’s degree in corporate communications and public relations from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., she technically had no formal training in television. In fact, she took a job with the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in 2010, coordinating Africa-focused social-media campaigns.
Keep an eye out for Idil Ibrahim. The award-winning Somali-American filmmaker, 37, was born in California and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, where she works as a producer at the documentary film company, redfitz. Creativity runs in Ibrahim’s bloodline. Her father is a musician, her mother loves music and poetry, her uncle was a popular singer in Somalia and her maternal grandmother did intricate craftwork. She also draws creative inspiration from poets who taught her emotions she never knew she had, painters whose works make her look at things differently, filmmakers who create films that absorb her and writers whose books transport her to places she has never been.
African storytelling, whether by literature, art or TV and film, is on a visible upswing. Consider Wanuri Kahiu an integral part of that movement. Born and bred in Nairobi, Kenya, Kahiu grew up surrounded by women who actively pursued happiness. As a result, it is her passion to make sure Africans are accurately represented as successful, joy-filled and abundant. The 36-year-old UCLA Film School graduate creative considers herself not only a long-time filmmaker, but an Afrobubblegum-ist. AFROBUBBLEGUM, a manifestation of that joy within her, is her multi-medium platform centered around creating, curating and collecting art in all its forms. Specifically, AFROBUBBLEGUM showcases African art that is vibrant, lighthearted and without a political agenda.
Tope Oshin loves creating tangible worlds that elicit strong emotions, both for a living and for fun. The 37-year-old director, producer and casting director, mentored by filmmaking behemoths Amaka Igwe and Ava Duvernay, ultimately believes that there is always a better place to be. Her connection with art is a way to bring about that change day by day, frame by frame. By her own admission, she was born an artist and grew up looking for expression for all of the art within her. Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Oshin toyed around with many branches of the creative tree (painting, drawing, designing clothes, acting) before settling on filmmaking in her late 20s. She went on to study Filmmaking Methodologies at Colorado Film School in Denver and Theatre Arts, TV and Film at Lagos State University in Ojo, Lagos.