Fall 2023

Culture in Motion

– Amarachi Nwosu

Exploring Africa’s creative economy through words and images.

This photograph delves into the history of slavery and the symbolic journey toward reclamation. It centers on Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, a powerful emblem of this history. The series aims to kindle understanding and awareness among generations, acknowledging that while the past cannot be altered, visual narratives possess the capacity to ignite and enlighten the minds that will carve the future. Models include Ekow Barnes, Terry Frimpong, and Briggitte Appiah.
[ { "title": "Temple (SANKOFA), 2018", "location": "Cape Coast, Ghana", "photographer": "Amarachi Nwosu as part of the 'Sankofa' series" } ]

Africa is not just the cradle of humanity, it's the birthplace of creativity and innovation. From ancient Egypt and Nubia to the impact of the modern-day Afrobeats scene, Africa has always been a continent where people have been using their imaginations to express and create. The African creative economy is a vibrant and growing sector that is having growing influence on the continent and in the world. From the filmmakers behind Lionheart and The Burial of Kojo to producers and artists creating music genres like Afrobeats and amapiano to fashion designers like Thebe Magugu and Adebayo Oke-Lawal, African creatives are using their talents to tell stories about their experiences, challenge stereotypes, and connect with audiences near and far. Despite the structural and economic challenges that many African creatives face, this new wave of artists is creating their own pathways and represent the epitome of DIY.

Media & Entertainment

Left: This photograph showcases Joey Lit, a fashion designer and co-founder of the streetwear label Free the Youth. Standing amidst a clothing line in his hometown, the image encapsulates it's roots in Tema and his artistic journey, symbolizing the importance of acknowledging one's origins. Joey Lit employs streetwear as a means of empowerment for African youth, channeling liberation through his innovative designs. Top right: Here we see Amaarae, a notable singer and songwriter in Ghana, in a bustling Accra market. It embodies the vital concept of reconnecting with one's roots in order to forge ahead (also known as “sankofa”).The image pays tribute to how Ghanaian artists are reaffirming and empowering themselves through their creative expressions. Amaarae employs music as a potent tool to redefine perceptions of African identity and womanhood on a global scale. Bottom right: Captured as part of the "Ghana is Now" series, this photo portrays Prince Gyasi in Jamestown. It symbolizes the essence of independence and freedom within the creative spirit. The image celebrates how Ghanaian artists are reasserting and emboldening themselves through their artistic expressions. Prince Gyasi, a prominent visual artist in Ghana, employs color and texture to eloquently convey his rich cultural heritage.
[ { "title": "Independence/Roots/Boundless, 2018", "location": "Jamestown - Accra, Ghana", "photographer": "Amarachi Nwosu as part of the 'Ghana is Now' series" } ]

African media is undergoing a unique transformation. Social media and digital platforms are giving a voice to African storytellers and challenging how the West has projected African lives and narratives for generations. African creatives are using digital tools and the power of community to shape their future, largely on their own terms. They are creating their own platforms, distributing their own content, and building their own audiences. This is a new way of doing things—and it’s having a profound impact on Africa’s creative economy.

When it comes to African creativity, film and visual storytelling has played a major role. In recent years, there has been a surge of critically-acclaimed and commercially successful African films, music, and stories. These films have captured the attention of global audiences and have helped to make Africa a major center of creative production.

Film & Literature

Taken on the film set of The Ones Who Keep Walking, starring musician and dancer Kamo Mphela, this photograph captures the genesis of a groundbreaking project aimed at celebrating African creative expression. Serving as a pioneering narrative, the film seeks to encapsulate the richness and variety of African creativity across more than 10 countries in a feature-length presentation.
[ { "title": "The Ones Who, 2021", "location": "Johannesburg, South Africa", "photographer": "Austin Malema" } ]

From actors to film directors, painters to photographers, visual artists have been a major catalyst in reimagining the way the continent is projected to the world. However, literary artists set the tone for the reimagination we are now experiencing. Nigerian novelists like Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have built worlds in their novels and catapulted African stories, helping a new generation of creators take human moments and turn them into cinematic and visual magic.

As a storyteller myself, and the founder of a creative studio called Melanin Unscripted, literature played a role in the making of my film The Ones Who Keep Walking. This collaboration brought together more than 20 leading African voices with crews across the continent, and the diaspora of more than 250 people. But it is film that has been key in changing perspectives, and giving Africans opportunities to excel behind and in front of the cameras, making authentic African stories that are commercially viable and some of the most exciting in the world. For example, the film The Ones Who Keep Walking reached 37.5 million people, with about 3.6 million viewers, and contributed to a 23% sales growth of the Johnnie Walker brand in Africa. It also generated 5.2 million hours spent with the brand and 191.9 million linear TV impacts.


Left: Within the confines of a Brooklyn photo studio, these images were taken to synchronize with the launch of Davido's album, A Good Time. Each photograph portrays Davido in a realm of creative expression; the controlled environment of the studio allows the focus to solely rest on Davido's dynamic presence and the artistry behind his album. As garments styled by Alexander Julian drape his form, they become an extension of his individuality and the musical voyage encapsulated within his album. Right: As the curtains drew on ARISE Fashion Week, the unparalleled Wizkid set the stage ablaze with fire and ice. The event celebrated the progression of African design over the years, and ARISE’s role in championing musical and design talents from across the continent and beyond. Photo by Michael Agherese.
[{"title": "A Good Time, 2019","location": "Brooklyn, New York","photographer": "Kofi Duah"},{"title": "Wizkid for Arise Fashion Week, 2023","location": "Lagos, Nigeria","photographer": "Michael Agherese"}]

African music is another area where creativity is thriving: musicians are fusing traditional sounds with modern innovations, creating fresh and exciting sounds that are resonating globally. Genres like Afrobeat, founded by music pioneer Fela Kuti, have continued to reinvent itself with each generation, giving birth to subgenres like Afro-fusion, Afro-house, and Afro-R&B. Whether scrolling through TikTok, reading the Billboard Hot 100, or listening to the radio, it's hard not to hear music either inspired by Africa or from African artists like Burna Boy, Davido, Rema, Tiwa Savage, Amaarae or Tems. While Afrobeats from Nigeria and Ghana continue to lead the pack, South African genres like amapiano are setting a new tone and expanding their reach. This genre, which is characterized by its catchy melodies, heavy basslines, and rapid tempo, is led by DJ’s like Uncle Waffles and Major League. 

Left: Among the favorites from the “Pick Up” cover shots, the image elegantly captures Tiwa Savage, engrossed in conversation on the phone. Photo by Michael Agherese. Right: Captured in the vibrant city of Accra, Ghana, this photograph features the talented Amaarae adorned in the exquisite creations of African clothing brand, Daily Paper. The image finds its significance in its association with the release of her highly anticipated LP, The Angel You Don't Know. This snapshot not only showcases Amaarae's distinctive style, but also symbolizes the blossoming of her artistic identity, making it a visual ode to her musical artistry.
[ { "title": "In Bloom, 2020", "location": "Accra, Ghana", "photographer": "Amarachi Nwosu" }, { "title": "Tiwa Savage, “Pick Up” single cover, 2023", "location": "Lagos, Nigeria", "photographer": "Michael Agherese" } ]

From Afrobeats to highlife to soukous, African music is diverse and represents ever-evolving genres that are sure to continue to grow in popularity. African music also expands beyond Afrobeats and amapiano with other genres like gqom, Kwaito, and African hip-hop.


Michael Agherese also known as MWTv featuring Ruby Okoro for Natal Media which explores the concept of African utopia. The two photos contrast the past and the future, confronting the past to heal from traumas, while opening ourselves to endless future growth possibilities. They both are anchored in our capacity to lead communal lives.
[ { "title": "A Visit from Time, 2022", "location": "Surulere - Lagos, Nigeria", "photographer": "Michael Agherese" } ]

The expansion of African music has elevated fashion as an extension of creative expression. African designers are using their talents to showcase the continent's rich cultural heritage, while also incorporating modern trends, resulting in a unique and stylish aesthetic in both high-end fashion and streetwear that’s also gaining attention worldwide.

Top: This photograph features Joey Lit, a fashion designer and co-founder of streetwear label Free the Youth, along with founding members Shace and Kelly, and collaborators Prince and Skillz. Here they sit together in joy and laughter in their hometown of Tema, Ghana. Bottom: This snapshot of camaraderie symbolizes their humble beginnings and the foundations on which they built their path to becoming a globally recognized brand. It's a representation of their journey, evolution, and the powerful message of liberation for African youth through their streetwear design and creative expression.
[ { "title": "Humble Beginnings (Free the Youth), 2018", "location": "Tema, Ghana", "photographer": "Amarachi Nwosu as part of the 'Ghana is Now' series" } ]

What makes African streetwear unique is the way in which brands like Free the Youth have been able to create, collaborate, and distribute independently without waiting for industry gatekeepers. In addition, fashion weeks in Lagos have created significant opportunities for designers and artists who are helping them break ground and get the attention of global buyers.

Left: Trevor Stuurman stands at the intersection of visual artistry and South African entertainment, a burgeoning luminary making waves in the creative scene. This captivating portrait, lensed by Tshego (@harmonixent) in 2021, encapsulates his vibrant presence and magnetic confidence. Against a backdrop of cultural significance, Trevor dons a striking ensemble of Africana attire, symbolizing a deep-rooted connection to his heritage. His grasp on a Mamiya medium format camera exudes his prowess not only as a subject but also as an artist who captures life's essence through his lens. This image offers a glimpse into Trevor Stuurman's multidimensional persona, hinting at the captivating narratives he continually weaves within the tapestry of South African creativity. Middle: Backstage at the Tongoro fashion show in Senegal, 2021. This photo, captured by Trevor Stuurman, captures the magic of the Tongoro fashion show, a celebration of African culture and creativity that was launched in 2016 by designer Sarah Diouf. The model is beautiful, wearing a stunning zebra print dress against a rustic backdrop. It is a reminder of the power of fashion to bring people together and celebrate culture. Right: In this photo captured by Trevor Stuurman, Manthe Ribane channels the powerful and majestic spirit of Mama Panther. The black panther is a symbol of strength, power, and resilience, and this photo perfectly captures those qualities. Ribane wears a bold African print and strikes a pose that is confident and commanding, even though we don't see her eyes. The tie-dye background is blue, adding to the photo's sense of power and drama. Manthe Ribane is an Afrofuturist artist, performer, and musician based in South Africa.
[{"title": "Trevor Stuurman, 2021","location": "Johannesburg, South Africa","photographer": "Trevor Stuurman"},{"title": "Mama Panther, 2017","location": "Johannesburg, South Africa","photographer": "Trevor Stuurman"},{"title": "Tongoro, 2021","location": "Dakar, Senegal","photographer": "Trevor Stuurman"}]

Fashion has also played a major role in elevating photographers and visual artists on the continent. For example, the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition "Africa Fashion" featured the work of Nigerian photographer Stephen Tayo, South African visual artist Trevor Stuurman, and Somali-Ethiopian self-portraitist Gouled Ahmed. These artists are using their work to explore the intersection of fashion, identity, and culture and the exhibition was so successful in London that it will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum this fall. This has also helped photographers like Trevor Stuurman take his visual work a step further, and launch his own creative studio and magazine, Manor Africa.


Captured on the film set of Rise in Light, which features model Alton Mason, this photograph marks the inception of a powerful project. The film's release gave birth to the Rise in Light youth-focused initiative by Melanin Unscripted, which subsequently raised $11,000 for COVID-19 relief efforts in the Makoko Slums of Lagos, Nigeria.    
[ { "title": "Rise in Light, 2018", "location": "Tarkwa Bay, Lagos, Nigeria", "photographer": "Amarachi Nwosu" } ]

The growth of the African creative economy is also driving and being driven by tourism. Africa’s rich history and culture, along with the many stunning natural landscapes to explore, has been a major motivating factor. In recent years, there has been a surge in tourism to places like Ghana and Kenya which helps boost the creative economy across West and East Africa. “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” was a major catalyst for thousands of first-generation African and African Americans visiting the continent for the first time. Concertgoers packed out festivals like Afrochella (now AfroFuture) and Afro Nation, generating millions of dollars in tourism revenue. The growing interest of the diaspora investing in Africa has also been a gateway to building bridges that have the potential to shape the world. Kenya is following suit and recently launched their own tourism initiative making it visa-free for the African diaspora living in America.

Right: Inspired by the men of Rusinga Island on Lake Victoria who are primarily fishermen, this image captures a unique phenomenon. Often seen in oversized suits, especially on Sundays as they head to church or gather around the nearby town center. We sought to recreate this charming tradition through photographs with my collective, Urban Pitchaz, on their boats. Middle: Among my favorites from Urban Pitchaz, this image represents the people living along Lake Victoria. Donkeys play an integral role in their lives, ferrying water from the lake to their homes, transporting construction materials, and even serving as a mode of transportation. Despite technological advancements, the community still values this traditional means of movement. Left: A candid portrait of my friend Deu, taken in our old neighborhood. Photographing and styling my friends has become a way to bond with them and I aim to capture their personalities in each image.
[ { "title": "Fella Suti (Men in Suits), 2019", "location": "Rusinga Island, Kenya", "photographer": "Edwin Maina" }, { "title": "Jo-Nam (People of the Lake), 2021", "location": "Lake Victoria, Kenya ", "photographer": "Edwin Maina" }, { "title": "Deu, 2019", "location": "Nairobi, Kenya ", "photographer": "Edwin Maina" } ]

Tourism is also helping to create new opportunities for African creatives and artisans to sell their work and services to tourists and international investors who often leave with souvenirs from their trips. While all very different, West Africa, South Africa, and East Africa are all benefiting from the creative expression coming out of their regions. 

West Africa is known for its vibrant music scene, with genres like Afrobeats and highlife, while South Africa is a melting pot of cultures, reflectivein its creative scene and expression coming from fashion and dance. East Africa is home to some of the continent's most stunning natural landscapes, which is reflected in creatives using these backdrops as their canvas of expression.


The Samburu people, pastoralists in north-central Kenya, hold strong to their rich culture and heritage. In this image, an elder is applying red ochre, on the bridegroom's mother's neck to symbolize her new beginning. Adorning themselves with vibrant beaded necklaces and bracelets, the Samburu people proudly pass down their unique traditions from generation to generation.
[ {"title": "Samburu Wedding, 2019", "location": "Samburu, Kenya", "photographer": "Edwin Maina"} ]

The African creative economy is not just a force for change—it's a whirlwind of inspiration and innovation, rewriting the narrative of an entire continent! From telling authentic stories to connecting with global audiences, today’s creative class is making waves far beyond its borders, leaving an undeniable mark on the world. The rise of the African creative economy shows no signs of slowing down.The share of African CCIs [culture and creative industries] accounts for $4.2 billion in revenues and employs about half a million people. But it needs continued investment and support to truly soar.

[ { "title": "Close Encounters (SANKOFA), 2018", "location": "Cape Coast, Ghana", "photographer": "Amarachi Nwosu as part of the 'Sankofa' series" } ]

There are challenges that need to be addressed for the African creative economy to reach its full potential. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of physical and safe spaces for creatives to work and collaborate, as well as funding opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs to build sustainably. In the end, the African creative economy is more than a movement; it is a profound testament to the spirit of our people. As we harness our collective brilliance, we illuminate the path toward a brighter, more connected, and thriving future for Africa–and the world.