W Magazine Spotlights Nigeria, briefly hinting that all that glitters is not gold

featuring Jidenna, Teju Cole, Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Daberechi and others

W, American fashion magazine published by Condé Nast Inc., owners of Pitchfork and Vogue amongst others, debuted a remarkable feature story yesterday. Written by Siddhartha Mitter, it is titled “The World Is Witnessing Nigeria’s Creative Golden Age”.

“But let’s be real: Nigeria is also a mess,” Mitter writes with appropriate bite. The article succeeds in first, painting a hall of fame of Nigerians who have internationally excelled through the global acclaim of their creative product/service, before finding a middle ground to briefly illustrate the true happenings of the country.

There’s no contesting that many Nigerians have creatively crafted their culture and beautifully presented it to the world, but until such creativity begins to translate into a substantial benefit (economically and socio-politically) for the development of the country and its peoples, we can then declare a golden age. Opinion leaders like Ayo Sogunro, Olutimehin Adegbeye, KingWole on Twitter and others, will relentlessly argue the same. Mitter however, rightfully acknowledges this in her article. By so doing, Mitter guides readers to also recognize that all that glitters —through the beautiful images taken by Ruth Ossai, the palatable words Mitter used to illustrate the works of creatives in the industry, and the features from Daberechi, Jidenna, Jimmy Ayeni, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Elnathan John and others— is not gold.

Many of Nigeria’s elite winning class wine and dine in the success of this creative global influence that the country as a whole is supposedly earning. But in spite of this delicious narrative that “the world is witnessing Nigeria’s creative Golden age”, as the article headline says, Nigerians are also witnessing a lot of exploitation by their own people (and by foreigners) who eat portions of food that could feed and profit many more Nigerians. The elites retain their status by profiting even more from said article, which puts more spotlight on them. But Africans at large have long complained about how the Western media illuminates only the doom of the continent through images of poverty stricken children and slums. So perhaps, this feature is one in many starlights that the country needs to progress.

However, a headline appropriate to the feature’s true write-up is the working title, which is revealed in the article’s reader view and URL, “Meet the Nigerian Artists, Musicians, and Designers Taking Over the World”. Because lets be real: that is what it is. Nigerians who are making a name for themselves by charmingly exporting the culture in different forms.

Nevertheless, there are people like Lola Shoneyin, the founder of Aké literature festival, who is actively looking towards sustainable development for the country through her “vibrant institution” as the article calls it and several others, whom the article also features. One of the major takeaways is this: “Nigeria succeeds in spite of itself, and that’s what’s great about it,” said by the writer, Shoneyin.

The article is a referential one and makes for an interesting read. More features and personalities spoken about include, Duro Olowu, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Skepta, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and others.

Here’s a direct link to the article by Journalist and consultant, Siddhartha Mitter and many more colourful images by uk-based Nigerian photographer, Ruth Ossai, who is known for her portrait and studio photography that empowers Nigerian communities.

Featured Image Credit: Ruth Ossai for W Magazine
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Fisayo is a journalist in search of words. Tweet at her @fisvyo

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