By Apinke Eyo
The idea of celebrating Africa and African greatness resonates with me now more than ever before. It is a time of self-awareness, which I suspect has come with age, and the fact that the global village is being forced to accept, allow and acknowledge the fact that the world has many different colors. Differing shades make our world more vibrant and beautiful.
For me there is a strong internal push to celebrate myself and the people of a continent that is most often known for its incompetence, corruption and impoverished people. The OPTG weekend event, held May 21-22 in Silver Spring, Maryland, was the perfect opportunity to do just that. It was a celebration of the good in Africa: the talent, creativity, beauty and resilience of its people. It was a weekend to celebrate on our terms, dance to our music, tell our stories and push ourselves to strive after the highest standards.
It is a great time to be alive and relevant in your own space this was the message from creatives like Afromysterics founder Laolu Senbanjo, artist Victor Ekpuk, humor blogger Awesomely Luvvie, Nigerian Nostaglia Project founder Etim Eyo, and African themed comic book E.X.O designer Roye Okupe; as well as authors Adichie, Kilanko, and Campbell-Fatoki.
These were just a few of the folks representing an Africa that we want, they show us that it can be done in the midst of struggle with diligence and dedication, and that despair and desperation do not last forever. They told stories of a better today and sung of the hope for a better tomorrow, one that our children will inherit as people from the cradle of humankind.
An Africa that will be known for the good that comes out of it.
This weekend I speak of was the launch of an awesome two-day event called Our Paths to Greatness or OPTG. Organized by OPTG founder, creative, and author Adenike (Nike) Campbell-Fatoki, Campbell-Fatoki made it her mission to organize an out of the ordinary gala commemorating a fusion of African and African diaspora talent, innovation, fashion, and art to be celebrated and be used as a think tank to move the continent forward.
There were many panel discussions at the two-day rainy weekend event. The one that stuck out for me included Roye Okupe creator of E.X.O comic book and video and Adamu Waziri of Bino and Fino fame who joined via Skype. According to You Neek Studios, E.X.O has been featured on “CNN, Forbes, BBC and more, E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams Part One is a science fiction superhero comic (graphic novel) about redemption, set in a futuristic, 2025 Africa!” Bino and Fino has been called “Nigeria’s answer to Nickelodeon” and is an African produced TV series.
Okupe and Waziri’s panel made me realize the potential that lies within all of us. They spoke of similar struggles; funding or the lack thereof and crowdfunding, rejections, people who wanted them to modify their characters so they would not be so “African” and thus appeal to the already established norm. They spoke about staying true to your vision and the cost of not fitting into someone else’s norm.
The gala on Sunday took place with the weather still rainy, but trust, us African people with a theme like “Wear Your Africa” we still came out to show all our African fashion and style. It was a complete celebration of the arts and boy was I glad to be there.
The evening opened up with spoken word artist Jason Nkwain whose tales of his land moved you to snap, hmm, click or ooh and aah. His way with words provoked and moved the audience, he was followed by the singing and dancing duo of Tobi and Tobi ( Zenas) Okanlawon.
The singing was a perfect accompaniment to the strong, fluid steps that spoke a language of strength and steps that come from a place deep in mother earth. The monologues took you back to the story Thread of Gold Beads and it was exciting to connect the characters to
All together it was a fun-filled weekend and being there was certainly a blessing.
We must not forget that although we want to highlight the good about our continent there is something intrinsically valuable and necessary about giving back. Nike Campbell-Fatoki wants to provide greater access to clean water in Makoko. Nicknamed by some as the “Venice of Africa,” Makoko is a slum neighborhood located in Lagos, Nigeria, a village surrounded by water, but the one borehole Makoko is currently depending on, is not enough.
Fatoki wants to change the lives of about 500,000 people by reactivating a borehole treatment plant in this community. In her own words: “I met with the Baale [Village Chief] last year and he tabled many needs – building health centers a recycle center…but they have only one water source for the whole community. We plan to build 10 more, so inhabitants don’t have to go far out.” The gala raised $1,065 out of a goal of $5,568. To make your donation you can find more information here.