Julius Agwu is a Nigerian stand-up comedian, actor, singer, and emcee. Agwu is the MD/CEO of Reel Laif Limited music and movie production company. He is also an entertainment consultant, motivational speaker, and producer of comedy shows like Crack Ya Ribs, Laff 4 Christ’s Sake, and Festival of Love.
Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett is a veteran Nigerian actress of stage and screen noted for her vivid portrayal of strong African women. With an acting career spanning more than five decades, she made her debut in 1967 at the UK’s avant garde Royal Court Theatre in London. Trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, City Literary Institute, The Dance Centre, and the Actors’ Studio, London, Ajai-Lycett is a card-carrying member of the British Actors Equity Union.
Her stage credits include Conor Cruise O’ Brien’s Murderous Angels at Dublin Theatre Festival (1971), of which O’Brien said, “rarely has an actress done so much for a part with so little help from the author,” and Ifeoma Fanfunwa’s Hearword! Naija Woman Talk True, the first Nigerian stage play to appear at the American Repertory Theatre. Her film credits include A Warm December, starring and directed by the first Black American Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier; Dazzling Mirage by Tunde Kelani; Roger Ofime’s Oloibiri; Madame President by Patrick Doyle; and most recently King of Boys 2 by Kemi Adetiba. Among Ajai-Lycett’s television credits are the BBC’s “Some Mothers Do ‘Av ‘Em, Crown Court, General Hospital, Frankie Howerd’s History of England; and notable Nigerian TV productions such as Winds Against My Soul, For Better for Worse, The Young Ones, “The Honourable, Eyo Fancy, and Africa Magic’s Tinsel.
Osahon Akpata is an ex-McKinsey consultant who is a writer, producer, banker, and project director of Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty as well as producer of Nollywood in Focus. With 25 years of experience in finance, sales and strategy, he specializes in taking ideas from concept to reality. A published author by age 11, Akpata is a contributor to several magazines and blogs including Vogue Italia, Forbes Africa, Essence Magazine, and others. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Amatullah’Muhyi (Muhyi) Ali is a filmmaker, actress, and show tune enthusiast known for her award-winning film Undefined: A Muslim-American Musical (2017). Cofounder of AfroTwin Productions, a multimedia production company dedicated to diversifying media and highlighting the African diaspora, Ali has traveled the world connecting with filmmakers and creators from varying backgrounds. With AfroTwin Productions, she has been able to create content that reflects the varying communities she belongs to including Bodegas, Spots, & Restaurants, a travel food series that showcases restaurants owned by black and brown people, as well as Always in Bloom, an anthology series covering women’s health and general information. Ali is dedicated to sharing stories, connecting creatives, and maintaining a sense of familiarity through the power of media. Muhyi received her BFA in filmmaking in 2017 and is currently pursuing a masters in fine arts from Howard University in DC.
Mimi Bartels, executive producer of Obara’m (2021), was listed as top Cinema Film Producer by Variety Magazine’s “Women That Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment,” and interviewed by Golden Globes Awards for her film Kambili, where she shared insights on the advancement of Nollywood amidst the challenges presented by the pandemic. She has also received the Eko Star Award, an award given by the Lagos state government recognizing the considerable accomplishments of women in the film and television industry.
With over 14 years of experience in production, film distribution, media, marketing communications, and alternative investments, Bartels currently heads production at FilmOne Entertainment, the largest distribution/production company in West Africa. Prior to this, she was head of accounts for Nollywood and independent films. FilmOne is also home to Warner Bros, Disney, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Empire Entertainment in West Africa, and premium Nollywood content including West Africa’s biggest box office local content movies –King of Boys 1, and The Wedding Party 1&2. Bartels also holds a 2:1 Business Administration degree from Liverpool John Moores University.
Ngaire Blankenberg is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, the nation’s premiere museum devoted to the arts of Africa.
Previously, Blankenberg was a consultant for museums and cultural destinations around the world, finding innovative ways to connect cultural resources to new audiences and reimagining the museums of the future. She has advised clients on concept development, operations and business planning, programming, stakeholder and public engagement, and more. Her recent consulting clients include the National Gallery of Canada, Superblue, Museum and Archive of the Constitution at the Hill (Johannesburg), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, MEG—Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, Olympique de Marseille football club, and other global and local institutions. In addition to her extensive work consulting for museums and cultural heritage sites, Blankenberg is an award-winning TV and documentary producer and director, public speaker, and author.
The Cavemen is a Lagos-based, Afrocentric-influenced band filled with a desire to make the kind of music brothers Kingsley Chukwudi Okorie and Benjamin Chukwudi James grew up listening to. The band brings the sounds of the past into the future—positioning themselves as a bridge between generations—with its genre called Highlife Fusion that combines highlife, afrobeat, jazz, and soul music.
The Critics Company is a filmmaking collective based in Kaduna, Nigeria. Founded in 2015, the company is known for making sci-fi films with mobile phones. Creating magical experiences through film is at the core of every production as time, experiences, thoughts, and feelings are translated using art as a medium. The Critics Company has been able to cross boundaries through different means, ranging from features on internationally recognized platforms like BBC, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, Indie Film Festival, and the art of protest by gestalten, to collaborations with top brands and great minds the likes of Kaspersky, Jacob Jonas The Company, Samsung, and Dan Mace. The collective’s works have received recognitions and awards such as a Webby Award nomination from Nigeria and best short film and best international short film at the African Smartphone International Film festival and Indie Film Fest for Z: The Beginning and Timothee respectively.
After being selected recently as a part of the YouTube Black voices class of 22, we are understanding that the secret to success is in every drop of perseverance you inhabit. We are constantly pushing the boundaries of what be can achieved when you put your mind to it, whether you have a professional camera and an entire film crew or a smartphone, DIY equipment, and a group of like-minded individuals.
Akinola Davies is a BAFTA-nominated and Sundance Award-winning filmmaker and visual artist who explores themes of community, race, spirituality, identity, and gender—telling stories that bridge the gap between traditional and millennial communities. Akinola’s narrative short film Lizard premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and won both the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Blackstar Film Festival Short Film Award. It was also nominated for the 2021 BAFTA for Best British Short Film Award. He was selected for the Berlinale Talents 2020 Collective and was named a Screen Star of Tomorrow in the UK film industry magazine Screen Daily.
Akinola has become a go-to creative in the fashion industry, working with brands such as Gucci, Acne Studios, COS, Moncler, Kenzo, Mulberry, and Louis Vuitton on multiple creative projects in front of and behind the camera. Alongside his work in narrative film and fashion, Akinola has directed music videos for the likes of Neneh Cherry, Kae Tempest, and Blood Orange.
Victor Ehikhamenor is a Nigerian multimedia artist, photographer, and writer. He has been prolific in producing abstract, symbolic, and politically/historically motivated works. A 2020 National Artist-in-Residence at the Neon Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada, Ehikhamenor is also a 2016 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellow. He has held several solo exhibitions, and his works have been included in numerous group exhibitions and biennales, including the 57th Venice Biennale as part of the Nigerian Pavilion (2017), 5th Mediations Biennale in Poznan, Poland (2016), the 12th Dak’art Biennale in Dakar, Senegal (2016), and Biennale Jogja XIII, Indonesia (2015). As a writer, he has published fiction and critical essays with academic journals, magazines, and newspapers around the world. These include the New York Times, Guernica Magazine, BBC, CNN Online, and Washington Post. Ehikhamenor is the founder of Angels and Muse, a thought laboratory dedicated to the promotion and development of contemporary African art and literature in Lagos, Nigeria.
When it comes to live music, Eme and Heteru have earned a well-deserved reputation as compelling, quality musicians and captivating performers. The band’s music effortlessly joins the dots between the celebrated heritages of Nigeria’s Afrobeat, Reggae music and DC’s Hip-Jazz sounds respectively. As Capital Bop (capitalbop.com) noted, “in the supercharged grooves of Eme and Heteru’s large ensemble, the rhythms of West Africa give a hip-swiveling seminar in the roots of jazz, soul, and hip-hop, and the real-time magnetism of Afrobeat.” The band is no stranger to the international stage either, having featured with talents such as Kiara Arby, Haile Roots, Yellowman, and Sister Carole to mention a few.
Obi Emelonye is a passionate UK/Nigerian writer, director, producer and academic with a multidisciplinary approach to filmmaking. He is a member of the premier guild of UK film directors, Directors UK, as well as a member of the British Film Institute and a fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants. Emelonye has brought his pragmatism and adroitness as a lawyer into the chaotic world of film productions and his exploits today bear testimony to his broad experience. Since the early 2000s this visionary British-based Nigerian has quickly gained an enviable reputation as one of the brightest creative minds working within Nigeria’s burgeoning film industry commonly known as Nollywood. Over the last few years, his relentless drive and sense of cinematic style have marked him as a global pioneer for a bold, commercial cinematic identity for Africa.
In addition to his status as a working film director, Obi is presently the head of module and lecturer in filmmaking at the University of Huddersfield, UK.
Boma Iluma is a writer, director, and visual artist who grew up between Abuja, Nigeria, and Atlanta, Georgia. He has strong emotional and familial connections to both places, communities, and histories. Through acting in commercials (Cartoon Network, the NBA) and on the Atlanta theater scene, he cultivated his interest in filmmaking and began directing.
His directorial debut, a visual art piece titled Negus, premiered in Los Angeles art circles in 2019. It foregrounds how Blackness in America involves being actively unseen and violently misunderstood. Heirs, a diverse, Generation Z reimagining of Air Jordans Iluma directed for Nike, premiered in 2020 at New York Fashion Week and was showcased at Jumpman, LA.
Iluma’s narrative short film, Comfort, which was selected in Hillman Grad’s Rising Voices Initiative, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2021 and was acquired by Amazon Prime Video for distribution. He was subsequently handpicked by Roman Coppola to write and direct a segment in the Seven Faces of Jane, an innovative feature weaving together eight different 8- to 12-minute narrative short films. The Nigerian-raised filmmaker has since moved into branded content and commercials, collaborating with brands such as Oakley, the New Yorker, Jeep, and Ford. This summer, Ilium made his television directorial debut on Showtime’s The Chi (episode 505). He is currently developing original TV and film projects.
Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, aka “D’Guvnor,” is a prolific filmmaker who graduated with a degree in theater arts from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He kickstarted his career with the Nigerian Television Authority before venturing into full-time moviemaking and directing his first film at the age of 24. Born in Benin City, Nigeria, Imasuen has a special interest in promoting the Edo language through his films, such as Ikuemiting, Olidara, and Ebuwa, which premiered in Benin City with more than 25 Nollywood stars in attendance. The director of Invasion 1897, he has won numerous local and international awards.
Orire Nwani is a fearless storyteller who is focused on telling authentic stories. He uses his stories to mirror society and shine lights in areas people call gray. He is a multi-award-winning filmmaker who has created over 100 hours of content. Nwani is a fellow of the Multichoice Talent Factory, where he was trained in film directing, screenwriting, channel operations, O.B van production, and broadcast standards. He is a seasoned visual storyteller, with works on Netflix, MTV Base, and Africa Magic Showcase.
Okey Ogunjiofor, aka “The Father of Nollywood,” is a renowned filmmaker, actor, writer, and publisher. His pioneering spirit, partnerships, and release of Living in Bondage (1992) launched the global phenomenon known today as Nollywood. In 1993, Ogunjiofor founded Videosonic Studios Ltd and has remained a force in deciding the direction of an industry that has given Africa a voice, employment to the teeming masses of youths, and Nigeria’s Nollywood a position as the second largest filmmaking industry in the world. He is the founder and president of the African Audio-Visual Awards (TAVA), an annual event that celebrates and rewards outstanding African youths who excel in film, television, music video, and advertising commercials.
Yolanda Okereke is an independent costume designer for film and television, a fashion entrepreneur, and a stylist. Over the years, Okereke has been called the Fashion Engineer, aka The Fixer. She recently represented Nigeria at the Essence Film Festival 2022 in New Orleans.
Okereke, trained as a chemical engineer, returned to her passion for designing and making women’s clothes and now designs and styles for film, theater, and commercials. Her latest design credits include the highly successful Netflix movie Blood Sisters, Castle and Castle (season 2) La Femme Anjola, Movie: King of Boys, The Wedding Party (premiered at TIFF 2016), The Wedding Party 2, The Ghost and the House of Truth, MTV Shuga Season 6, and the much-anticipated Oloture about women trafficking and the world of prostitution in Nigeria.
Okereke’s work can be seen in Nollywood Portraits in the recreation of Genevieve Nnaji’s dress as envisioned by Iké Udé in his portrait of this leading lady.
Tope Oshin is an award-winning filmmaker who has developed, written, directed, and produced some of the most prominent and successful film and TV content from Nigeria, including Up North, The Wedding Party (2), Tinsel, and Castle & Castle. Her extensive creative and impactful work, behind and in front of the camera, in the motion picture industry spans over 25 years.
Oshin is a big fan of using art for advocacy and the power of mass media and culture to affect and change mindsets positively, which is evident in her work over the years with MTV Staying Alive Foundation (show running, directing, and producing the MTV Shuga series), the BBC (Shooting It Like a Woman documentary, which was a follow up to her documentary Amaka’s Kin: The Women Of Nollywood).
Tope has also collaborated closely with organizations such as WIFT Africa, AWIFTEP and Ladima Foundation/Film Academy to train and empower emerging female filmmakers in Africa. She is on the board of UN Live: The Museum for the United Nations.
Currently Deputy Jury Chair of the Nollywood in Hollywood Film Festival, Tope has also been an International Emmy juror for the past eight years. She continues to look for opportunities not just to tell the most engaging stories, but also drive impact and change in any way she can within the scope of her influence.
Torell Shavone is a storyteller dedicated to highlighting authentic stories that feature women and people of color. One of three directors chosen for the HBCU Black Love series produced by Black Love Inc, she currently has a short documentary—”Interview with the Stars”—on view at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
Shavone directed the 2020 music video “Clumsy” which made its world premiere on BET Her, BET Soul, and BET.com and was a key member of the team for the 2020 BET Her Shorts Initiative featuring “The Waiting Room” and “The Couch” series that focused on breast cancer awareness. She is associate producer on the 2019 independent feature “All In” which won the 2019 Audience Award at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and premiered on BET Networks. Shavone has worked for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture where she programmed films for the museum’s state-of-the-art Oprah Winfrey Theater. In 2018, She led the team for the first-ever inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival. She worked as a producer, director, and coordinator of media production for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and wrote “Celebrating Black Women Directors: 11 Sundance Filmmakers You Should Know” for Sundance Institute.
Shavone was on the screening committee for the 2019 Walt Disney Launchpad Shorts Incubator and is currently on the screening committee for the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. She has also moderated film discussions and will be in conversation with the filmmakers and cast for 2022 Tribeca Film Festival’s 25th Anniversary screening of Eve’s Bayou. Shavone has been featured in Deadline, Essence, Ebony, and BET.com.
Known as “The First Lady of African Media,” Chioma Ude is one of Africa’s most successful business leaders and media executives having cofounded Envivo and Lavida Studios, a multimedia digital content delivery system, and created AFRIFF (Africa International Film Festival), for which she still serves as executive director. A serial entrepreneur focused on new opportunities to improve the narrative about Africa, her endeavors are based on her belief that training and empowering young individuals, especially young women, will foster a greater, brighter Africa.
Ude is the first female organizer of a film festival in Nigeria. Under her vision and tireless efforts, the privately funded AFRIFF has grown into the largest film festival in Africa. Going into its 11th year in 2022, AFRIFF has become an important venue on the international festival circuit, attracting an average 30,000 international and domestic participants. Just as important, AFRIFF has trained over 25,000 young adults in film and television through beginner, intermediate, and masterclasses with mentors from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. These classes are provided during festivals free of charge as part of Ude’s mission to empower Africa’s youth and re-establish Africa’s significance as the original birth home of civilization and indeed, the last frontier for unique film stories and content development.
Throughout his career, artist Iké Udé has consistently challenged distinctions between art, performance, and style and has positioned himself at the forefront of each. Udé is perhaps most widely recognized for his performative, often autobiographical, approach to photography, which is typically bold, ironic, playful, and inquisitive.
With the Nollywood Portraits, the artist captures the essence of each of his subjects with the eye of a master painter. A keen student (and critic) of art history, Udé paints with color and light to create portraits that are tweaked to perfection through a keen attention to detail and use of unusually vivid, vibrant colors. Udé’s photographs speak the rich visual language of classical portraiture, while offering a timely discussion about the social and cultural impact of Nollywood. These portraits convey the presence and elegance of those who have made Nigerian cinema what it is today: a globally recognized movie industry that has captured the hearts of fans worldwide.
Lagos-born actor O.C. Ukeje joined the Nigerian TV and movie scene in 2006 after a reality TV show stint. He started out in theater in 2001 and later trained at the New York Film Academy, LA (Diploma in Acting, 2009) and the Relativity School, LA (Certificate Program, 2016). Widely recognized as one of Nigeria’s established actors, he has been featured in films like Ayanda (South Africa), Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria), Gone Too Far (UK), The Arbitration (Nigeria), and Shine Your Eyes (Brazil). He is the recipient of several awards and was selected as one of the Rising Stars at TIFF 2016. He is currently based in Canada, making his foray into the territory. He has a degree Marine Science from the University of Lagos, Nigeria.