Meet some of the artists and upstarts we’re tipping for greatness this year

Hello 2017. And hello to this current crop of fresh talent. Nataal is dedicated to showcasing and nurturing the next generation of artists and upstarts, making this list just a snapshot of some of the creatives, troublemakers and hustlers we’re tipping for greatness. Hell, they’re already great. So if you don’t know, get to know. Now.

 
 

Kadara Enyeasi
This young Nigerian photographer studied architecture before turning to creating images that flow between art, fashion and portraiture. Playing with form, space and perspective, he uses the body as “a landscape on whose malleable horizon is the meeting place of light and shadow.” Kadara Enyeasi has shown at the Africa Centre in London, Bozar in Brussels, 
the Triennale Expo in Milan and just closed a solo show at A White Space in Lagos that explored the iconography of orthodox and traditional religions.

 
 

Mitchell Gilbert Messina
Mitchell Gilbert Messina likes a laugh. The South African artist makes installations, performances and sculptures using “the craft of minimal effort” to recreate ironic comments, bad ideas and slapstick moments he’s come across. Born in 1991, he graduated from Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2013 and has since exhibited at major galleries including Stevenson, for which he documented his failed or comic attempts to enter the building, variously dribbling a basket ball, riding a bike and smuggling himself in under a plinth.

Photography Lakin Ogunbanwo

Davidson Obennebo
This 19-year-old Arsenal fan from Nigeria was crowned the Elite Model Look world winner in 2016 – the first African model ever to do so. Davidson has received a two-year contract and now embarks on his journey to make a mark on the fashion industry with his unique and regal look. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of previous Elite Model Look faces such as Cindy Crawford, Gisele Bündchen and Lara Stone, Obennebo modestly says, “a legend is born”.

 

Photography Allyn Gaestel

 

Tito Aderemi-Ibitola
Tito Aderemi-Ibitola’s performances are simultaneously simple and profound. Her use of repetition creates a sense of suspended time, and often compounds her point. When mirroring social truths, the cyclical nature of her work illustrates the on-going realities of the beliefs she is expounding upon. For last year’s Bride Price, she walked through the streets of Lagos, the palm oil of the dowry and the dust of the streets painting patterns on her gown, thereby “opening her worth for all to see… a subversive act to diminish the bride price to extinction.” The multimedia artist has also just completed her first residency in Berlin with SAVVY Contemporary.

 
 

Mariam Hazen and Hend Riad, Reform Studio
Egyptian duo Mariam Hazen and Hend Riad have turned their graduate project – the creation of a sustainable material called Plastex made from discarded plastic bags – into a business. Plastex is strong, durable, water-resistant, and able to tolerate sand and dust. The material has won awards and their studio, Reform, uses it to make colourful, stylish furniture.

 
 

Bankole Oluwafemi, TechCabal
As Africa's tech scene blows up Bankole Oluwafemi is making sure “everyone is invited.” So says the tagline of TechCabal, the digital news site he co-founded and manages as editor-in-chief. It’s become a maiden platform for African IT news, analysis and events. As such, Oluwafemi is now a grand curator for the goings-on of African tech, not to mention a pioneer of digital business media for the continent’s wired future.

 

Virginie Moreira for Vogue Italia

 

Virginie Moreira
Virginie Moreira is one of London’s rising stars of hair. She graduated from Chelsea College of Arts in 2015 where she studied fine art and formed her appreciation of hair as a sculptural medium. Her editorial credits include Vogue Italia, Riposte and Wonderland and she is part of Thiiird magazine collective. Moreira’s collaborated with the likes of Grace Wales Bonner, Lady Leshurr and VV Brown and her gifted handiwork will be seen on an upcoming Nataal shoot too. “I am blessed to be part of such a fruitful network of fellow artists who want to make a difference,” she says. “Especially when it comes to my afro girls. Diversity is the cure.”

 
 

Ola Akande, Dale Orita W2
Ola Akande was inspired by her love of impeccable antique and vintage accessories, as well as all things sensual and macabre, to launch the bespoke brand Dale Orita W2. Having taken time to uncover the mysteries of such bygone objects as cigarette holders, burlesque fans and pocket watches, she went on to work with specialised craftsmen to reimagine future heirlooms for him and for her. These rare and elegant items boast sculptural forms and are made to order from her London atelier.

 
 

Marie-Clementine Dusabejambo
Born in Kigali in 1987, Marie-Clementine Dusabejambo had her first short film, Lyiza, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, which went on to win prizes at festivals around the world. Her successive releases have been as warmly welcomed too. Most recently, her short A Place Of My Own, premiered at the 2016 Zanzibar International Film Festival where it won three awards, then earned a forth at the Carthage Film Festival in Tunis. The powerful story centres on an albino girl who overcomes her outcast status.

 

Photography Deborah Benzaquen

 

Meriem and Zahra Bennani, Jnoun
Sisters Meriem and Zahra Bennani are based between Rabat, Paris and New York and while the former works as a video artist and the later in fashion marketing, they came together to form the Jnoun studio in 2015. Their first project was a collection of unisex, retro futurist clothing were smothered in fractured digital prints of Moroccan landscapes. Their second looked to Rabat’s Joteya electronic souk to inspire their sporty aesthetic. Jnoun also collaborates with artists in each of their three home cities to create films, lookbooks and retail experiences. “We are the generation who is between traditional and future Morocco and technology and digital textures are part of that,” says Meriem. “Our designs have a meaning and a story. It’s about a global way of life and bearing witness to the times we live in.”

 
 

Dope Saint Jude
Fearless rapper Dope Saint Jude challenges gender identity in the male-dominated realm of hip hop. Born in the Cape Flats, an area synonymous with the remnants of Apartheid racial segregation in South Africa, Dope Saint Jude proves that one does not need to conform to get ahead. Instead, she embraces her culture and heritage, using it to inform socially conscious music that reminds us that she’s “radical, magical, fearless and starting a war”.

 

Photography Francis Kokoroko

 

Anna Robertson, Yevu
Sydneysider Anna Robertson went to Accra in 2012 to work in international development and 12 months later came out a fashion entrepreneur. Her socially responsible label Yevu supports a female co-operative of around 30 women by supplying employment, training, health insurance and childcare. It also creates some rather bright and easy clothing from local textiles. Having promoted the brand via pop up shops around the world, Robertson is now focussed on seasonal online sales and has worked with Accra photographer Francis Kokoroko and stylist Daniel Quist on their latest lookbook. See more from Quist on Nataal here.

 

Photography Hanna Hillier

 

Ivan Blackstock
Londoner Ivan Blackstock is pushing the boundaries of hip hop theatre. Both formally and battle trained, the choreographer and artistic director cut his teeth as co-founder of BirdGang Dance Company and his CV now spans West End theatre (Flashdance), pop music (Pet Shop Boys, Rita Ora, Will.I.Am) and major brands (Guinness, Adidas, Sony). Blackstock’s immersive approach to movement incorporates music, film and fashion while fusing breaking with other forms of classical and modern dance. Plus he is dedicated to nurturing new talent and audiences with initiatives including the street culture festival CRXSS PLATFXRM and conceptual brand SWNSNG.

 

Photography Alec McLeish

 

Obongjayar
This art school graduate grew up in Nigeria and is based in London, from where he recently self-released his debut EP Home. On it, Obongyayar’s gravelly voice reflects deeply on the self and society over sparse, bluesy beats. From the loneliness of big city life to acts of shallow activism on social media, his delivery, somewhere between spoken word and soothsaying, introduces Obongjayer as alternative hip hop’s next essential artist.

 

Photography Frank Le Bon

 

Oko Ebombo
Dancer. Singer. Photographer. Director. Poet. Wearer of beautiful suits. Oko Ekombo is one of the most intoxicating voices of our times. Born and based in Paris and travelling between Portland, London, Tokyo and New York for his many projects, the performance artist expresses the extravagance and melancholy of modern life through his work, which ranges from Super 8-made films under his Vizioneer moniker to jazzy music with his band 19. Soaked in woozy saxophones, twinkling keys and spacey guitars, his debut EP Naked Life marks him out as the new Grace Jones. Or perhaps the Black Bowie (as one of his song titles decrees). But you can simply call him Muchacho Junior (his dad’s portrait appears on the record’s cover).

 

Photography Camille Millerand

 

Rama Thiaw
Taking its title from Gil Scott Heron’s Civil Rights Movement song, Rama Thiaw’s The Revolution Won’t Be Televised won critics prizes at both the Berlin Film Festival and Carthage Film Festival in 2016. The powerful documentary follows the Y’en a Marre movement, and rappers Thiat and Kilifeu, as they lead peaceful protests against President Abdoulaye Wade’s unlawful attempts to run in Senegal’s 2011 elections. The Mauritanian and Senegalese director studied economics and film in Paris before making her first documentary, 2009’s Boul Fallé, about the role of traditional wrestling in Dakar. Her next production will continue to focus on the links between cultural advocacy and politics, this time via reggae music.


Compiled by Alassane Sy, Allyn Gaestal, Delphine Diallo, Helen Jennings, Jake Bright, Katie de Klee, Kerri von Geusau, Lakin Ogunbanwo, Melody Micmacher, Sabrina Henry