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Nigerian Author Uwem Akpan is humbled by Oprah's bookclub pick

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Say you are one of them

Jesuit Priest and , told Reuters he was “humbled” that his debut collection of short stories was chosen by influential U.S. talk show host Winfrey for her .

Oprah picked “” as her 63rd book club selection, the first time she has chosen a book of short stories, saying these stories “left me stunned and profoundly moved.”

Oprah’s book club is the biggest in the world with almost two million online members and books chosen for Oprah’s book club invariably skyrocket to the top of the U.S. bestseller lists.

Akpan studied philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities then studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006.

His story collection was first published last year by Little Brown & Co, which is part of the Hachette Book Group that is owned by French publishing company Largardere.

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TV and Movies

Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman To Play Yasuke, The First Black Samurai

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The popular opinion is that only Asians become samurai. Apparently, there were a few non-Asian samurais in history. However, the person that started it all was Yasuke, the first black samurai. The story of Yasuke has been a secret for a long time. However, that is about to change. Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman, will play the role of Yasuke. According to a report on Deadline, Boseman said,

“The legend of Yasuke is one of history’s best-kept secrets. That’s not just an action movie… That’s a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it.”

Yasuke’s biography

Perhaps, one of the best insights into the personality of Yasuke is through the book by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard. The book is titled “African Samurai: The True Story, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan”. According to the book, Yasuke was taken from his village. Subsequently, he was sent to India to work for the Portuguese. However, he came to Japan in 1579 working as the bodyguard of Alessandro Valignano, a powerful Portuguese Jesuit missionary.

Furthermore, to get favor from warlord Oda Nobunaga, Valignano offered Yasuke as “a weapon bearer and novelty” to Nobunaga. Impressed by Yasuke’s loyalty, Nobunaga gave him a prestigious samurai status. Consequently, as a samurai, he was revered by everyone around him. According to the biographers, “People in the streets did not only gape at him. They bowed, heads to the earth, as they addressed him.” However, there is a slightly different version of the biography according to Deadline.

“Yasuke was a native of Portuguese Mozambique who was brought to Japan as a slave to Jesuit missionaries. [Consequently] the first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke’s arrival aroused the interest of Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord seeking to unite the fractured country under his banner. [However] a complex relationship developed between the two men as Yasuke earned Nobunaga’s friendship, respect—and ultimately, the honour, swords, and title of samurai.”

Movie development

Yasuke is a 16th-century Japanese samurai. However, the talk about the STX film dates back to 2017. Stephen L’Heureux and Mike De Luca were co-producing a movie on Yasuke’s story at that time. According to Deadline, Doug Miro (‘Narcos’ co-creator) was in charge of the script writing.

However, this is not the first time Boseman will be starring in biographical movies. He featured in ‘Get On Up’ (as James Brown), ‘42’ (as Jackie Robinson), and ‘Marshall’ (as Thurgood Marshall). However, fingers are already pointing at Boseman’s next project, ’21 Bridges’. He will be playing a detective hunting down a pair of cop killers. The Black Panther star is already becoming a fan’s favourite.

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TV and Movies

Mama K’s Team 4 Becomes Netflix’s First African Animation Series

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Mama K Team 4

Netflix, the largest streaming network, is working hard to expand its African content. The latest of this drive was announcing ‘Mama K’s Team 4’ as its first original African animated series. Consequently, in a matter of time, the audience around the world will be able to stream the all-girl team of African spies.

Mama K’s Team 4 is an initiative born from Triggerfish Animation Studios’ 2015 Story Lab. The initiative called for the submission of uniquely African animation stories. There were lots of entries to that effect. However, it was Malenga Mulendema and seven others that were winners. Speaking to Quartz Africa, Mulendema said,

“Cartoons were an exciting part of my childhood in Zambia. But, regardless of whether it was the scheduled one hour of cartoon on the local broadcaster or multiple hours, later, on international channels, representational characters were very few and far between.”

Increase in demand for equal representation

On one half, women are calling for equal representation in superhero movies. On the other hand, black superheroes also remain underrepresented. Mulendema recalled how she and her friends would create their own cartoons as kids to fill the gap. Consequently, this became the motivation for her all-women spy team, Mama K’s Team 4.

“Now, like never before, it is so important to have strong female lead characters who are emotionally connected to their world and who can choose to change their world. So to me, selecting an all-female writing team was a natural fit. Because who better to create and connect to those characters than females themselves. In creating a superhero show set in Lusaka, I hope to introduce the world to four strong African girls who save the day in their own fun and crazy way. Most importantly, I want to illustrate that anyone from anywhere can be a superhero.”

A peek into Mama K’s Team 4

The series is a joint production of CAKE (a London-based kids and family entertainment specialist) and Triggerfish Animation (award-winning South Africa-based studio). Mama K’s Team 4 tells the story of fourteen girls living their normal life in neo-futuristic Lusaka, Zambia. A retired secret agent called Mama K with a commitment to save the world recruits them and turns them into spies. Tom van Waveren, CAKE’s CEO and Creative Director said,

“We are [happy] to be partnering with Triggerfish and Netflix on Mama K’s Team 4. A uniquely empowering, but most of all fun project, which brings a fresh perspective to a classic cartoon genre.”

Mama K’s Team 4 on hero duty

Malcolm Wope, a Cape-Town based Cameroonian artist is behind the design of the characters and their world. Perhaps, their outfits draw inspiration from the hip hop and R&B girl group of the ‘90s. Further explaining the impact of the animated series was the vice president of original animation at Netflix, Melissa Cobb. Cobb said,

“In addition to giving African writers a global platform on which to be heard, we are excited to present this powerful and entertaining new animated series that brings Malenga’s incredible and unique vision to life on Netflix. Mama K’s Team 4 has the potential to give a whole new generation of African children the opportunity to see themselves on-screen in the powerful, aspirational characters they look up to.”

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Music

Tiwa Savage Joins Growing Number Of African Artist Signed To Universal Music Group

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There is a popular saying that the end of one journey is the beginning of another. That appears to be the story of the Nigerian music sensation, Tiwa Savage. Earlier this month, she announced she will not be renewing her 7 years contract with Mavin Records. Don Jazzy, the Mavin CEO and record producer confirmed her exit. Consequently, Don Jazzy took to his Instagram page to pen a sensational farewell.

https://www.instagram.com/donjazzy/?utm_source=ig_embed

“Our darling Tiwatope. We at Mavin would like to say a very big thank you for being such an inspiration to all of us, a friend, a sister. It’s been an epic journey with you and we are very proud of what we have achieved together. As you start this new chapter in your life we want you to know that we are solidly behind you and can’t wait for the world to see what we have always believed you can be. Your jersey as the first lady of Mavin will forever be yours as we do not intend to fill that position with anyone else. We love you from the bottom of our hearts and pray God’s blessings to continue to follow you.”

A new beginning for Tiwa Savage?

Tiwa Savage is undoubtedly one of the finest female act in Africa. At the MTV European Music Awards (EMA) in 2018, she became the first African female act to win the Best African Act. In the same year, she also became the first African female musician to sell out London’s Indig02. Few days after her departure from Mavin Records, Tiwa Savage signed a recording deal with Universal Music Group (UMG). Universal Music Group is one of the leading music groups in the world. The exclusive recording agreement gives the Nigerian songstress access to UMG’s distribution tools and infrastructure. Subsequently, her music will reach a wider audience through UMG’s operations in 60 countries around the world.

https://www.instagram.com/tiwasavage/?utm_source=ig_embed

In 2018, UMG acquired one of the largest record labels in East Africa, AI Records. Consequently, they opened an office in Nigeria and Ivory Coast. UMG also has a multi-year licensing agreement with Boomplay, a platform with 5.6 million active users. The Executive Vice President, Market Development, Universal Music Group, Adam Granite said,

“We are looking forward to partnering with Tiwa and her team to help her music reach new audiences around the world. As one of Africa’s most successful, influential and dynamic singer-songwriters, Tiwa has truly global ambitions and UMG is committed to helping her in achieving them.”

Some of the facilitators present at the signing of the new recording agreement between Tiwa Savage and UMG include Efe Ogbeni, Joel Katz, Sir Lucian Grainge (Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Worldwide), Vanessa Amadi (Stealth Management), Adam Granite (Executive Vice President, Market Development at Universal Worldwide), and Sipho Dlamini (Managing Director of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa).

Tiwa Savage signs with UMG in the presence of facilitators

What next?

UMG is an American music company that boasts of artists like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Rihanna. In Africa, the list of musicians signed to UMG includes TXT, Nasty C, and Nadia Nakai. While expressing her excitement, Tiwa Savage revealed her next plan.

“My biggest goal is to make Africa proud. I’m so excited for this moment, and I’m thankful to (UMG CEO|) Sir Lucian Grainge and my new UMG family for their belief in my dreams. I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my career, and I’m more ready than I have ever been.”

Before bringing her act to the center stage, Tiwa Savage has performed as a backup singer for artists like the late George Michael and Mary J. Blige. There is a growing interest of American record labels in Africa. However, Tiwa Savage is the latest to enjoy the accolade.

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