breaking barriers

Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa…20 young African creatives to know

By Joseph Omoh Ndukwu

Posted on January 27, 2023 19:40

The number of African artists and creatives working across the continent and its diaspora is rising. This number includes those doing remarkable work to meet the times, reshaping aesthetics and style, overturning stereotypes, and engaging social and cultural issues across Africa today. We look at the top 20 young creative minds across the continent and beyond.

Ugochukwu Emebiriodo is a Nigerian photographer working in Africa today, creating beautiful and wonderfully affecting photographs in cities around the continent. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where he grew up and currently lives.

Ugochukwu Emebiriodo © Lagos Studio. Shot by: Emebiriodo Ugochukwu © 2021

His photographs show people and the spaces they occupy—beachfronts, streets, markets, bedrooms, clubs, and religious sites. Free of artifice, Emebiriodo’s images evince a love for people and beauty and the sheer art of making photographs.

Regarding his photography, he says, “I initially started taking photographs in order to breathe”. He won the Igby Prize for Photography.

19. Neo Baepi

Neo Baepi (they/them) is a South African photographer living and working in Johannesburg. In their work, they focus largely on portraiture. People are important to their aesthetic and appreciation of the world. For them, it is important that a photograph is intimate, personal, and most important, full of joy.

As they have stated on their website: Joy is a human right. Looking at their bold, effervescent photos, one sees a centering of people in the most undiminished version of themselves. Baepi have received commissions from Netflix, Penguin Random House, Mail and Guardian, and others.

18. Kwaku Yaro

Born in Ghana, Kwaku Yaro is an artist living and working in Labadi, Accra. He has been a practising artist for more than six years, and his works have earned praise from gallery owners and visitors for being original and visually arresting.

I initially started taking photographs in order to breathe.

His works are mixed-media acrylic paintings done on local plastic mats, incorporating traditional materials like burlap sacks, Ghana-Must-Go bags, and strips of cloth.

His work has been shown in exhibitions in Ghana, Nigeria, Dubai and the UK. He believes his work pushes him beyond the limits of his five senses. His works have been shown in exhibitions in Nigeria, Ghana, the UK, and elsewhere.

17. Tony Gum

Starting out taking selfies on Instagram, Tony Gum has gone on to become one of South Africa’s fast-rising photographers, winning the Miami Beach Pulse Prize in 2017. Her photos hold the attention through spare and intelligent composition.

© Black Coca Cola series – Pin Up, by Tony Gum, 2015

The photos employ a blend of minimalist and maximalist techniques. There is usually a singular subject against a background of ample space, but both subject and background are hardly ever plain; they are—through line, or colour, or adornment—infused with character.

She experiments with images, visual representation and composition so that her work approaches the surreal, with deeply personal and sociological underpinnings. Her work has explored her Xhosa heritage, femininity and womanhood, African aesthetics, and Black identity. She is based in Cape Town and has shown her work in South Africa, the US, and elsewhere.

16. William Bakaïmo

William Bakaïmo is a Cameroonian painter born in Maroua, northern Cameroon. His works, characterised by vivid and grotesque-looking imagery, are filled with myth and animistic symbolism. In his paintings, lizards, dogs, ferns, and fronds interact to achieve a visceral effect.

Looking at his paintings, one thinks about the larger meaning of myths in our lives and time, and about the possibilities for personal and societal reinvention contained in such things as dreams, fables, mythologies, and symbols. He obtained a degree in fine arts design in 2015 and has participated in several workshops in and outside of Yaounde, several of them under the aegis of UNICAF.

15. Gideon Appah

Gideon Appah is a Ghanaian artist living and working in Accra. His paintings feature dream landscapes and times that imbue elements of fantasy.

According to his bio, he “prioritises atmosphere and the exploration of memory over faithful reproduction,” lending his works a surreal and expressionist feel.

He is a painter aware of the potency of symbolism and references, and he intelligently deploys them in his paintings, scouted from sources as varied as personal memories, pop culture, film, black portraiture, colonial archives, Western classical art, and religion.

His work has been shown in Accra, New Mexico, New York, Toronto, and has been acquired by the Absa Museum in Johannesburg, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden in Marrakesh, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

14. Winnie Kirabo

Based in Spain, Winnie Kirabo is a Ugandan fashion designer and co-founder of Wyne Kirabo which won the Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards for best emerging African designer in 2022. One of her major objectives is to dress elegant and powerful women.

She believes in the blending of culture, quality, exclusivity and rigour to create exquisite fashion. She studied fashion design and tailoring at the University of Girona, Spain. Wyne Kirabo collaborates with artists, musicians and celebrities for TV shows, celebrity shoots, concerts and festivals, contributing unique aesthetics to the pleasure of art.

13. Emmanuel Ndefo

Dancer, researcher and multimedia artist Emmanuel Ndefo is a Nigerian artist interested in using his curiosity and interest across intersecting art practices to inspire interest in the viewer. He has travelled across Africa, taking his conceptual performances and choreography to inform dance practices and movement-based art in different cities and institutions.

His practice explores masculinity, cultures, movement, space, and the body, especially within the broader contexts of identity, violence, erasure, and aesthetics. Some of his recent projects are Traces of Ecstasy and Moving Between. He has shown his work in several cities in Nigeria and in France, Cape Verde, and elsewhere.

12. Cassi Namoda

© Cassi Namoda

Namoda is a Mozambican artist living in the US. Her dreamlike figurative portraits explore the intricacies and intimacies of everyday life under the spectre of post-colonialism: Her figures cry, embrace, wade into deep waters, and embark on winding paths.

© ‘Little is Enough For Those with Love Mimi Nakupenda’, 2019 (Goodman Gallery)

The Mozambique-born artist, now based between New York and Los Angeles, travelled frequently as a child and mines her own cross-cultural experiences for material.

Namoda studied cinematography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and after her first gallery show in 2017, she quickly gained traction among collectors and curators. She has since exhibited at galleries in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, London, and Johannesburg. Institutions including the Peréz Art Museum in Miami, the MACAAL in Marrakesh, and the Studio Museum in Harlem have all acquired her work for their collections.

11. Sheila Chukwulozie

Sheila Chukwulozie is a performance and multimedia artist from Nigeria. In her work, the body is tensile, elastic, and capable of stretching into different configurations and meanings. She uses her work to think about and question notions surrounding the body, probing mythologies and histories surrounding it to create alternative frameworks of thought and appreciation regarding it.

Her performances and installations have been shown in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Czech Republic and the US. With a background in historical and political analysis, she always attempts to fuse social anthropology with performance.

From August 2017 to August 2018, she travelled as a Thomas J Watson Fellow studying with traditional mask makers and cloth weavers in eight African countries. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

10. Yemi Fagbohungbe

© Yemi Fagbohungbe

“We must always push ourselves to reach higher, to break boundaries,” Yemi Fagbohungbe says about his art. He is a Nigerian sculptor and architect, born and raised in Zaria where he studied architecture at Ahmadu Bello University.

© From ‘Blaque’ exposition in 2021 at Pantheon in Lagos, Nigeria

He sculpts bronze pieces that deploy a highly impressive use of line and form to characterise human qualities such as aspiration, fortitude, mystery, and beauty. In his first solo exhibition Blaque, which showed at Art Pantheon Gallery, Lagos in 2021, he made works which, according to him, he hoped would make the African reach for greatness deep within.

9. Naïla Opiangah

Naïla Opiangah is a painter and writer from Gabon. She was born in Libreville and spent her childhood and adolescence in Gabon. In 2013, she moved to the US where she studied architecture and design at Harold Washington College, Chicago. Her work examines the black female body and draws from personal and communal experiences.

Her visually compelling paintings are situated between figuration and abstraction, and between the literal and the metaphysical. Populated with paintings of Nude Black women, her work occasions deeper inquiry into notions of femininity, identity, intimacy and the Black female experience. Her paintings have been shown in exhibitions at Gallery 1957, Accra, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and elsewhere. She works between Accra and New York City.

© ‘Off the bench 1’, 2021 by Naïla Opiangah

8. Rhoda Tchokokam

Rhoda Tchokokam is a photographer, writer, and art director based in Paris. Her photographs are quiet and subtly lit with diffuse colours. Her understanding of composition, light, tone and shade is nothing short of impressive.

Each image she makes has a meditative quality to it and is a visual representation of an ongoing story deserving of the most patient and thoughtful telling. She has made photographs across Africa and the Caribbean, in Cameroon, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, and elsewhere.

7. Amartei Armar

Amartei Armar is a Ghanaian filmmaker born to a Ghanaian father and an American mother. He found themes of identity, immigration, and belonging both utterly fascinating and conflicting, having spent most of his life moving back and forth between the two countries.

He studied film production at the University of British Columbia, Canada, after which he made his first short film ARC, which screened at several film festivals around the world.

VAGABOND his first film shot in Ghana won the Oscar Qualifying 1st Prize Award in the Short Film World Competition at the Montreal World Film Festival. He is currently based in Ghana, working on his first feature film.

6. Chigozie Obi

After winning the 2021 Access Bank Art X Prize, Chigozie Obi has come to be known to many Nigerians and art lovers around the world as an artist to admire and respect. Her work explores her keen interest in the body, beauty standards, and the striving for self-acceptance. She aims to create sustained conversations about people and society, with a particular focus on how cultural frameworks affect women.

Her work has been shown in Lagos, Los Angeles, Dubai, and elsewhere. Besides the Art X Prize, she is also the winner of the Future Awards Prize for Art (2021) and the Alpine Fellowship Art Prize (2020).

5. Oliver Okolo

Oliver Okolo is a painter and an artist focused on Black portraiture. Gallery 1957 described him “as one of the most exciting artists working out of Nigeria today and is a central figure in a new vanguard whose portrayal of Black people in confident and assertive gaze, challenges and dismantles negative racial constructs and knowledge systems”.

He uses charcoal and paints to create his self-possessed portraits. His work recasts western classical art styles with a distinctly African aesthetic.

© ‘Orange isn’t blue’ by Oliver Okolo, 2022

There is in his paintings an unmistakable echo of history. This is so because he stays in meaningful conversation with the artists and styles of the previous centuries, and because he realises the great importance of history in properly telling the story of Africans. His work has been exhibited at the British Council, the CFHill, Art Space, Stockholm, and at Gallery 1957, Accra.

4. Emma Prempeh

Emma Prempeh is a British artist of Ghanaian and Vincentian heritage based in London. Her work examines themes of selfhood, identity, heritage, family, and personal and communal histories. The tonal properties of her paintings enjoy warm, darkened earthy tones with a strong presence of blackness.

Prempeh also experiments with still and moving imagery to push the boundaries of what her work can be and accomplish, steering audiences toward greater experiential vistas. She studied at Goldsmiths University of London, graduating in 2019 and winning the Alumno/Space bursary award for 2020.

She won 1st place for the Ingram Collection Purchase Prize and became a participating artist in Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019.

She recently studied for an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art under the Leverhulme Trust Arts Scholarship, winning the Valerie Beston Trust Arts award for 2022.

3. Dawit Seto

Dawit Seto is an Ethiopian contemporary dancer and choreographer. He completed an artist’s residency in choreography at Cité des arts, France and holds a diploma in dance from Ecole des Sables, Senegal.


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Dawit’s work pioneers the study of movement language within Ethiopia’s extensive traditional dance archive. With his ongoing creative research practice, Movement Vocab, he develops a new dance technique informed by the traditional and historical background of Ethiopian culture. Dawit is a co-founder of Contemporary Nights, organising events showcasing the works of emerging and established artists in and around Addis Ababa.

He collaborates with Addis Guzo, a non-profit providing mobility aid for people living with disabilities. He co-directs movement for life, a contemporary dance training programme for the physically disabled.

2. Adaeze Okaro

Adaeze Okaro is a photographer born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria. Her photographs feature beautiful and poignantly framed photos of Black men and women.


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With each photograph she takes, she leaves cultural traces of her origin. She has been inspired by family photo albums and by the aesthetics of the Nigerian film industry Nollywood. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Getty Images, and more.

1. Katungulu Mwendwa

Katungulu Mwendwa is a Kenyan designer working out of Nairobi. She is the founder of Katush, an indigenous fashion brand blending modern techniques, innovative fabrics and traditional styles to create simple and sophisticated designs.

Her clothes are timeless, casual and semi-formal wear fit for any season. In 2012, just after founding Katush, she showed her designs at the New York Fashion Week. According to her website, Katush designs are made in Africa for the confident, reflective, self-aware global citizen who values quality, versatility and sustainability.

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