Meet the Nigerian Creatives Taking Over the World

Nigeria is already the most populous black nation in the world—and now, thanks to a formidable cast of creatives in art, fashion, music, and literature, Nigeria is on track to be one of the most influential. Just take stock of the expats who are seemingly everywhere these days—the acclaimed Brooklyn-based Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole, for instance; or Jimmy Ayeni, Anthony Oye, and Ola Badiru, the designers of the London-based streetwear brand Vivendii, who collaborated with Off-White and Nike on a limited-edition jersey for the Nigerian soccer team; or the very talented UK-based photographer Ruth Ossai, who took these stunning pictures. Meet the global Nigerian diaspora, here.

Game Changers
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Self-belief is no culture’s monopoly, but talk to Nigerian creatives and you might be convinced otherwise. Here, the writer and journalist Chike Frankie Edozien (far left), whose recent memoir, Lives of Great Men, ruminates on what it means to be a gay Nigerian man today, stands beside the artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze (in pink), with Elizabeth Ayodele, Olivia Anakwe, and Imade Ogbewi, all models (standing, from left). In the front row are (from left) the writer Akwaeke Emezi, who identifies as ogbanje—a gender-ambiguous spirit that arrives from outside one’s lineage and inhabits the body—the photographer Ruth Ossai, and the talent agent Michael Rotimi.

Edozien wears Missoni trousers with his own clothing and sneakers. Onyinyechi Amanze wears a Givenchy dress; Sophie Buhai earrings. Ayodele wears a Versace coat and shirt; Loewe skirt and boots. Anakwe wears Balenciaga. Ogbewi wears a Salvatore Ferragamo dress; Versace shirtdress. Emezi wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC jacket, skirt, and shoes; Akris sweater; Emezi’s own jewelry. Ossai wears an Yves Salomon trench; Gucci dress; Miu Miu shoes. Rotimi wears a Martine Rose sweater and pants; Adidas sneakers.

Pop Swagger

For the past 10 years, Nigerian pop has surged across Africa and the world; the trend has empowered Nigerian diaspora artists too. For the rapper, songwriter, and producer Jidenna (above), who was raised outside of Boston, “it’s a liberating evolution.“

Jidenna wears a Loro Piana cape; his own shirt, pants, and jewelry.

Pop Swagger
Photograph by Ruth Ossai; Styled by Jason Rider.

Ogbewi wears a Salvatore Ferragamo dress and shoes; Versace shirtdress. Anakwe wears Balenciaga.

Fashion Forward

Nigerian designers, like Mowalola Ogunlesi (left) and Kenneth Ize, channel sexual ambiguity, street life, and local subcultures with their clothes.

Ogunlesi wears clothing and boots of her own design. Ize wears signature pieces from his spring 2019 collection.

Graphic Punch

Walé Oyéjidé (middle), the lawyer turned designer behind the label Ikiré Jones, whose lavish work appeared in the movie Black Panther, believes that “clothing is a vehicle to talk about culture.”

Ogbewi, Oyéjidé, and Ayodele (from left) wear suits from Ikiré Jones. Ogbewi wears a Missoni shirt; Kathleen Whitaker earrings; Alumnae shoes. Oyéjidé wears his own jeans, glasses, jewelry, and boots. Ayodele wears Erdem shoes.

Lagos Nights

The model Daberechi (left) and London-based Akinola Davies Jr., who is also known as Crackstevens, an emerging art, music, and fashion star, with a recent project for Kenzo, a video for Devonté Hynes, and his own art film, Boot/Leg, on the street culture of counterfeit fashion.

Daberechi wears Prada clothing and Manolo Blahnik boots. Davies wears his own Ozwald Boateng suit and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello sunglasses.

Easy Street

London’s Nigerian-influenced streetwear brand Vivendii, started in 2011 by Jimmy Ayeni, Anthony Oye, and Ola Badiru (from left), collaborated this year with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Nike on a limited-edition jersey for the Nigerian soccer team.

Ayeni wears a Vivendii top; Marni suit; Bunney choker; his own necklace and sandals. Oye wears a Vivendii shirt; Craig Green trousers; Ambush necklaces; Alexander McQueen boots; his own sunglasses. Badiru wears a Vivendii shirt; Alexander McQueen coveralls; Ambush jewelry; Bunney bracelet and signet ring; Falke socks; Marni sneakers.

Triple Threat

From left: The writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation and Speak No Evil, and director of the African Center, in New York; the writer and video artist Zina Saro-Wiwa; the critic and writer Teju Cole, who trains a meditative eye on Lagos in his novel Every Day Is for the Thief, first published in the U.S. in 2014.

Iweala wears a Paul Smith suit; Brioni shirt; Falke socks; his own shoes. Saro-Wiwa wears a Busayo dress; Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. earrings; her own shoes. Cole wears an Hermès suit; Brioni sweater; his own glasses, pin, and shoes.