Over the last year, I've had the privilege to interview 21 passionate, talented and inspiring people whose vision and work embodies the Afri-love spirit. All of them reminded me of the value in doing what you love. I hope that they've given you encouragement, opened your eyes to new possibilities and that you've discovered new music, art and ideas in the process. My favourite question to ask is, "how does Africa inspire you?" It was a difficult decision but here are 10 of my favourite responses.
"Africa is who I am and it's Africa that raised me – the rest of the world just barely touched me. So everything that flows out of me is Africa – whether its basic components look or do not look overtly or stereotypically African."
— The Design Director of Ihsani Culture, Kenya-based
"Africa is beautiful in ways that see the senses fulfilled. In providing creative inspiration, Africa has no equal and this is reflected quite profoundly in its music. We are inspired by what it means to be African – how we have been spread all over the world but we can still relate to the Motherland and its music."
— Mutsai Musa, Co-founder of Afro-MP3, South Africa-based
(Shown above on the right, next to his Co-founder, Tapiwa Chimboza)
The Dark Continent is actually the beaming light guiding this godforsaken planet. And we as musicians have a (honorable) duty to represent its greatness! And of course I’m inspired by the women … of Africa (the real truth. Everything else was just a futile attempt to sound intelligent)."
— M3NSA, lyrical genius, UK-based
— Phiona Okumu, Afripop! editor and music marketeer, world citizen
"Africa inspires most of my art. I am from Jamaica, but I see Africa every where. The beautiful people, their amazing skin tones, their full lips and thick hair – all of that inspires me. I am inspired by the strength of the people, and I am inspired by their pride and inherent power, and I see royalty in all of them. That is why I paint the images that I paint. African people all over the world have been looked down upon, pushed aside, and their beauty hasn't been appreciated. I want my work to show that we are decendants of royalty, and that inherently we are all kings and queens."
— Tamara Natalie Madden, artist, US-based
"Africa doesn't "inspire" me as though it was some entity apart from myself. It's part of who I am, my upbringing, my past, my future. It's like trying to figure out how my leg inspires me. It doesn't, it's just wholly a part of my being. I do think the influences of my African upbringing are evident in my (hopefully) good taste and dramatic flair, at least when it comes to fashion."
— Lesley, Ododo Originals, US-based
"The one thing (among many) that fascinated me about South Africa was the geography – literally the space and the ways that once-private space is made public, the way that once-non-Black space is reappropriated, and the intricate patterns people form on the streets while queueing for taxis or selling fruits. Some people say it is chaotic but there is something beautiful about it. A lot of folks talk about the overt beauty of Africa – the faces, the animals, the colors; however, I am more inspired and intrigued by finding the beauty in the seemingly chaotic and banal. I continue to look for that which goes unnoticed and disregarded."
— Kameelah Rasheed, photographer, artist, writer, youth educator, US-based
"It is a part of me and my music. It is the origin of so much. I am constantly challenged by its complexity and wowed by its beauty. Africa, to me will always be home. Home is our point of reference and the place where we always come back to replenish our souls."
— Zaki Ibrahim, music maker, South Africa-based
"Africa inspires me in so many different ways, but mostly because I see the vast potential for improvements everywhere. I love the entrepreneurial spirit embodied in the informal sector in just about every city you will visit. This thriving spirit to do for yourself and provide for your family against great odds. I am inspired by the children who will laugh, sing and dance despite having only toys they've made from banana stalk. I am inspired by how youthful the continent is. Over 400 million under the age of 16 and growing up fast in a digital revolution. There's a renaissance coming to the continent, and I am inspired by what that means. I am inspired by the promise of the changing of the guards, in our political elite, as new thinking shoves the old guard "hippo" ranks by the way side and, ushers in impassioned leaders with vision and the gumption to carry them out. I am inspired by this promise and so much more…"
— TMS Ruge, changemaker, US-based
"Africa doesn't inspire me in or by itself. It is part of my evolution and I am part of its evolution and it's that evolving process that I draw inspiration from, from trying to understand its strengths and its weaknesses to try and grasp the wholeness."
— Minna Salami, blogger, UK-based
You can enjoy all 21 interviews here.
(Image credits available on the respective interview posts. )