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Eddie Murphy is “Coming 2 America” in some standout African designs

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In a scene from Coming 2 America, the much-anticipated sequel to the 1988 cult classic, Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem paces about his palatial home, wondering what to do about his recently-discovered son. He wears a colorful, patterned knitted vest, lending the king of the fictional African country Zamunda an assured look, despite his worried demeanor.

Murphy’s vest is one of the first items South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo ever showed to the world. He created it in 2010, as part of the launch of his label Maxhosa. Ngxokolo’s designs have roots in the fashion of young Xhosa men in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province—he started out creating pieces for initiates as something stylish and functional to wear when they left their hallowed initiation ceremony. A decade later, Ngxokolo’s designs are a main feature of the wardrobe of Coming 2 Americaout today on Amazon Prime.

Although it’s set in a fictional African country, the film has relied on real designers to allow for better representation of the continent on screen. Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter enlisted Ngxokolo to join her team and help create the looks for Murphy’s return to America, along with almost 40 other designers, ranging from India to Nigeria.

In collaborating with Nxgokolo, Carter has added an element of authenticity to a film with a pretty fantastical storyline. She’s done it before: Carter earned her Oscar for dressing the inhabitants of another fictional African country, Wakanda, in Black Panther.




Carter inherited the reins of costume design for the movie from Deborah Nadoolman Landis. The award-winning designer behind films such as Blues Brothers and Raiders of the Lost Ark designed all the costumes for the original film herself.

Directed by Nadoolman’s husband, John Landis, the outfits for Coming to America mashed everyday styles from Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, and Senegal, with European influences, like the aesthetics of 1950s Dior, to create a deliberately over-the-top effect. The outfits are a big part of the film’s enduring appeal, and earned Nadoolman an Oscar nomination in 1989. Carter, who is friends with Nadoolman, has described the look created for the original film as “iconic,” but says she’s going a step forward this time.

“Hats off to Deborah for coming up with the original plan,” Carter has said. “But things have evolved. Looking back, they kind of had an imperialistic idea of royalty. It was a blend of English and African royalty.”

Carter’s choice of direction for the new film’s costumes don’t just reflect contemporary norms. They’re an illustration of the changing perceptions of African fashion on screen. By tapping into the work of designers like Ngxokolo, she is accessing the global success of African fashion, which gives the film an edge over its prequel.

As an example, in the first film, the character of King Joffe, played by James Earl Jones, enters a barbershop wearing the taxidermied head of a lion draped across his chest. In Coming 2 America, a respectfully sized lion, rendered in gold, rests on the shoulder Murphy, now king. It’s a reflection of the understated elegance a brand like Maxhosa seeks to define, and reflects less of the “curio” side of African fashion.

Carter first reached out to Nxgokolo in mid-2019, he recalls. “She said, ‘I think your approach to pioneering the African aesthetic is so unique and different. I want to do something with you, I will call you when I’m ready.’” By then, Nxgokolo had built Maxhosa Africa into a brand beloved by South African and international celebrities. Alicia Keys and Beyonce were fans, and his designs had been displayed in the Smithsonian Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

A month later Carter called Nxgokolo back, asking him to help kit out the Prince Akeem’s royal court.

Nxgokolo tells Quartz that the team began with some of his existing designs, including the 2010 vest. It was one of the first five items Nxgokolo created for his label, born out of a university thesis project using knitwear to showcase Xhosa beadwork patterns and symbolism.

QUANTRELL D. COLBERT/2020 PARAMOUNT PICTURES South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha has a break-out role in Coming 2 America as Mirembe, the love interest of King Akeem’s son.

A majority of the other items featured in the film—about 100 or so pieces, including waistcoats, kufis (brimless caps), and tunics—were “designed with Ruth from scratch,” Nxgokolo says. “They then paired the looks with the actors, from the dancers to the house staff,” as well as fellow South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha, who has a break-out role in the film as Mirembe, the love interest of King Akeem’s son. “The ideas of the first film were the predictable ideas that the world has of African fashion,” says Nxgokolo. “This one has more innovation.”

Innovation has driven Nxgokolo’s work from the start, and is what he credits for his ability to cater for a specific demographic in South Africa and reach a wider audience at the same time. Maxhosa staged its virtual Spring/Summer 2021 collection at New York Fashion Week (the brand’s third NYFW collection) in September last year. Despite a season dampened by the pandemic, the brand managed to create a buzz with a YouTube video showing the collection. More than half of the 300,000 people who watched the video were from the US, Ngxokolo says.

The US makes up Maxhosa Africa’s second biggest market—in part due to his digital media savvy, and a boost he got after being listed by Beyonce in her Black Parade guide to Black-owned businesses last year. But Nxgokolo is still very much focussed on growth in Africa, and is working to position Maxhosa as a luxury brand, and on using fashion to help uplift the economy. Last year, he opened his second flagship store in Cape Town’s upmarket Victoria Wharf shopping centre. Gucci and Mont Blanc are neighbors. While their physical stores were impacted by the pandemic, Maxhosa online sales exploded, and he has doubled his staff to deal with the influx of orders.

Nxgokolo has also been working with DJ Black Coffee and artist Nelson Makomo, both South African, to open an academy for budding creatives. Should Murphy ever return to Zamunda again, there will be plenty more regal African designs for him to wear.

Culled from Quartz Africa

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  • Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy star in COMING 2 AMERICA Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert © 2020 Paramount Pictures

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Africa

Prominent LGBTQ Activist Edwin Chiloba Found Dead in Metal Box

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Police in Kenya are investigating whether the LGBTQ rights activist and fashion designer Edwin Chiloba was murdered in a hate crime.

The decomposing body of Chiloba, who had spoken of being attacked in the past, was found in a metal box by the side of road near the town of Eldoret on Wednesday and identified a day later. A moto-taxi driver reported seeing the metal box being dumped by men in a car with no license plates, according to the BBC.

Chiloba has spoken out for gay rights in Kenya, where sex between men is illegal and punishable by 14 years’ prison time. The country’s LGBTQ community, largely suppressed, spoke out against the murder. “Words cannot even explain how we as a community are feeling right now,” the organization Galck+ posted on Twitter. “Another soul lost due to hate. You will be missed.”

Police have not revealed how Chiloba was murdered or how long his body had been in the box before the grim discovery. He last posted on his verified Instagram account on Dec. 29, when he wished his supporters happy holidays.

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Education

Houston mourns the loss of academic and community leader, Dr. David Egbo Ugwu

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Greater Houston and Houston African community suffered an unexpected end-of-year loss when the death of Dr. David Ugwu (Ochi na wata) was recently announced. Academic and community leader Dr. Ugwu died on December 23, 2022, in Houston, leaving behind, his lovely wife, Dr. Patricia Ugwu, and four Children; Chiugo, Adaeze, Oguejiofor (Reggie), Brady Ugwu, (daughter in-law) and Chidiebere (of the blessed memory).

Until his stroke in 2010, he was the Coordinator, Systems Workforce Research Projects, at the Houston Community College (HCC) District – a position he held since 2004. At the HCC, Dr. Ugwu also served as the Assistant to the Chancellor for Institutional Effectiveness and Special Projects, Director of the Office of Institutional Research, and Assistant to the President for Institutional Research, Planning, Institutional Effectiveness, and Grant, Galveston College.

He holds a Ph.D in Higher Education, from the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, majoring in Higher Educational Administration; an M.B.A from the Governors State University, University Park, Illinois; an M.S.: Mechanical Engineering, from the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; and a B.S.: in Chemical Engineering, from the Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan.

A Seasoned administrator with over 17 years of effective leadership in four community college districts in three states including Texas, Dr. Ugwu paraded a strong engineering background, a record of accomplishment in resource development, and an extensive background in economic workforce intelligence.

For instance, he was the Plant and Project Engineer, at Union Carbide Corporation, Linde Division, at East Chicago Indiana; Research Assistant, Mechanical Engineering and Energy Processes, Coal Research Center, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; Director of Institutional Research and Grants at the Arizona Western College; and the Director, Institutional Planning and Research, at the Lorain County Community College, Elyria, Ohio.

In his years of service, Dr. Ugwu won several academic awards, facilitated several professional organizations, published several outstanding research papers, and championed selected publications and presentations.

Dr. Ugwu was born in Akegbe Ugwu to the family of Enyidiuru Ugwunwamba in Umuatugbuoma, Akegbe Ugwu, Enugu, Nigeria. He was strongly involved in his community organizations and devoted much time to community empowerment and humanitarian causes. Some of the groups are:

  • Founding President, Nkanu Association, Houston Texas
  • Past President, Houston Enugu State Association (HESO),
  • Board Chairman Emeritus, Igbo People’s Congress (IPC)
  • Member, Uzoakoli Methodist College Old Boys Association, USA
  • Member, Black Affairs Council, Southern Illinois Association
  • President, Umunna Association, Chicago, Illinois

Furthermore, he was a member of Nigerian Student Association, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale Illinois, and the Otu Umunna Association, Gary Indiana where he received a Distinguished Service Award in recognition of Exceptional Leadership and Devoted Service to the organization and its community.

According to a release made available by the Ugwu Family, a funeral arrangement is as follows. A church service will be held in his honor on January 7, 2023, at the Hope Church 770 Pineloch Drive Houston, TX 77062 at noon prompt. Viewing starts at 10:00 am -12:00 pm. Burial service will be held at Forest Park East: 21620 Gulf Freeway, Webster, TX 77598 at 1:30 pm. Reception and Tribute to follow at Hope Church.

For condolence messages or information regarding the funeral, please contact: patricia.ugwu@gmail.com

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Books

New Book: A Shred of Fear—A Memoir

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A Shred of Fear is Uche Nwokedi’s memoir of childhood capturing the experiences of a child living through the Biafran War. “It is written in a fluid and wonderfully evocative prose and reads as though one were literally listening to the narration from an eight-year old boy, accompanied by his much older self. This gives the story a certain sincerity that allows it to transcend time and remain relevant.”

  • Book Title: A Shred of Fear
  • Author: Uche Nwokedi
  • Publisher: ‎ Narrative Landscape Press (October 15, 2022)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Hardcover: ‎ 236 pages

The Book

Fifty years after the Biafran War ended in 1970, and as memories of the war fade and cultural, religious and tribal divisions rear their heads, Uche Nwokedi’s childhood memories of that time are presented in this memoir. Aged seven when the war began, he and his family would spend the next three years as refugees in their own country. A Shred of Fear brings dramatic events vividly to life. Moments of fear, sadness, tragedy, and family solidarity are told with pathos and humour. More than a war story, this compelling narrative shines a fearless light on a dark period.

 

The Author

Nwokedi is also the creator and producer of the successful and nominated M-Net Africa Magic legal TV drama series, “E.V.E: Audi Alteram Partem”. He contributes opinion on a number of socio-political issues to some of the national dailies in Nigeria. With a keen interest in sports and sports development, he is a third-degree Black Belt in Shotokan Karate and was President of the Karate Federation of Nigeria from 2001 -2005.

  • Order this book from Nigeria: >>>
  • Order this book from Amazon: >>>

In his day job, Uche Nwokedi is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and one of Nigeria’s leading commercial lawyers, who specializes in commercial litigation and international commercial arbitration. He has been described as a ‘calm and extremely persuasive advocate’ (Legal 500, Euromoney’s Guide to the World’s leading Energy and Natural Resources Lawyers). He is the Editor-In Chief and Publisher of Nigerian Oil and Gas Cases, a compendium of oil and gas case laws in Nigeria.

A Shred of Fear is Nwokedi’s memoir of a period in his childhood that captures the experiences of a child living through a war – the Biafran War. It is written in a fluid and wonderfully evocative prose and reads as though one were literally listening to the narration from an eight-year old boy, accompanied by his much older self. This gives the story a certain sincerity that allows it to transcend time and remain relevant. It also strikes a fine balance between heartwarming and utterly tragic in a way that allows the reader to imagine the privations of life during the time of a war, and the struggle to reconcile when the war is over.

Uche Nwokedi is married with three children. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria, where he carries on his legal practice under the name and style of Uche Nwokedi & Co.

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