Ikenna Azuike keeping you hip with ‘What’s Up Africa’

IkennaEnchanting is the word I would use to describe Ikenna Azuike’s entertaining video blog, What’s Up Africa (produced by Radio Netherlands Worldwide). When it comes to seeking knowledge about Africa, your average news channel is likely to only highlight some of the unfortunate struggles that Africa faces today.

Photo credit: www.karimalo.com

Few people actually know about the heavy metal following in Botswana, or the fact that the Harlem Shake is really based off an Ethiopian dance called the Eskista. It’s also unlikely that your favorite news broadcaster will dress up in a crazy costume to present the corruption of an African President, let alone refer to the Pope as “pimpin”.

Ikenna Azuike, however, makes all of this possible by hilariously presenting African news and popular culture on his show. The finance lawyer turned African socio-political commentator is branding Africa one “vlog” at a time. In an interview with Ikenna, I got to discuss with him everything from his views on censorship in Africa, to where he gets his style inspiration. When I asked Ikenna what kind of brand he wants to give Africa, he simply responded “I’m trying to represent an accurate picture of the continent, a more balanced picture than the one that Western media portrays”.  While Ikenna uses his show to alleviate the very real and unfortunate stigma associated with Africa, he uses humor and satire as way of connecting with his audience of young Africans and people interested in African issues, news, art, media and culture.

Whats up Africa

Hannah Elansary: What do you want your audience to learn from your show?

Ikenna Azuike:  I want them to feel surprised and I also want them to feel a sense of community in the sense that my blog is trying to reflect a new and balanced image of a continent that is misrepresented by lots of traditional western media. There are a lot of young Africans that are frustrated by that and so I hope they feel like there is someone out there trying to correct that.

Photo credit: Facebook.com/whatsupafrica  

Hannah Elansary: One of ONE’s missions is eradicating poverty and preventable diseases in Africa- do you use your show as a platform for advocacy?

Ikenna Azuike: Yeah I guess I do. It’s really satirical-one inspiration for my show is The Daily Show. I might focus on, for instance, the show “Are There No African Hospitals” which focuses on African politicians and European politicians who go outside of their own country to get medical attention and they do this because money is not being spent locally on improving hospitals. Often, through corruption or lack of resources, money doesn’t end up there.

Hannah Elansary: Why do you think it is important for people to learn about African political and pop culture news?

Ikenna Azuike: Because it’s awesome! There is so much going on. The entire continent is booming-economically, technologically, creatively.  It’s just where it’s at, you know? So I think if you don’t get involved now and you don’t start learning more about the continent, A) you’re missing out on a bunch of fun and interesting opportunities, but B) you’re gonna get left behind!

Check out Ikenna’s What’s Up Africa show on Youtube!

Hannah Elansary: Why is it personally important for you to post these videos? What does it mean to you?

Ikenna Azuike: It means a lot. The videos have allowed me, in a way, to reconnect with my roots and feel like I’m really doing something relevant. I used to be a lawyer and it was interesting and challenging and all that good stuff and it paid really well, but it wasn’t fulfilling. And now I feel like I am doing something relevant that matters because people are surprised and blogs [that you wouldn’t expect to see anything about Africa on] write about the stuff that I highlight.

Hannah Elansary: Do you feel like there is a certain extent of censorship in Africa not allowing young Africans to express themselves or talk openly about their political viewpoints?

Unfortunately yes, that’s the case. It’s getting better, for instance in Uganda you can say the freedom of expression in the media is fairly free with some restrictions. So, through the show when I dress up in an outfit or I play a character, I can use humor to say a lot of things that can’t be said locally but, when I do it here [from Amsterdam], it’s okay –or at least I think it’s okay!

Hannah Elansary: You also talk about African artists and popular culture in the region, who are your favorite African music artists?

Ikenna Azuike: Oh man, I don’t really have a favorite artist in general. Well there is this one shangaan electro song from South Africa and it’s by a local producer called Nozinja and its called “Nwa Gezani My Love” – it’s just awesome! But I can’t pick out just one artist because every day I’m picking out new songs and every trip that I make to west or east Africa I discover new artists.

Hannah Elansary: How would you describe your style?

Ikenna Azuike: A little eccentric at times with bow ties and braces and then sometimes I do the painful hipster looks. I enjoy fashion blogs like I See A Different You by a South African guy and there are some very cool African fashion blogs on Tumblr so I get my inspiration from there.

Hannah Elansary: You’re originally from Nigera, do you get to travel back there and experience African news and popular culture first hand?

Ikenna Azuike: Yeah fairly often, later this year I’ll be going to Rwanda for the film festival there and after that it will either be Zimbabwe or south Sudan so wait and see!

Hannah Elansary: Any exciting news for the show in 2013?

Ikenna Azuike: I’m going to collaborate with local talents, like how on The Daily Show how they have correspondents. There is this really talented comedian in Uganda that I am working and talking with and there will be a Nigerian video blogger who will be doing something. Collaboration is the word for 2013!

In the words of Ikenna, don’t get left behind and check out his video blogs on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/IkennaAzuike (he posts an episode every Monday) and follow Ikenna on Twitter @WhatsUpAfrica and Facebook www.facebook.com/whatsupafrica  for updates!