Award-winning scotch whisky label, Johnnie Walker is committed to the spirit of progress and moving forward which is embodied in the tagline: Keep Walking.
This motto has graced billboards and bottles worldwide but there are few standout individuals that live by it. Johnnie Walker in collaboration with Trace Africa actively sought out to find these individuals taking bold steps for a big purpose in Africa which led to the Keep Walking: Africa Top 30 list. These Top 30 individuals are the next-gen go-getters, the creatives that challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what could be. These Top 30 are taking Africa to the world, one step at a time, through music, fashion, art, film and media. Let’s meet the Top 30 walking on the bold side of Africa.
Kenyan fashion designer, Junior Orina, took his first steps to combat hazardous waste created by the fast fashion industry by starting an apparel business that stands for sustainability. The streetwear company, Nairobi Apparel District, makes use of up-cycled sustainable fabrics which in turn promotes environmental action as well as African designs and designers. As Junior ex.plains, “A couple of years ago, street-wear stalls opened around the city with clothing from Europe and China. None of these shops stocked Kenyan-owned clothing. There are only a handful of Kenyan-owned streetwear brands in Kenya so we are united by our mutual love for streetwear and sustainability. We decided to do it for the culture to test if we can create a community based approach to Kenyan fashion.” Junior’s curiosity led to one small step of change and then towards greatness.
Not far away, another fashion designer is on a similar journey in Zambia. Enter Mainga Sanderson, an artist captivating the world with his African essence. As he tells about his label Vitenge Ni Vatu, “VNV is more than just a fashion brand to me it’s the very essence of a young African daydreamer seeing the world through the eyes of African print, captured and saved in the gallery of my mind creating the very core fibres of my back-bone reminding me of my path home, who I am … to me Vitenge Ni Vatu is an opportunity for me to touch and reach out to as many people as I can as I endeavour to inspire the very best in people. VNV is a daily reminder to dare to dream.”
Daring to dream is the catalyst of change as Mainga has so eloquently shown. From Zambia to New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week and beyond; Mainga is making an entrance and his strides are inspiring others to do the same.
Inspiration can take you so far but sup.port and collaboration with other people can take you further. This is the core belief of Rwandan musician, Ish Kevin. When talking about the production values on his album Trappish II, Ish tells us that he finds strength in collaboration. “In Rwanda, a producer can produce a song for you but he doesn’t want any other producer to touch it,” he explains. “But when we came, we were like, ‘Yo why can’t three, producers or even four work on one song and we make a hit together?’ On my latest EP, Trappish II, each song has at least three producers on it, at least three or four.” Collaboration leads to larger reach and of course bolder steps towards fresher directions.
Speaking of fresh, Angola-born musician, Pongo approached her career from a brand-new direction. After a challenging start in life, Pongo escaped her home country with a broken leg and landed in Portugal. While seeking physiotherapy for her leg in Portugal, Pongo would get off at the train station in Queluz, a diverse neighbourhood where many African immigrants lived. It was there that she saw the kuduro dance group Denon Squad performing on the street. When her injury healed, she began dancing with the group, then rapping. This led to Pongo’s reinvention of her.self as a solo artist in Lisbon. Her music speaks to overcoming several struggles while blending frenetic African rhythms with blaring techno beats and rapping. Change is constant in Pongo’s world but she navigates it one step at a time and by doing so, inadvertently shows the unbreakable spirit of Africa and Af.ricans to the world.