We are weeks into the tournament and somehow we are still talking about Nigeria’s World Cup Collection. No need to roll your eyes though as this is not another discussion on style and fashion. Instead, we’re here to highlight the greater significance of Nike’s project through the newfound interest and awareness it has generated for a nation and continent that stems well beyond the world of soccer.

It was only right for Nike to link up with OkayAfrica, a news and media platform that celebrates all facets of African culture for a North American audience. A few weeks ago, the two threw a Nigeria pre-World Cup watch party in Brooklyn as an opportunity to leverage the hype around this collection with all the work that OkayAfrica has done and continues to do.
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The whole project is enlightening to anyone. For me specifically, who has grown so used to hearing and seeing all the negative and unfortunate things about Africa, it is refreshing to finally be exposed to a new image that celebrates the vibrancy of a culture in spite of all this adversity. I am thankful that soccer now serves as a conduit to Africa’s art, music, food, and culture, however, I realize that the beauty of this continent was always there for me if I had only looked for it.

OkayAfrica remains committed to this work, and we were lucky to have spent time with them where they spoke at length on how the World Cup has reinvigorated this effort to showcase Africa not just to a diaspora community, but to the world. Read our full interview with OkayAfrica’s Director of Events/Activations Sinat Giwa, with Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hislop chiming in below.


Can you tell us about how you/OkayAfrica and Nike connected for the project?
We’d been planning events for World Cup 2018 for a while now, knowing that it was a key moment for our community of Africans globally. Once we knew the five African countries that would be making it to the World Cup – Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia – we began to plan around ways to reach the parts of our community that represent each country respectively. Nike approached us about activating around the Nigeria team kits because of our strong connection to the Nigerian Diaspora community, especially in New York. We knew that this event would not only be a pivotal moment for our core sports audience globally but that this collaboration would underscore how big of a moment these kits would be for Nigerian culture.

Why did Nike’s Naija campaign resonate with you specifically and why is it important to OkayAfrica?
The campaign resonated because of its focus on the culture of soccer and how that extends outside of the game. The campaign was about our culture (a portion of our team that worked on the project is Nigerian). The game is central, but the players, the community rallying, the music, the art, and the fashion surrounding the games have always been just as exciting for OkayAfrica to highlight. It’s what we do.

Can you give us a brief on the creative concept behind the event – bringing in the IG photographers, including music in the mix, etc?
We had the idea to bring a Nigerian party 3.0 to life with a series of wonderful partnerships with dope creatives, movers, and shakers in our community. This was an opportunity to once again leverage our incredible relationships to underscore a pivotal moment. We wanted to create a proper Naija shindig with food, roaming photography and of course JAMS, as music is the framework on which OkayAfrica was built. As for musical talent, Moniki came through with the Afro-Brazilian vibes to remind us that Africans are worldwide and of the connections between Brazil and Nigeria. Moma is one of the best to ever do it, so we had to have him there, and Tunez is the top Nigerian DJ Worldwide – no question. Getting Burna Boy in the mix was incepted way back when we heard his latest project “Outside,” so when the opportunity to add him as a surprise performer came, we knew this was the perfect moment. Having Izzy Odigie solo dancing on the stage, the guys with fresh “Naija” and OkayAfrica logo haircuts as a nod to being in Brooklyn, it all came together wonderfully. Overall we kept it simple with a couple of great photo moments, good vibes, food, and really great music. If you’ve ever been to an OkayAfrica party you know it’s always just a moment to have our people gather and have fun.

The visuals captured are also a major part to the event. How did you fall upon the three photographers chosen to capture the spirit of Naija Worldwide Bash?
We work with Travis Matthews fairly often, since he shot our Fall 2017 campaign for Okayplayer clothing. He’s so talented and amazing at shooting on the fly. His event photography highlights that skill. I’ve been following Bukunmi Grace for a while now and knew she needed to be a part of capturing this event when we first started ideating, and Shako Oteka is the man! He came up from North Carolina on the fly, shot on his own accord and shared these amazing images with me and the team after. I had to include them. It was really special to get these varying perspectives of the event.

What do events like the Naija Worldwide Bash mean to American culture?
It means we (Africans) are here – and we’ve been here! So much so that the spirit of our content and when we gather resonates heavily with the diaspora and those who are searching for ways to connect more intimately with African culture.

What about on a global standpoint?
Same thing. Africa to the World! Our goal as a brand and an editorial platform is to connect people globally to the greatness and diversity of the culture that is cultivated on the continent, and this event was an extension of that work.

What are your comments on the turnout and how the event went?
It was a special one. To look out on the crowd and see not only people from all parts of the continent and the diaspora, but also attendees who may have been discovering our brand for the first time via Nike was really a warming feeling. For those who have been to an OkayAfrica party before, this was a culmination of all of the things we like to provide, good food, vibes, and music. And for those that were experiencing this for the first time, it was the perfect introduction to how we celebrate.

What’s the future for OkayAfrica and soccer?
Rachel: On the website for the World Cup, we’ve tapped several experts in the field to focus on the African countries in the competition—Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

We’ll have articles spanning everything from in-depth looks at the African teams in the competition, profiles on rising stars like Egypt’s Mohamed Salah to the afrobeat music being played in locker rooms before the games, and well pieces about how players are standing up to racism from fans.


We thank OkayAfrica for the opportunity they have provided to us to showcase their own work. We are confident their efforts will keep more eyes on Africa well beyond this summer.


IMAGES BY TRAVIS MATTHEWS


IMAGES BY BUKUNMI GRACE


IMAGES BY SHAKO OTEKA

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