Last weekend, the United States-based Foreign Policy magazine unfolded its 2015 annual special edition featuring its 100 Leading Global Thinkers. This is usual with the globally respected magazine. It is their annual ritual. And it is commendable.
But more commendable is the finding of two young Nigerians notable enough to be named among the top 100 leading global thinkers in the outgoing year.
According to the authors of the report, “each year, Foreign Policy identifies its 100 Leading Global Thinkers — and while there are 100 slots, there are far more individuals who actually populate the list; 125 to be exact. This is because we identify teams when efforts are collaborative and often group people who, independent of each other, work toward a common goal.”
The magazine added: “In 2015, the Global Thinkers are particularly diverse: Just as the globe’s intractable problems aren’t confined neatly to the realms of politics and policy, neither are the individuals imagining innovative solutions. These thinkers are artists and activists, medical experts and entrepreneurs, scientists and pop singers — and they hail from nearly every continent. And, for the first time ever, the list includes more women than men.”
Enter Njideka Akunyili-Crosby
The Nigerian-American female, the authors argued, exhibited in New York’s New Museum Triennial, Surround Audience, which focused on how technology alters the human condition. The exploration of identity is central to Akunyili-Crosby’s work, which blends paint, charcoal, and pastels, among other media, with family photos and clips from the Internet and Nigerian magazines.
For Akunyili-Crosby, mixing forms and merging styles is about bridging the complexities of the old world and the new, between her native home in Enugu, Nigeria and her adopted one in the United States. At the Triennial, Akunyili-Crosby showed a portrait of herself with her husband — a mix of paint and collage pieced together from prints of family and friends and from magazines and newspapers.
Intending to become a doctor, Akunyili-Crosby attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. However, she later studied art and earned her Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in 2011.
At press time however, it could not be established her relationship with the well-known late Professor Dora Akunyili family in Nigeria.
And then, Chigozie Obioma
The debut novel of the Nigerian , The Fishermen, according to FP magazine, is a recasting of the story of Cain and Abel: a madman prophesied that 15-year-old Ikenna will be killed by one of his three brothers, after which anxiety and suspicion led to tragedy.
Instructively, the book which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is also an allegory for Nigeria’s failings as a state. Ikenna must lead his brothers after his father leaves home, and as the premonition unravels him psychologically, his family suffers. Set in the 1990s, when late maximum ruler, Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria, Obioma’s book is seen by reviewers as a critique of his country’s leaders — but also the fact that, thanks to British colonialism, they came to govern at all.
Obioma, reportedly born in Akure, said he began to write the novel after a phone call with his father in which they talked about how two of his older brothers, who had been rivals as children, have become very close as adults.
“I wanted to create a story about a close-knit family whose unity was incised and destroyed by an external force,” he had said.
FP magazine stated that both Nigerians and their co-travellers who clinched the global thinkers awards for 2015 were picked from a broad category of decision makers, challengers, innovators, advocates, artists, healers stewards chroniclers and moguls.
Once again, I commend these two worthy ambassadors in their respective rights even as I pray and hope that before long, this same true Nigerian spirit will be replicated by more youthful Nigerians who must be challenged by the doggedness of Akunyili-Crosby and Obioma.