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CNN celebrates 10th anniversary of ‘African Voices’

Chimamanda NgozI Adichie, a notable guest on CNN's African Voices pictured here at Harvard University
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CNN is celebrating the 10th anniversary of ‘African Voices,’ which highlights the continent’s most dazzling trendsetters who create their own subcultures in areas such as travel, fashion, art, music, technology and architecture. To do this, CNN is looking back at some of the characters featured over the last decade.
The first ‘African Voices’ show featured then President of Botswana Ian Kharma and the programme has since met icons such as Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo, Noble Prize winners Denis Mukwege and Wole Soyinka, professional basketball player Joel Embiid, actress Lupita Nyong’o and comedian Trevor Noah.
The goal of the show has been to shine a light on the amazing stories and adventures from the biggest, brightest and boldest personalities on the continent. For 10 years, CNN has explored all parts of the continent to show Africa’s diverse talent and personalities while being a vehicle to introduce the world to people doing incredible things.
In this special episode, ‘African Voices’ revisits some of its most popular guests including Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie, Moroccan executive producer and director Sanaa Hamri, and Nigerian musician Femi Kuti.
When ‘African Voices’ first visited Chimamanda Adichie in 2009, the author spoke of the rejection she often faced when trying to get her first book published. Since then, she’s seen her Nigerian-centric novels receive numerous global awards and acclaim.
CNN meets her at a shoot for ‘Vanity Fair’ where she tells the programme how she always feels more comfortable in front of a writer’s desk: “I’ve always said that if I had not had the good fortune to be read very widely across the world, I would be somewhere writing completely unknown but I would be writing and, for me, that’s really what matters. The writing gives meaning to my life. I’m very fortunate that people have read the books, but the writing is what matters.”
Since her last appearance on ‘African Voices’, Adichie has discovered a new love – motherhood. She tells the programme how having a child has affected her writing: “My daughter tears up my books. She’s the commander-in-chief of my life… And, you know, the thing is to speak honestly about motherhood is to acknowledge that there are ways in which your life has changed forever, that you no longer have the sort of ultimate time for yourself and for your art. But what it also means is that you’ve opened up a new emotional plane that you can you can draw from for your writing that can feed your art.”
When asked what advice she would give to the 2009 version of herself and young women like her, Adichie says:
“I think it would be, don’t think you have to do what people want you to do. Increasingly, in part of growing older for me, I’m 41. And when I was 30, when I was 26, when I think it was a lot more invested in kind of thinking about what people expected and what people wanted. And I think it’s mentally exhausting to do that.”
Next, CNN travels to the US to meet Sanaa Hamri, an executive producer and director of popular show ‘Empire’. When ‘African Voices’ first met Hamri in 2014, the programme learnt about her journey from Morocco to New York and how determination saw her directing music videos for acts like Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. She fondly remembers her journey since moving to New York:
“It was so funny, it happened all of a sudden, like, right after I saw you [‘African Voices’] one minute, I was, you know, still doing music videos and doing a TV show here and there. And then all of a sudden, I was an executive producer on ‘Empire’.”
As a woman of colour, Hamri understands the significance of her role. She explains to CNN how the industry has begun to diversify and represent: “I think ‘Empire’ became the vehicle for all people of colour in the entertainment industry and TV and film.  Remember before ‘Empire’ we did not have Black-ish, we did not have Atlanta we did not have a lot Black Panther, because in the idea of Hollywood is people of colour did not sell TV or movies. So, the viewership they thought was primarily white… I think it’s getting slightly better. But we have a long way to go.”
Despite living in America, Hamri tells the programme how she still stays connected to her home country: “I’m always connected to Morocco I go every year. I may be going in a couple of months, my family’s there I go up to the village where my father was from. I have to go back it’s like I miss home all the time. So, I’m very connected. I got a lot of feedback from ‘African Voices’, especially from my Moroccans because they saw it in Morocco and also all over the world. I think a lot of people didn’t know much about me, I am a very private person. So, I just feel like it really kind of highlighted my journey and I feel like I’m still at the beginning of my journey.”
Lastly, ‘African Voices’ meets Nigerian musician Femi Kuti. Originally meeting back in 2009, Kuti has since release seven albums, earned Grammy nominations and has performed all over the world. He tells the programme about his success: “I’ve worked very hard to be where I am today, I’m 40 years now playing, over 120 songs, so I’ve been everywhere.”
Kuti tells CNN about one of his greatest accomplishments – The Shrine. The entertainment centre has become a safe haven for all to come and enjoy music as he explains: “Maintaining The Shrine, keeping The Shrine and performing free, I don’t think there is anything more important for me than that. Keeping The Shrine alive now. And doing it, playing free, week in week out, I think that’s a very big achievement for us here.”
The Shrine in Lagos has become an international attraction and attracted high-profile visitors like French President Emmanuel Macron. He says to the programme: “He was here I think in 2002, he watched me and he just saw this place was like on fire… When he left, he wanted to always come back. Fortunately, he became President of France and he had the opportunity to come back, so he contacted me and he said he wanted to come back, and then he came we met we became friends over [the] meeting.”
On his future plans, Kuti still intends to release albums but hopes to hand over the reins to his son. “Right now, he has joined my band, what has happened now in the last few months he is alongside me, what I want to see now is I want to see him overtake me in my career.”
 

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