Director Woman Fastrack Edition 2

NANYA THE ARTIST: Never allow the world to author your identity

Nanya is as amazing as she thinks she is – her larger than life digital personality is amplified by her achievements. The latest being an award that holds a special place in her heart. The talented AFRO-FUSION artist was named The Most Inspiring Nigerian in South Africa at the Nigerian Community Excellence Awards in 2019. “I smile like a girl in love when I think back on it,” she says proudly. She is the founder of The Queen’s Goals, an initiative dedicated to uplifting the African girl child and ultimately saw her receiving the AWARD. Nanya is also a graphic illustrator by profession at family business Vanimax Comix where she creates her own comic books.

The multi-hyphenate creative was born in Ikeja, LAGOS, Nigeria where she spent most of her pre-teen life. “My childhood was like a dream. I miss the simplicity of those times. My parents created an atmosphere of calm, peace and joy around [us] but they still maintained that Iron Fist Nigerian parents are notoriously known for,” she reminisces. Nanya describes herself as a curious, mischievous and bossy child with an attitude to match. “My curiosity allowed me explore my creativity. According to my mother, I started illustrating fashion designs at 5 or 6.” Her family relocated to South Africa when she was around 13 and she credits this move for part of hers and her family’s creative success because that is where Vanimax Comix was founded.

NANYA THE DREAMER

They say our lives come full circle and often end where they began, and for Nanya, her aspirations have somewhat come full circle. The creative tendencies she displayed as a child have transformed into Art. “Initially I wanted to be a model, Fashion Designer, Medical Doctor, then an Air Force Pilot [but] my heart was always drawn to ART,” she shares. “I nurtured my creative spirit and found myself writing and composing music, illustrating and creating stories, writing novels and poetry, illustrating fashion, painting and more. Of all my talents, music [eventually] took centre stage in my life.” Nanya flashes back to when she was 9 living in GHANA and falling in love with singing and dancing at church. She chuckles at the time when she convinced her reluctant sibling to perform with her. “well, let’s say I still cringe when I think about it.”

But she’s never strayed too far from who she was as a child. “I still very much identify with young Nanya. I still learn from her because she is the version of me that isn’t confined by society’s expectations and perceptions. She is wild and she reminds me to stay true to myself,” she says.

THE FACE OF AFRICAN STORYTELLING

Nanya is the illustrator and creator behind the comic series The Amina Angels – the story of 4 fierce Nigerian female super spies who are the reincarnated legacy of the great Queen Amina of Zaria. “I was inspired to create The Amina Angels because I wanted to highlight the legacy of a great Africa Queen. We hardly see the portrayal of African royalty in mainstream media, so we have to be the ones to tell our own stories. I also wanted to represent AFRICAN WOMEN in the action genre and create female superheroes. Furthermore, I wanted The Amina Angels series to focus on real time issues occurring in our continent. I have a profound passion for discussing and educating myself on socio-political and socio-economic issues in Africa,” she reiterates.

A FAMILY LEGACY

The experience of building a family legacy with family has been ‘intriguing’ for Nanya. “Working with my family has taught the essence of DUALITY and FLUIDITY. Sometimes because it’s family, emotions can get involved in business and that is okay, my family has the emotional intelligence to know when to be logical. Everybody’s role is clear so there’s no misunderstandings or rivalry,” she says. She adds that her family nails the work/pleasure balance. “We have fun! We know when to take ourselves seriously and when to play.”

If Nanya’s opinion regarding what her family thinks of her is anything to go by, they’re an honest bunch and know her almost as well as she does herself. “Haha, oh my word. They would probably describe me as very DRIVEN, hardworking, and a little bossy. They’d also say I’m full of jokes and love playing pranks on everyone. I can literally imagine my dad and mom saying ‘once she sets her mind on something, there’s no convincing her otherwise’ and my siblings saying ‘she’s a workaholic and drama queen mixed with mom.” She goes on to express that they’d shed light on her inability to make room for other people’s ideas and suggestions sometimes, something she’s working on unlearning.

A BALANCING ACT

In addition to her 9 to 5 and other endeavours, Nanya is a TV presenter and budding Lifestyle Digital Creator and Brand Activator having worked with brands like Revlon, PONDS and Nivea. She admits that juggling all these balls isn’t always easy and it can get overwhelming at times, but she relies on the best Time Manager of all, GOD, to make things right and comfort her on her worst days. “My relationship with Him has taught me excellence, efficiency and trust. I’m learning to prioritize the things that feed my spirit, the things that make me excited to create and execute and the things that add value to others.”

SHAPING NANYA

When you meet wholesome individuals like Nanya, you know there must be living gems that are just as amazing in her circle and background. Her list of people who have influenced and inspired her and who she is today is endless. It starts with her PARENTS whose wisdom, she shares, have guided her path for years. Her late grandmother is also still part of her dream today in the sweetest way. “Her name meant ‘queen’ and she was one of the inspirations behind The Queen’s Goal. Her presence was like an umbrella of LOVE.” Nanya gives another nod of gratitude to her siblings and close friend Nadege. “My SIBLINGS make me want to work hard and break every possible record. They are my best friends. NADEGE and I have been friends for a decade now and although she’s 13 years my elder, her friendship, mentorship and guidance has influenced me to be my unapologetic self.”

Other great individuals who have influenced Nanya include Fela Kuti, Malcom X, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Marcus Gavey, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce and Folorunsho Alakija.

When we get to the topic of experiences that had an IMPACT on the 24-year old, one stands out as a teaching moment that only experience can curate. “In 2015 my mom fell terribly ill,” she shares. “It was difficult for me to see my super woman in such a state. Although my family is grateful she is well and healthy now, that experience changed me. I didn’t know how STRONG I was until I had to be strong for my mother. That experience made me realise there’s nothing I can’t overcome. No challenge in my career, business or personal life can ever outweigh my resilience.”

BEING NANYA THE ARTIST

We all have an idea of how our lives and aspirations will play out but of course the experience of those dreams and how the journey starts out tends to be very different. “I think I had a Disney Fairy-tale like idea of how my music career would be. And it’s nothing like I imagined it,” Nanya says about her rosy dreams of taking over the music space.

Being an independent, Indie artist hasn’t done the starlet any favours, especially without connections or “co-signs” to help her pop up on the right people’s radars early. “[But] the internet is really beginning to change that, it is helping to give some power to artists so they can decide their own fate instead of waiting on labels to recognise their talent.”

Nanya has welcomed the rocky experience though. “This journey has been a thrilling experience riddled with all-nighters and extreme hard work but I am grateful for it. And I feel female artists are never portrayed in that regard. We are usually scaled down to our pretty faces, bodies and sexuality but we are the brains too. WE CAN also conceptualize, design, direct, edit, mix, master and produce our work. We are not passive to the building of our careers,” she emphasises.

Seeing the vision of a song come to life has been the most fulfilling part for her. “When I write a song and get into the studio and slowly bring it to life – it is the most fulfilling feeling ever! It reminds me that the dreams and ideas in my head for my creative expression can be manifested to life.”

FOR BLACK GIRLS

“Your multifacetedness is a gift, not a burden – when you accept the complexity of your identity, you will begin to see it for its value. And you’ll be able to impact the world with your authenticity. Be patient with yourself, all the various facets that make you who you are will take time for you to unravel and understand but trust me, it will be an amazing journey. And never allow the world to author your identity. Never allow society to set the standard for which you choose to live, DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. Dare to go outside the norm and dare to be you.

BEST CREATIVE ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

“What pleases your soul is most important and portraying it onto others is what a creative mind does. My uncle and mentor once said that to me and it resonated so deeply. It made me realize the reason for which I create and why it is important to stay true to my inner voice.”

WHAT DO BLACK WOMEN NEED MORE OF?

“The freedom to be more vulnerable without judgement. Black women are the back bone of our communities and that role requires us to be strong. At times, so strong we don’t know how to be anything else but our strength. We exile the others facets of ourselves and our emotionality and VULNERABILITY take the back seat. Society then becomes costumed to that portrayal of us, that when we want to express our femininity, vulnerability and softness, it is met with scornfulness as though we can’t be anything else. Black women need more FREEDOM to express all facets of our womanhood. And nobody wields that freedom, we don’t require external permission. We need to permit ourselves be vulnerable. We should know that the expression of our vulnerability isn’t the absence of our strength.”

FAVOURITE FEATURES ABOUT YOURSELF?

“My mind, my work ethic and my energy.”

PROUDEST MOMENTS

  • Winning the Most Inspiring Nigerian Personality In South Africa Award.
  • Repping Vanimax Comix as Keynote speaker at the Lioness Lean In Event in 2019.
  • Recently completed a course in Branding Foundations.
  • Shot my first music video this year!
  • The Queen’s Goals hosted the 2021 Skills Development Program in collaboration with some big organizations.

THE NANYA SHOW AHEAD

“The year is 2025 and I’m sitting in my penthouse apartment prepping for my upcoming COLOURSxSTUDIO performance. On the walls hangs pictures of myself with family, friends, fiancé and so many of my idols. On the shelf in my office, are my awards and accolades. On my monitor is a still shot of me at my TEDxTALK in a pink power suit. Beside my laptop is a newspaper headlining the story of Vanimax Comix as Africa’s emerging entertainment hub, producing comic books, movies, series and serials that rival that of western entertainment companies.

A document the size of an encyclopaedia sits on my desk. In it is The Queen’s Goals Construction Plan to build 20 centres across 20 African counties. Playing on the radio in the background is my recent collaboration with Burna Boy and Masego, I smile as I randomly remember that my graduation day is coming up soon. A PhD is the next academic feat I have my eyes set on. But for now, I am simply going to enjoy my free time, grateful for how far I have come and this beautiful I designed myself.”

About Author

Director Woman Fastrack is a monthly, in-depth publication that profiles African business and career women. The feature articles are designed to inspire, impact and inform readers interested in starting their own business or pursuing a particular career field.