By Catherine Woo
Welcome to NYWIFT, Oyiza Adaba!
Oyiza is a Nigerian journalist and producer with over 20 years of experience both on and behind the camera in several multimedia productions. In 2008, she founded Africa-Related, a media and content development company operating in Lagos, Nigeria and New York City. Africa-Related is at the forefront of storytelling from an African perspective, using media platforms to enrich knowledge of the world. In 2019, she founded Ita’i: Our Cloth, a global brand that takes a modern approach to preserving, presenting, and promoting Africa’s cultural heritage. Ita’i encourages community development and empowerment with existing resources.
Oyiza tells us about her dedication to community empowerment and her upcoming projects.
Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!
As a storyteller with an understanding of both sides of the Atlantic, I am able to function in my capacity as a journalist, producer, and arts promoter, to bring life to stories often unseen and overlooked.
What brings you to NYWIFT?
I joined NYWIFT to be inspired by and hopefully inspire great strong women and men in this creative space. The impact is simply amazing.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
Best advice: Don’t do it! Worst Advice: Don’t do it! This has taught me to listen more, follow my spirit and trust my instincts.
In 2021, you gave a TED talk on storytelling, cultural identity and bringing a modern approach to the tradition of woven cloth. If you could add anything new to that talk, what would you add?
If I could add anything new to the TEDx talk, I would say that [when] all the resources working on ground are indigenously-sourced — script writers, ground crew, technical crew, architects etc — everyone has a stake in that local environment. That told me that what is needed is already in our hands, and what is lacking perhaps, is the opportunity. We want to build assets and programs that will address that. This has doubled our effort to get the Tom Adaba Legacy Centre up and running, alongside the right partners, to create what will be an oasis in the seeming desert of opportunities.
You have an extraordinary background as a journalist, producer and businessperson. How have each of these roles informed one another for you?
I wear multiple hats — a journalist, producer and business owner — depending on the situation at hand. My role as journalist exposes me to fantastic stories that lead to other great opportunities. Being a producer enables me to identify projects, topics or people that need expounding. Basically, it is about getting into character as the situation requires. For me it’s a comfortable balance because it’s not imposed on me. From trenches to board rooms, I derive tremendous enjoyment from my work.
So much of your work with AFRICA-RELATED centers community empowerment. Is there any project in particular that you have seen a unique impact from?
My work at Africa-Related sometimes crosses over with my work at Ita’i Our Cloth — a weaving social enterprise I founded in my hometown of Okene. Because of this, I play multiple roles within that community — from a woman leader to a producer.
In New York, my engagement at institutions like the Bronx Council of on the Arts puts me in front of talented individuals from one of the most underrepresented communities in America, as well as some of the beautiful stories that come out of that community that would otherwise would never have been seen or heard. It’s a great privilege for me to have those types of environments to operate and make an impact.
What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
I am very excited to be premiering my first documentary feature in 2023. DELA: The Making of El Anatsui chronicles the life and achievements of El Anatsui, the world-renowned sculptor from Ghana who lived in Nigeria for decades, and produced massive installations and received global acclaim. It was such an honor to hang out with him for 10 years and tell his story, and I hope that I’ve done him some justice.
Following that closely are two projects: A Natural Synthesis is an animated feature on the life of Uche Okeke, who is considered the father of modernist art in Nigeria, and Itinochi: The Intriguing Journey of The Ebira Cloth is a historical documentary on the woven cloth. These are exciting projects that I’m looking forward to sharing with the world.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Gaelin Rosenwaks! Gaelin is a multitalented scientist, explorer, photographer, filmmaker, and author of Sperm Whales: The Gentle Goliaths of the Oceans. She founded Global Ocean Exploration Inc. in response to alarming changes to our oceans. Her aptitude for science and storytelling brought her on a journey that spans from appearing as an expert and host on many TV networks to being one of the few women featured on the cover of Outside Magazine. She is currently working on Finding Physty, a documentary about sperm whales. Gaelin shares more about her fascinating journey here!READ MORE
Meet NYWIFT Member Yolanda Gibson! Yolanda Gibson is an online entertainment writer and documentarian originally from Detroit, Michigan. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Political Science from Michigan State and Illinois State University respectively. She began writing for online entertainment publications in 2010 in Atlanta, GA. Through writing she has been given the opportunity to conduct red carpet interviews for some of the biggest events and names in the industry such as the Tribeca Film Festival, BET Hip Hop Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards. Gibson has been a member of NYWIFT since 2019. She attended our NYWIFT Night Out networking mixer with the Telly Awards at Neuehouse Madison Square in March 2023, where Telly Awards reps encouraged her to submit her projects for consideration. This Summer, she won a 2023 Bronze Telly Award in the Online Documentary Long Form (over 40 minutes) category for her documentary Wisdom from the Brooklyn Bridge, which follows her Covid-19 weight loss journey as she walks through political and social protests in New York City. Yolanda spoke to us about her documentary, the award, and her future projects.READ MORE
Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to Cameron Kit! Cameron is an award-winning feminist sci-fi director living in Brooklyn whose short film Chlorine was a big hit at multiple film festivals and won “Best Cinematography” at NYCA. Altogether, Cameron’s projects have been featured at 30+ film festivals across the U.S. and Japan. From 2013 until recently, Cameron was the CEO and Artistic Director at Whiteboard Geeks in Richmond, VA. As her website highlights, Cameron’s overarching goal is to “join in the development of an art that will contribute to a world in which women, people of color, and queer folks are respected as equal citizens on Planet Earth.” To learn more about Cameron, check out her interview as we discuss the triumphs and setbacks that come with leading an animation studio, her ongoing Sci-Fi podcast They Came from Outer Space, the unyielding longevity of radio, how to make the most of your NYWIFT membership, and the magic that becomes possible when pairing feminism with science fiction!READ MORE
Longtime NYWIFT member Maria Soccor recently attended the 2023 Cannes Festival ,where we spotted her with our CEO Cynthia López at NYWIFT’s panel event “Women Storytellers from the Arab World - Supporting, Training and Showcasing Emerging Filmmakers” in partnership with the Royal Film Commission – Jordan and WIFT GCC. Maria spoke to Tammy Reese about her 2023 Cannes Film Festival experience.READ MORE