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.
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