Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s current President; Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show, Kehinde Wiley, New York City-based portrait painter and Virgil Abloh, American fashion designer are the Africans and of African descent in Time’s 2018 list of 100 most influential people.
The list of 100 people was released by Time yesterday and it was split into four categories – pioneers, artists, leaders, and icons.
According to Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal in a letter, “TIME’s annual list of the world’s most influential people is a designation of individuals whose time, in our estimation, is now. The TIME 100 isn’t a measure of power, though many on the list wield it. Nor is it a collection of milestones accumulated.”
The magazine paired guest contributors to write about each of the 100 people on the list.
Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is listed in the “leaders” category. This is what Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean pastor and democratic activist, said about Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“The elation that greeted the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign naturally enough transformed into hopes for his successor. And in his first 100 days, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa spoke of re-engaging, forgiveness, democracy and unity. But though words matter, so does the survival of a system that destroyed the hopes and dreams of generations. For four decades, Zimbabwe’s new President was the protégé of the dictator he eventually deposed. Mnangagwa says very little of his own volition. He waits for you to speak and only responds when absolutely necessary. As Mugabe learned, he is extremely patient, choosing his moments of response or retaliation carefully. Mugabe described him as a man who does not forgive or forget very easily. Maybe that’s why for years, Mnangagwa has kept his liberation war nickname, the Crocodile. The undeniable paradox of Zimbabwe’s moment of healing is that the doctor was once the butcher.”
South African born Trevor Noah is listed in the “pioneers” category. This is what Lupita Nyong’o, an Oscar-winning actor, said about Trevor Noah.
“When I think of Trevor Noah, the first image I see is from his brilliant memoir, Born a Crime, of Trevor’s mother throwing him out of a moving vehicle while he’s asleep in order to save his life. Through other eyes this could be remembered as traumatic and harrowing. Through Trevor’s it is bonding and hilarious, a testament to the love of someone who truly had to think on their feet.
That is how Trevor sees the world. A fantastic storyteller, he has always been a defier of rules, which he broke simply by being born in his native country. At The Daily Show, which he has truly globalized, Trevor seeks out comedians of color in every possible venue, no matter how small. He is determined to find the best talent representing the most diverse viewpoints.
Trevor, who grew up biracial in apartheid South Africa, has the unique ability to tell truths that bring us together. He is uncannily skilled at holding up a mirror to whatever room he is in. Trevor is always reaching out: across cultures, continents and boundaries. He makes us laugh with each other and brings us that much closer to understanding one another.”
Nigerian-American Kehinde Wiley was listed in the “artists” category. This is what LL Cool J, an actor and Grammy-winning musician, had to say about Kehinde Wiley.
Kehinde Wiley is a classically, formally trained artist who is transforming the way African Americans are seen—going against the grain of what the world is accustomed to. Some consider him irreverent; I see an iconoclast. Some of his subjects come from hip-hop culture, but he’s not a hip-hop painter. To put it simply, he does dope sh-t.
Kehinde has an MFA from Yale, but instead of using his art to assimilate into mainstream society, he goes minor stream, creating major works that outpace that of the majority of his contemporaries. When you see a Kehinde Wiley painting, you recognize it. He has created a visual brand that remains artistically fresh. And his many paintings in the Smithsonian—including one of me and one of former President Obama—speak to his creative genius.
Ghanaian American Virgil Abloh is listed in the This is what Takashi Murakami, an acclaimed Japanese artist had to say about Virgil Abloh.
A little over 10 years ago, Virgil Abloh, relatively fresh out of graduate school, visited my office in Tokyo while working with Kanye West. I had no way of recognizing the shy youth’s talents that were to blossom in the years to come.
Fast-forward to June 2017. Virgil visited my exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago the day before it opened and told me how he had been inspired by my multicolor monogram collaboration with Louis Vuitton. I proposed a collaboration between us, and we quickly realized our art exhibition at Gagosian London. Through our collaborative and creative process, I came to know the nobility of his character. Everything from the way he works to how he uses his time to how he makes his judgments is principled. The foundation of his value, or branding, is humanity itself, not a superficial trick.
Kids’ fervor for the stripe patterns and arrow marks he created for his fashion label, Off-White, is not a passing trend; rather, it shows how Virgil’s young followers, with their unclouded eyes, have been seeing right into the core of his creativity all along. With his appointment as artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear, his full merit will be understood even more widely around the globe.