By Uche Ajene


Spotlight on Ekene Onu: Founder of The African Women’s Lifestyle Magazine


 The decision to create Nouveau Africana was not a hard one, writing was one of her first loves and she is the definition of the new African woman. As a student in Boston, who was raised in Nigeria, she often found herself straddled between two cultures. Her traditional Nigerian background, which she had strong roots in, had certain expectations of her, (get a degree, get married, have children etc.), yet the American society she lived in, allowed you to be whoever you wanted to be with less judgments. In her strong network of Nigerian and African friends, she found that she wasn’t the only one of her friends and peers that was living two lives simultaneously.

She and her friends often discussed ways to ease the blending of two cultures, and mused about their fish out of water experiences, as Africans in the Diaspora. While her male friends definitely did not have it easier, she just knew as a woman, that the cultural schizophrenia was different. African women in the Diaspora are expected to fill several roles in society; dutiful wife and mother, keeping her family happy and still work the eighty or more hours a week required to climb up the career success ladder and be a breadwinner. It could easily become overwhelming.

Ekene started writing short anecdotes, from time to time, that chronicled her experiences as an African woman in America, which she started to share with her family and close friends. After fits of laughter, almost everyone who read her work told her the same thing, “this should be in a magazine or book somewhere.” It was then that Ekene really noticed the void in American society, there was nothing catered specifically towards the African market.

The African market was often lumped in with African-American/Caribbean/Black/ethnic market, and while some of their experiences were similar, each market had different needs altogether. There are certain experiences and issues that remain uniquely African, that publications like Ebony and Essence could not accurately shed light on. A few years ago, in 2001, she started an email newsletter, Naija Woman, that she sent out to her friends on an e-group, who then forwarded it to their friends and before she knew it every other email in her inbox had something to do with Naija woman, either how someone could totally relate to one of her articles or asking when she was sending out the next one or submitting an opinion piece or article to be included.

Nouveau Africana was birthed the next year in 2002, many of her emails were from non- Nigerian women, who also couldn’t relate completely or felt left out somehow from mainstream American publications and connected with the stories and article in Naija woman newsletter. With encouragement and support of many people, she decided to put together Nouveau Africana – for the new African woman. She has a few volunteers to help with the articles and stories, but the work of Nouveau Africana is mostly her labor of love. She now focuses on lifestyles issues for African women; from adapting African recipes to make cooking easier to highlighting African women who are successful at their individual crafts. Each edition of the online magazine adds a new dimension of Africana life in the Diaspora, and Ekene wants to see it grow continually.

A lifestyle magazine for African women is only the beginning of Nouveau Africana, according to her. Ultimately she would like to see Nouveau Africana evolve to a resource center for Africans in the Diaspora, to connect with each other and be a source of information and entertainment. She also wants Nouveau Africana to be a teacher; a medium through which non-Africans interested in African culture can learn more about the many cultures of the continent and also connect with Africans and others with a similar interest in Africa.

Ekene Onu can be reached at or visit


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