Artist Ndidi Nkwopara on why she wanted to be part of the Leeds 2023 project bringing the city's African communities together

Life coach, entrepreneur and artist Ndidi Nkwopara explains why she wanted to be part of Leeds 2023.

I have always devoured books and wanted to write but it wasn’t until I’d been through cancer, a divorce and the move to another country that I felt I had something to say.

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Writing enabled me to understand and overcome all this and I felt that if it had helped me to share how I felt, maybe it would help others. That’s when I wrote and published my first book, Retreat to Rebirth, a sort of resilience toolkit, in 2019.

Life coach, entrepreneur and artist Ndidi Nkwopara.

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    This new focus really allowed my artistic side to flourish, opening doors and bringing new opportunities.

    When I saw the open call for community projects for Leeds 2023, I recognised myself as the sort of artist that they were looking for. It wasn’t just conventional art forms they wanted, they wanted someone creative; who was embedded in a community and had something to say.

    I have been an active participant in the Nigerian community in Leeds for a long time and I thought that this could be a chance to bring all the Leeds African groups together.

    I spent a lot of time going to meetings with the different African groups there are in Leeds, to find out more about how they have contributed the richness of their heritage to the city, talking to them about Leeds 2023 and encouraging them to share their stories and be part of this landmark city celebration of culture.

    Ndidi Nkwopara has been working with the Leeds African Community Trust to bring together the stories of African migrants who now call Leeds home.

    Many of the other My World, My City, My Neighbourhood projects were focused on one particular area of the city, whereas the community I was engaging were based across many wards.

    We talked about what aspects of culture are most important to each of the African nations, what common ground we shared and the result was clear: food, music, fashion and dance.

    Understanding this led us to putting forward four clear ideas which celebrate these themes as the culmination of project. These are currently in the planning stages but I hope to be able to share more about them soon.

    The overall response to the workshops was positive; people were excited to share their culture and explore how and why it often feels underrepresented in Leeds – despite being part of the second largest ethnic group in the city.

    The artist has been meeting with groups in Leeds that represent many of the 54 African countries.

    Sometimes people in the community weren’t aware of Leeds 2023 so we were acting as ambassadors for that too, helping them to understand what it meant and what next year was going to be like.

    It absolutely felt like we were starting to connect with people, to spread the word about a year of culture that would be something everyone can be part of, creating a mutually beneficial experience and legacy for Leeds’ African communities.

    Ndidi Nkwopara has been working with the Leeds African Community Trust to bring together the stories of African migrants who now call Leeds home. It is part of the My World, My City, My Neighbourhood series of commissions in communities for Leeds 2023.