By Abraham Achirga
ABUJA – As a disabled child growing up in Nigeria, Joshua Anum did not see internet stardom in his future. He and his eight siblings, abandoned by their father, barely had enough to eat.
Now the 15-year-old, who lost his left arm at age five after falling out of a tree, is part of a dance group called “The Incredible Kids” that has a growing Instagram following and a packed performance schedule.
In one of their most popular videos, with 55,000 views, the six children dance in a yard with palm trees behind them. Led by a five-year-old girl, they do fast-paced routines to popular Nigerian songs.
The children live with dancer Maliki Emmanuel, the group’s founder, on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja. Most came from difficult family situations and found refuge with him.
On a recent afternoon, the children gathered around Emmanuel as he sat in an armchair in their living room, watching music videos to get ideas for new routines.
“Before I came here I used to go to parties, I used to fight anywhere I went and I was not going to school,” said Joshua. “Since coming here I have started school and I read and dance.”
The group has performed in Abuja and Lagos, and as their fame grows Emmanuel said he hopes their numbers will too.
“When we have created a brand … then we can recruit more kids, kids that are on the street … that love dance,” he said. “I can teach them then we will bring them to the crew.”
The proceeds from performances cover school fees for Joshua and the other dancers.
Joshua’s mother, Vera Anum, said she despaired when his arm had to be amputated, but was now proud of his success.
“Everybody thought … he will not be useful in life. Our people at home said he is finished because somebody whose hand has been amputated from childhood, what can he do?” she said.
“See him today, at least the whole world is seeing him, watching him how he is performing.”