THERE’S A new generation of African talents LIGHTING UP the UK capital,
While Toronto has recently been recognised by the BBC as the world’s most diverse city, London is also right up there – which is one of the reasons I love living here. As a capital of culture, it’s home to people from all over the globe and as a result, boasts a thriving African creative scene. Young talents excel here, and their work helps define their own internationally minded, heritage-fuelled diaspora identities more than ever before.
Conceptual furniture maker Yinka Ilori is a delightful case in point. Drawing on the parables told to him by his Nigerian parents when he was growing up, he tells his own stories through the chairs he creates, using his mother’s beloved wax fabrics to upscale found objects into brightly coloured, often humorous and always thought-provoking works of art. Ilori has exhibited widely throughout his career, and touched down in Cape Town this year to speak at Design Indaba – where he turned the conference stage into a Naija Pop house party.
Fellow Nigerian designer Yemi Awosile focuses on textiles and printed matter. From vegetable- and mineral-dyed silk scarves and cork fabrics for furniture to industrial felt carpets and a sustainable bark cloth made from the East African ‘mutuba’ fig tree, Awosile’s interventionist approach has seen her collaborate with prestigious establishments such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate.
Chef Zoe Adjonyoh is revolutionising contemporary Ghanaian cuisine with her pop-up restaurants and recently published recipe book Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. She creates her own spin on classic dishes, such as red-red bean stew, to offer social dining at its most delicious.
Newer to the city’s culinary landscape is Lopè Ariyo, a food blogger who has just released her first book Hibiscus. It is crammed with London-infused Nigerian dishes, such as cauliflower jollof rice, and has seen her named among The Observer newspaper’s Rising Stars of 2017.
Following in the mighty menswear footsteps of Ozwald Boateng and the CaselyHayfords is designer Olubiyi Thomas. From Lagos by way of Glasgow, he honed his skills at Central Saint Martins art school in London and channels his cross-cultural upbringing into artisanal, handcrafted collections. For autumn/winter 2017, he was inspired by buffalo soldiers to come up with elongated silhouettes made from Malian textiles and sustainable wools.
Sudanese designer Omer Asim’s cerebral womenswear is all about an uncompromising approach to pattern cutting, resulting in pure forms with discrete volumes, drapes and corseted constrictions. Textural pleats and raw edges hint at his interest in primal dressing.
I also have my money on Sierra Leonean stylist Ibrahim Kamara, who is pushing the boundaries of gender representation and black masculinity. His DIY aesthetic forms directional, inventive ensembles, and he turned heads last year with the project 2026, shot in Joburg with South African photographer and video maker Kristin-Lee Moolman. Since then, he’s worked on a short film for Kenzo with Akinola Davies Jr (aka DJ Crack Stevens) and alongside director Kahlil Joseph for British singer Sampha’s music film Process. He also presented a body of work with emerging photographer Nadine Ijewere for Nataal’s recent exhibition at Red Hook Labs photography studio in New York.
This fearless approach sums up the irrepressible energy bringing London alive in 2017. For the love of Africa, it’s time to let this generation’s voices roar. nataal.com