THERE’S A new gen­er­a­tion of African tal­ents LIGHT­ING UP the UK cap­i­tal,

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - View Perspective - WRITES Nataal ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF HE­LEN JENNINGS

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

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