Tag africa

1997: Giving A.R.M a helping hand

As MP’s go, Bernie Grant was about as right (morally, not politically) and honorable as they get.

A leonine politician who fought tirelessly for his constituents, and who represented people from the African diaspora with pride.

I remember hearing that his organisation, ARM (African Reparations Movement) were looking to protest to the British Museum for the return of precious artefacts and treasures that were stolen from Benin and held in their possession.

I was working as an Art Director in mainstream advertising at that time at an agency called Ammirati Puris Lintas and felt I could make a positive creative contribution to their cause.

So I contacted their offices and proposed an idea that I believed would help to provide the necessary visual dramatisation of their protest and in turn help draw attention and pr interest.

The resulting concept was an enlarged print of a classic ‘Repossession Order’, as usually sent by bailiffs, but in this case delivered by Bernie and other ARM representatives to the Director of the British Museum on 15th March 1997.

 

I know Bernie was extremely pleased with the result and as a ‘thank you’, invited me to take tea with him at the House of Commons. An invitation, I never got round to taking up and that I sincerely regret to this day.

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4 Corners: An Interview with Lemi Ghariokwu

According to the lyrics of the late, great pioneering Afrobeat musician and cultural icon, Fela Kuti, ‘Music is the weapon of the future’If that’s the case, then this month’s profile designer’s work is a laser cannon. There are very few artists and designers, whose work transcends merely being the superficial packaging of the music, and becomes the visual embodiment of it. And Lemi Ghariokwu, or Lemi G as he is often known is such an artist. As a pioneering sleeve designer in his homeland of Nigeria, he has created an enduring legacy of highly potent, and political visual statements that gave Fela’s music added power and impact. So let’s hear it from the man himself in his own words. Shoot Lemi G.

Lemi Ghariokwu, artist and record sleeve designer

Lemi Ghariokwu, artist and record sleeve designer

What’s your background?

I’m a self-taught fine artist, graphic designer and illustrator. I did not receive formal training from an art school so I’m coming straight from my heart and soul through the streets into the arts. No degrees but I got pedigree! That’s my background.

Peter Okoh Patience Rhythm Band, front cover, 1973

Peter Okoh Patience Rhythm Band, front cover, 1973

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

Destiny is the key to my life and pre-destination unlocked when in 1974 I did my own version of a Fela Kuti cover as practice. A journalist saw my cover, was impressed and took me to meet Fela. Soon after I had the opportunity to do my first Fela cover, which received rave reviews and gave me instant recognition. I was then a teenager seeking my path in life and Fela pointed me in the right direction to become a professional record sleeve designer. In the early days, I used to be commissioned do live drawings at TV studios. My first ever cover design was for my uncle, Peter Okoh and his band, Patience Rhythm Dance Band for Decca Records in Africa, but unfortunately it was never published. So officially, my first published record cover was for an album called World Affairs by an artist called Tessy Allan. I’ve worked with many musicians all my life. I would have been a musician if it wasn’t for the Art.

Tessy Allen World Affairs, cover, 1974

Tessy Allen World Affairs, cover, 1974

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

The first challenge was to school myself to acquire the skill to be very professional in my work. I checked out any arts and designs I came across, asked questions from experienced artists and designers, did short stints in three advertising agencies in a bid to overcome the challenges. As soon as I was ready, my association and eventual collaboration with Fela Kuti put me on a pedestal and a very good footing to achieve one of my ambitions as the pioneer of professional record sleeve designer in Nigeria. I’ve made a career spanning 40 years of this.

Fela Kuti, Alagbon Close

Fela Kuti, Alagbon Close

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’ve always been inspired by things around me; everyday movements of people, state of the nation and the world at large. My greatest inspirations and influences come from individuals who are advocates for equality and justice, contributors to the advancement of society and human progress and most especially facilitators and catalysts for positive change. Also, I fell in love with album sleeve design while at secondary school. The album ‘Woyaya’ by Osibisa was the first to catch my attention. Designed by the renowned British sleeve designer Roger Dean, I was inspired by his other works such as the logo and album artwork for groups like Yes. Back then, only in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine I could become a record sleeve designer too. I also loved the album cover artwork of the acclaimed p-funk, Parliament-Funkadelic cover artist, Pedro Bell. Many people have suggested to me that there is a strong similarity in our work.

Fela Bus

Fela Bus

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

Well, I have many ‘best’ pieces of works! My mostly proud of project is the body of works of 26 album cover designs I did for Fela Kuti’s musical career. I’m very proud of the Fela Bus, a mural on wheels I did for the Fela On Broadway show. Being a part of the Kalakuta Museum project as the curator is also a shine!

Fela Kuti, Beasts of No Nation

Fela Kuti, Beasts of No Nation

What would be your dream job or project?

My dream project would be to have a platform on a TV reality show dedicated to discovering and nurturing talents in visual arts and design. This I believe will help to promote visual art and design as a laudable profession and encourage individuals born with artistic talents in my society.

Fela Kuti, Yellow Fever

Fela Kuti, Yellow Fever

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

Honestly I’m not sure I know anyone and that is sad, but let me explain. Things are different in Nigeria. When I started, I think I was the only one doing what I do. There were other artists, who worked for the likes of advertising agencies etc… as illustrators, but the few there were seem to have all disappeared. Nowadays, you have people who are not necessarily artists, but are technically-minded and computer literate, creating album cover designs. They tend to work from their own photography in cyber cafes, manipulating the images and creating the designs for many of the new breed of Afrobeat performers and recording artists. Frustratingly, they never seem to credit their own work on the sleeves so you never know who they are.

Fela Kuti, Zombie

Fela Kuti, Zombie

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

My best advice to anyone is not to follow in someone else’s footsteps but to learn from their story. First and foremost, you need to find out who you are. Self-discovery and mastery is the key to life. Check out what you are really good at or what your strongest flair is. Work vigorously on developing that talent by honing your skills. Be consistent, principled and ambitious. May time and chance meet you at the point of your need for opportunity to shine. Good luck!

What’s next for you?

I keep working to remain relevant and very contemporary doing avant-garde works in a bid to consolidate my legacy. For 2015 I’m planning to publish my memoir and have a retrospective exhibition to mark my diamond jubilee.

For more information visit: http://lemighariokwu.wordpress.com

Network:

EUROPE:

DISOBEDIENT OBJECTS. From Suffragette teapots to protest robots, this exhibition is the first to examine the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. It demonstrates how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design. V&A Museum, London. Exhibition runs until 1 February 2015.

For more info visit www.vam.ac.uk

AFRO-POLIS will be hosting alongside the Frieze Art fair, a 5 days experiential exhibition (15 – 19 Oct 2014) entitled – the African Renaissance. Held in and around Hoxton Square at various locations including the iconic former White Cube Gallery once the home of YBA Artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. In addition to being able to see and buy art and design by some of the leading African artists and designers, The African Renaissance features an innovative and interactive set of activities, which include workshops, debates, panel discussions, keynote lectures, live performance, and themed dinner.

Click here for more information on purchasing tickets.

THE U.S:

IMAGINARY POSSESSIONS: The first substantial presentation of his recent work at a U.S. museum by pioneering filmmaker, director, and theorist, John Akomfrah. ‘Imaginary Possessions’ presents three distinct films and a new commission that deftly excavate the fragmented identities of colonial subjects while challenging the received codes of cinematic representation. Runs until February 1st 2015 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, East Lansing, Michigan 48823.

For more information visit http://broadmuseum.msu.edu

AFRICA:

DESIGNING AFRICA: Exploring Provenance and Materiality interrogates two particular areas of design – visual communication and material exploration. Designing Africa showcases the work of visual artists Momodou Ceesay, Clari Green, Pwavidon Mathias and Brian Omolo with origin as the underpinning theme. How do we define where we come from? By communicating their origins, present, future and imagined states they redefine the identity of Africa through printmaking, graphic design and illustration.

For more information visit the African Artists’ Foundation website

THE CARIBBEAN:


THE TRINIDAD & TOBAGO FILM FESTIVAL (TTFF) 2014: 
Founded in 2006, the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) is an annual celebration of films from and about Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora. The Festival also screens films curated from contemporary world cinema. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of the Caribbean film industry by hosting workshops, panel discussions, seminars, conferences and networking opportunities. Festival runs 16 – 30 September.

For more information visit http://www.ttfilmfestival.com

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Lulu Kitololo

This month we focus on my hometown, London. As the first generation offspring of African-Caribbean parents born in the mid Sixties, I did not always find it easy to embrace my ‘Britishness’.

However, I’ve certainly never had any problems identifying myself as a “Londoner” – for London truly is the world within a single city.

Home to every conceivable nationality, this cosmopolitan metropolis pulses with its vibrant mix of cultures. And it is from this dynamism that the opportunity for new voices can emerge. New voices like those of Lulu Kitololo and her design company Asilia, whose work is not just resonating on these shores, but also beyond.

I have watched their work progress over the past few years with eagerness; appreciating its distinctly African roots whilst bringing a fresh modern approach and aesthetic.

It’s a design voice I really like, so let’s hear all about it from Lulu in her own words.Lulu Kitololo

Source: Jonathan Perugia

Lulu Kitololo

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. I was always creating things as a child – constructing shelters indoors when the weather was miserable; making trains for my dolls out of fruit cartons; experimenting with food in the kitchen; ‘refashioning’ my dresses (much to my mother’s dismay) and; of course, making images on paper. My parents were generally very encouraging of these pursuits but, being that I excelled at all subjects in school, I don’t think they – and many others – were fully prepared for the decision I made to pursue a creative profession.

I went to art school, Pratt Institute in New York, not quite sure what to specialise in and I ended up pursuing a Communications Design degree with a major in Advertising Art Direction. Thereafter, I worked for a couple of advertising agencies but something about it just wasn’t for me.

I ended up going back to school, this time to pursue a Masters in African Studies at SOAS, University of London. It was a fantastic year – learning about African politics, culture, film and literature. There were several interesting responses I experienced from people at that time including, “but you’re African, why do you need to study Africa?” and, “what are you going to do afterward?”

At the time, I had no idea what I was going to do afterward but I was very content with what I was doing and had faith that a path would reveal itself. I stumbled across a design job with a sustainability communications agency, Futerra, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to combine my creative expertise with my interest in development. I worked there for over 3 years and then left because I yearned for the freedom of self-employment. I’ve since gone into business with a friend and our creative agency, Asilia will be celebrating 3 years later this summer. It’s been an amazing journey, creating a niche for ourselves on the back of our distinctive style; our presence in both London and Nairobi and; our journey into creating products as well providing creative services. I’m very excited about what the future holds for us.Film Africa print materials

Film Africa print materials

How did you get started in design?

The skills and knowledge I gained as part of my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree have been invaluable. However, the most significant thing I learned during those 4 years was not explicitly taught and that was – how to be resourceful.

I think resourcefulness and experience are great tools for any designer. Experience is something that comes with, well, experience. From my 2nd year of university, I was taking every opportunity to gain work experience in my field. This involved seeking out internships and volunteering my design services to people I came across who were doing things I was interested in.Identity for Afri-Love - African inspired creative production

Identity for Afri-Love – African inspired creative production

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

It’s really important for me to do work whose subject I’m passionate about and, starting out, I didn’t always have this opportunity. In fact, there was a point where I was about to give up on design altogether, primarily for this reason. Making the decision to be self-employed was scary, for obvious reasons, however, the prospect of having more control over the projects I would work on, was very exciting… and has been very satisfying. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

In my personal experience, my background has never really felt like a barrier to getting into the industry and achieving my ambitions. However, as a company operating in the UK, I sometimes wonder if people’s perceptions of Asilia preclude us from winning certain projects. A lot of our work has had an African focus and my business partner and I are of Kenyan origin so, I think that some people assume that we only work on Africa-related projects. So this is the current challenge that I’m/we’re facing and the approach at the moment is to continue to focus on doing great work. I believe that we will continue to attract the kind of people that we enjoy working with.Afri-love - illustration for post on why Ghana will be the next African app powerhouse

Afri-love – illustration for post on why Ghana will be the next African app powerhouse

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’m greatly inspired by craft traditions from around the world. I always find joy in the diversity of textiles, patterns, adornments and vibrant colour combinations and I aim to capture that same excitement in my work.

Discovering Chaz Maviyane-Davies was very inspiring and in particular, his insistence that design should express the context within which it’s created, in terms of speaking to its culture and not just emulating a Western ideal.

Marian Bantjes is another big inspiration. I love the playfulness, intricacy and amazing level of craftmanship in her work, as well as her sass and confidence!Spora Stories identity

Spora Stories identity

What is the project you are most proud of?

This is such a difficult question and the answer constantly evolves. One of the projects I’m most proud of is the work we did for the Film Africa festival. It was great to have such a visual project, in terms of our work being seen all over town and, the response we’re still receiving now, from different people, is really positive.

I’m also really proud of the work we did for the African Union Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA). Particularly, the iconography we developed and the infographics we designed which, help to make a serious subject much more accessible to a wider audience.

What would be your dream job or project?

I think I’m living my dream job right now. Dream project? I would love to work with museums and cultural institutions like the Southbank Centre.Web design for Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa

Web design for Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

I’ve lately come across quite a few small, independent agencies in Africa that are doing some exciting work. In Kenya (and I believe this may be true for other countries on the continent), international advertising agencies (e.g. TBWA, Ogilvy etc.) have a kind of monopoly when it comes to the communications/design industry. It’s refreshing to see these smaller, and often much more creative, shops emerging and doing well.Legal Defence Initiative prints

Legal Defence Initiative prints

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Get as much experience as you can, start as early as you can and be creative about how you find it. There is a lot of competition in our field so don’t expect a long list of design internships and work placements for you to choose from. Think outside the box. I got one of my first opportunities by attending a networking event that had nothing to do with design, meeting a publisher and volunteering my services for his up and coming magazine.

Another important thing – never underestimate the value of experimentation and play. Some of the best ideas come from that.

What’s next for you?

Asilia is working on developing some design and digital products. Look out for our online shop and a couple of app launches in the next few months.

Network:
THE U.S:
AFRICOBRA: Art & Impact honours the Chicago artist group, AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). Exhibition is presented by 3 South Side institutions and runs from 26 July until 29 September 2013. For more information, go to http://www.dusablemuseum.org/events/details/africobra-the-dusable-museum-programming
THE CARIBBEAN:
Belize International Film Festival. This is the eighth edition of the festival focusing on films from the Caribbean and Central America. Date: July 11-15, 2013. For more information visit www.belizefilmfestival.com
EUROPE:
Design On Stage exhibition presents the best product innovations of the year. Red Dot Design Museum, Gelsenkirchener Straße 181
45309 Essen, Germany. Exhibition runs from 2 – 28 July 2013. For more information visit http://en.red-dot.org/5005.html
AFRICA:
Durban International Film Festival 2013. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, the Durban International Film Festival will be celebrating its 34th edition from 18 to 28 July 2013. For more information on South Africa’s premiere film event visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za