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Culture and Creativity: A masterclass with African creatives.

Thebe Ikalafeng, Brand Africa Founder, launched the first Africa-focused specialist rand leadership academy Africa Brand Leadership Academy (ABLA), on 5 February. The Academy is aimed at sharpening the minds that build brands that build Africa. Over the past decade, the Brand Africa 100: Africa’s Best Brands survey has established that on average, African brands account for only 20% of the brands that Africans admire.

“As an artist, you have the ability to cultivate your talents however you choose, through whatever medium you desire.”- Tunde Owolabi made these comments at the Culture and Creativity Masterclass hosted by the Africa Brand Leadership Academy on 2 March 2021.

The virtual masterclass was led by Founder of Brand Africa and Principal of the African Brand Leadership Academy, Thebe Ikalafeng. The masterclass focus was on how culture and creativity meet in an African context and how creatives made the connection and found inspiration within their respective cultures.

On the panel, renowned South African designer, Laduma Ngxokolo (Founder of Maxhosa Africa), Nigerian creative director and Founder of Ethnik, Tunde Owolabi and designer and creative director of Moshions, Moses Turahirwa from Rhwanda.

Inspired by culture

When asked what inspires each of the panellists, Moses shared that he always loved fashion but felt it was not African enough. “I wanted to claim my own fashion”, he decided to use inspiration from his cultural aesthetics for his work.

Similarly, Tunde shared his journey of leaving the advertising industry to pursue his passion for design. After travelling around Africa, he became curious about the kind of experiences he can create and the stories he wants to tell through paintings and photos and design.

Laduma’s story is conjured from his upbringing and culture as a Xhosa man. Taking from the Xhosa initiation culture, he created designs that reflected that, with a modern twist. “I felt that the clothes we wore as initiates were too westernized and I saw an opportunity to create a brand that focuses on the specific aesthetics.”

Cultural Appropriation

Not shying away from asking the panel personal questions, Thebe Ikalafeng brought up the issue of cultural appropriation, in the context of fashion and how each of the designers feels about it. Both Moses and Tunde shared the same sentiments- “You cannot appropriate your own culture.” “It is all about adding value to the culture because our fashion language has to rely on the cultural symbol and harmonize with it to bring it to the world, expressed Moses.

“We are refining our culture by sharing it with the world”, said Tunde.

On the other hand, Laduma did not agree. “it is possible to appropriate your culture, for example, imagine if I took my value chain of Maxhosa to China”. That in itself would be a system of appropriation, he shared.

“Culture cannot be a trend”

Laduma Ngxokolo

If you joined the virtual masterclass on Zoom, then you know just how inspired everyone was. The level of pride in their culture is unmatched. The biggest take away being, when culture and creativity meet, it produces the best in the arts, whether fashion, music or even theatre.

You can watch the full Masterclass here.

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