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Meet Adejoke Tugbiyele: Nigeria’s Charming Visual Art Entrepreneur



Adejoke Tugbiyele is an interdisciplinary Nigerian artist trained in the United State of America and based in Johannesburg . In 2013, she received her Master of Fine Arts from The Rinehart School of Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) under the direction of Maren Hassinger. Since then, her journey in art received continuous blessing from family, former partners, friends and colleagues. Her work continues to transform and evolve and while it hasn’t been an easy road she gets deeper understanding and greater strength to move forward.

In this insightful interview with our Contributor Priscilla Philips, she shares her journey into the world of art, first ever solo exhibition called “WAHALA TEMI – Body Work” amongst others. Excerpts.



Tell us about yourself and your journey in becoming an Artist.

My journey as an artist built slowly and gradually.  I maintained other employment while making art on the side, after receiving my first degree in architecture from the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT (now the College of Art and Design).

In the year 2009, I produced a work entitled AFRIKEA (presented under the artist-name “Wahala Temi”) which featured in the exhibition The Global Africa Project, curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and Dr. Leslie King Hammond, at The Museum of Arts and Design in New York. It also received mention in the show’s New York Times article written by Roberta Smith. Bisi Silva, Director of The Centre for Contemporary Art – CCA Lagos recognized my work in this show and invited me to feature in the all-woman group show “All We Ever Wanted” in 2011.

It was my first time showing in Nigeria and included my work “Moskito Ministry.”  All This recognition combined by leading voices in the field and at a highly reputable institutions both in the US and Nigeria, inspired me towards graduate study in sculpture and to begin building a professional career.

In 2013, I received my Master of Fine Arts from The Rinehart School of Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) under the direction of Maren Hassinger. Since then, my journey received continuous blessing from family, former partners, friends and colleagues and I am grateful. The work continues to transform and evolve and while it hasn’t been an easy road there is deeper understanding and greater strength to move forward.


Can you share with us your first ever exhibition experience?

My first ever solo exhibition was called “WAHALA TEMI – Body Work” and presented at the Walsh Gallery at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey – A University show curated by Jeanne Brasile. These works revealed my deep concerns around the practice of female genital mutilation on young African girls. I made several mixed media works on canvas such as “Broken Village” series, “Baby Cut,” “Sewn Shut,” “Type I and IV – Diptych” and “Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t,” With the exception of the latter made of African brooms or palm spines, all others incorporated tree branches to bridge ideas around the notion of Mother Earth/Woman’s Body.

The installation entitled “Sacrifice” also improvised and transformed African Brooms into contemporary sculpture. While I am delighted this show touched many hearts and works found their way into distinguished private collections, I am equally proud of the way it helped to heal bonds I share with African women in my own family and beyond. Many who have sacrificed body at the expense of “culture” and “tradition.”


What inspires you?

I continue to be inspired by the narratives we carry as blacks or African women. Our shared history of struggle coupled with accomplishments in fields across the spectrum – art, music, dance, literature, sports, business, politics, etc – leaves a lasting legacy for future generations. As a queer black woman I also engage the queer community and currently serve on the board of Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative, WHER-Nigeria.

Lastly, I am committed to self-care, progressive family values, strong lasting bonds and being spiritually grounded in one’s faith. As an entrepreneur I am naturally competitive and motivated to succeed with sound advice and guidance. However I define success as a healthy balance of all of the above alongside well-earned financial gain built from a strong work-ethic.


What are some of the challenges you face in your industry and what positives do you see from them?

Since the history of Africa is painful and interwoven, and because various entities have on-going debates about the state and future of Africa, it can be difficult to position oneself while maintaining authenticity and, while also learning, growing as a professional artist and as a human being.  This can have a negative effect on sales as buyers learn to build trust and feel secure in the position/direction of the artist. Some positive trends I have noticed is that of allowing individual artist voices to shed greater light through more talks and thoughtful interviews, such as this one. I trust the trend will continue.


How are you strategically positioned in the entrepreneurship ecosystem?

My studio practice is currently set up for my operation as a sole proprietor.  This structure is appropriate given the size, scope and functionality of everyday tasks including art production, documentation, media or news dissemination, income and expense tracking (alongside other accounting duties for taxes), studio/space management, supervision, and communications with other artists, curators, my gallery representation, shippers, collectors and general supporters of my work and career.


As an Artist, where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

The ideas, concepts, materials and formal language of my work remain constant.  Over the next 5 years I hope to form an LLC, expanding my studio practice physically and structurally. In a new working relationship with Sakhile&Me Art Gallery, I anticipate audiences bearing witness to Museum solo-exhibitions, participation in international art fairs, educational opportunities especially in Africa, retail/commercial product income-generation and social responsibility practices.

I hope to build with my partner and studio manager, Priscilla Philips, a practice that financially supports family while inspiring/empowering the queer community so that we may be shining examples for others to follow.


What advice would you give to Artists who want to start a career in Africa entertainment?

I advise artists to hone their unique voice, maintain authenticity even when others doubt, do research and be aware of the happenings within the studio as well as discourse on the periphery, document, keep sound records and lastly, operate with gratitude and humility. At the right time, seek a gallery ready to advise, nurture and support long-term growth through their networks in the industry so that most studio time can be spent making great art!


How are you participating to the development of Africa? 

My career contributes to the development of Africa in many ways. I build on the legacy of many pioneers of contemporary African (postmodern) aesthetics developed around the time of independence movements of different African countries, thus adding to post-colonial discourse around identity, cultural authenticity and ownership.

Furthermore, my career challenges old patriarchal beliefs and values around the role or value of black women in Africa and beyond, in relationship to male counterparts. My practice interrogated the negative space/thoughts assigned to LGBT people based on lack of understanding, ultra conservative and religious systems that weave into socio-political landscape – scapegoating those who need help the most.

As a successful artist I hope to shatter false myths while building new narratives on the limitless potential of women and queer voices in Africa and the diaspora.


Shaun Duvet on The Unit Group and the Impact of COVID-19



Shaun Duvet, Founder and CEO at The Unit Group (Source: Unit Group website)

The impact of Covid-19 is changing the way organisations operate and do business about the world. The entertainment industry is not exempted as it’s adjudged the second affected industry after the aviation, travel and hospitality industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Shaun Duvet the Founder and CEO of The Unit Group shares his brand story and the Impact of Covid-19. Excerpt.

Alaba: Could you tell us about the Unit Group and the gap it’s filling since you launched?

Shaun: The Unit Group was established  in 2017 as the holding company for my various business interests which include: COCO, GoldBar and Souk (my venues), Ultra South Africa, Corona Sunsets Festivals, Anything Goes, AG Virtual, Bella Bookings, Salute, Jet Black & Paradise Springs. These businesses cover all functions of entertainment marketing, management, hospitality, sponsorship and eventing from design, to staffing and artist booking, to production and everything in between.

The gap we launched The Unit Group to fill was that of a true understanding of marketing in the entertainment space. So many brands want to play in this space because the audiences are so receptive and the engagement so high, yet so few of them truly understand it. We felt that we had the marketing know-how, and a deep love and knowledge of not only this space, but the global players within it. 

Alaba: What services does your company offer?

Shaun: The services offered range from throwing small corporate events to festivals for 50, 000 pax; to sponsorship strategies, virtual events; to full spectrum design, photography, videography; artist, model and staff bookings; marketing, and PR strategies and much, much more. 

Alaba: How has the market responded to your offerings?

Shaun: We have seen a huge uptake in clients that previously came to us just to make the party happen, now asking for marketing, creative and strategic advice. AG Virtual, which launched this year, has also seen the likes of AFI (African Fashion Week) approach us to do their full virtual production.

Alaba: The steady rise of South Africa’s entertainment industry has  increased competition in the country. What’s your company’s advantage?

Shaun: My 20+ years of experience and my years behind the decks. I live and breathe music and entertainment which enables me to understand what the market wants and keep abreast of global trends. I also have incredible teams in place that keep our work fresh and relevant, and the machine in constant motion.

Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges faced, especially in this dire time and how you overcoming them? 

Shaun: The challenge of this year is obvious – no events, no DJ’s, no dancing! That’s our life blood. We have managed though to stay busy by diversifying what we offer and working more strategically. Helping brands activate within the highly connected urban youth market in an authentic and resonant manner. Some of our venues are also still operational, and the festivals and events teams are taking some much-needed down time before the parties start again, which we know they will do with a renewed energy when we’re out of the current COVID crisis.

Alaba: Technology is disrupting the entertainment industry across the globe. How’s your company adapting to the use of technology?

Shaun: As mentioned, we have launched AG Virtual which is doing well. But we have always been at the forefront of event and entertainment technology in our work. Our audience demands it. 

Alaba: How does your company contribute and set new standards in the South African entertainment industry?  

Shaun: I regularly write and speak on industry channels and give back to the industry that way. We also ensure that we are constantly raising the bar with the work that we do, meaning that more people around the world sit up and take notice which will ultimately benefit the whole industry.  

Alaba: What’s the future for the Unit Group and are you post COVID-19 ready?

Shaun: We cannot wait for life to return to “normal”. Down time was nice, but we’re rested now and it’s time to work! 

Alaba: How do you relax and what keeps you going? 

Shaun: I have 3 young kids so relaxation is scarce, but they certainly keep me going

Alaba: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and investors coming to South Africa?

Shaun: Come! Don’t be afraid. There is risk, yes, but the rewards are also so great. We live in such a special place and I really believe in the future of this country.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun


Shaun Duvet, CEO and Founder of The Unit, South Africa’s leading entertainment-based holding company, a combination of enterprises, individually built to make brands better. Shaun is also the CEO and Founder of Anything Goes, the branded entertainment agency, aligning campaigns, properties and music tours with international brands and artists across the continent.

He is the co-Founder and Director of ULTRA South Africa, which brings 50,000 dance-music revellers together every year to see some biggest names in eEectronic Music. He is the partner and producer for Corona Sunsets Festival South Africa, which over the last 5 years has seen over 40,000 fans join together across three cities to celebrate the sunset.
He is a co-owner and operator for COCO, one of SA’s premiere nightclubs, think celebrities, Ibiza-style go-go dancers, Hip Hop MCs, and a parade of sparkler-topped bottles, this alongside it’s sister GoldBar, an elegant bar annex to COCO.

Shaun Duvet is a board member and proud supporter of Bridges For Music, a non-profit organization that utilises the power of music to uplift communities through creative education. Recently, partnering with Defected Records on a new imprint Sondela Records all of whose profits will channel back directly into the charity.


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Viola Labi: The multi-hyphenate creative strategist building an eco-luxury fashion brand in Africa



Viola Labi is a multi-hyphenate creative, premium retail Strategist and Founder of WOVEN, a design-led fashion enterprise.

With over a decade of experience and a proven track record in the global luxury retail space, Viola has worked with renowned international brands such as Burberry, ZARA, Loewe, CELINE and Valentino and has caught the attention of media powerhouses such as Vogue Business, Essence, Forbes, BBC and CNN International, as one to watch.

Born in Canada with Ghanaian parentage, Viola is culturally plural and holds reverence to fashion’s interaction with humanity; asserting that it permits people, irrespective of their cultural and social affiliations to unite. It is this fundamental belief and her relocation to Ghana that inspired WOVEN, a ground breaking brand which seeks to herald a new direction for eco-luxury retail on the African continent.

Viola said, WOVEN was birthed from a personal journey to Northern Ghana. “I witnessed my own reunification to elements of rich Ghanaian culture through textile creation at the diligent hand skilled Artisans. Despite language barriers and unfamiliar grounds, I felt at home. I spent more time with women creating textiles and found myself being stitched together in areas I didn’t know needed mending, areas like self-identity and purpose.”

Cowry Basket (Image Source: WOVEN)

“Looking back, I guess you can say we weaved symbolic exchanges of knowledge and cultural practices and this inspired me to creative WOVEN. Although the entire assortment of products are literally woven, the company name speaks to a higher purpose of coming together as Humanity.” She said.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

The Brand’s mission is to actively work towards uniting the fashion value chain into a cohesive whole by showcasing the creative talent that pervades throughout the African continent; while emanating the diversity of culture, history and skill, much like yarn being formed into a unique tapestry. 

Cowry Basket (Image Source: WOVEN)

WOVEN has the honour of partnering with 150 esteemed Artisan weavers in Ghana to create sustainable, functional, home furnishing products. It’s design principles and execution promote inclusion and seek to disrupt fear-based stereotypes by creating products, made in Africa, that are par with those of global standards.


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Emalohi Iruobe, An Attorney and Founder of Tribe XX Lab Empowering Female-led Startups



Emalohi L. Iruobe Esq. is an attorney, adjunct professor and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Tribe XX Lab, the first and only co-working, wellness and incubator space exclusively for female entrepreneurs and female led startups and companies in Lagos. Tribe XX Lab offers an open-plan office, private offices, events, networking, yoga, a nap room, conference room, reference library, pop up restaurants and wellness retail.

The fundamental idea is to create a place where women are able to present a professional front for their business as well as network, get training, access to funding opportunities and help each other. With a general focus on self-care and balance, the space also partners with brands that retail wellness and selfcare products in order to meet the other often overlooked core need of women in business-wholeness.

Prior to founding Tribe XX Lab, Emalohi was an adjunct professor of Business Law, Business Research Methods and Legal Analysis and Writing at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA for several years before moving to teach Business Law and Data Management at LIM College in Manhattan, New York. Afterwards she taught Expository Writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA before founding Aimanosi Lingerie; a dynamic brand focused on promoting body positivity and selflove in African women. She has a Bsc. in Finance and Banking from Lincoln University, PA and a Juris Doctor from Villanova University.

Before delving into full time entrepreneurship, she practiced law in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey working in Commercial litigation, as well as working as the Manager of Project Implementation in the Kwara State Public Private Partnership office in 2013. She comes with over a decade experience in entrepreneurship, law, education and business.

About Tribe XX Lab

Tribe XX Lab is a civic space for complex conversations, critical contemplation, learning and action to prevent all forms of violence and oppression against women and girls. The goal of their work is to change the perceptions of women and their role in society as well as lead conversations and interventions that PREVENT violence against women and girls in the first place. They do this through the use of digital and social media, conversations, XX-CEED Virtual festival, game theory and art.

Through their work, they are particularly looking to provide support to survivors of Gender-based violence, promote greater public engagement in preventing violence against women, increase public awareness of the intersectionality of oppression women face, create social projects that encourage the extermination of rape culture.

Since inception, they have successfully carried out several survival supports programs, prevention panels and have received a grant to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls in universities in Nigeria as well as provide psychological support to victims of GBV in institutions of higher education from Oxfam/Voice.

Emalohi also launched ‘I GO TALK’ ​a​ ​Nigerian​ ​Pidgin​ ​phrase​ ​which​ ​simply​ ​means​ ​I​ ​will​ ​not​ ​be​ ​silent,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​tell​ ​on you.​ It ​came​ ​in​ ​as​ ​a​ ​crucial​ ​response​ ​to​ ​the​ ​sexual​ ​violence​ ​that​ female students ​ in Nigerian​ Universities face.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​a​ ​clarion​ ​call​ ​from​ ​victims,​ ​survivors,​ ​and​ ​women​ ​in​ ​general​ ​to​ ​the​ ​perpetrators​ of ​sexual​ ​abuse​ ​and​ ​to​ ​the​ ​general​ ​public,​ ​that​ ​they’re ​here​ ​to​ XXterminate, silence ​and​ ​provide​ ​support​ ​to​ victims.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​a​ ​motivation​ ​for​ ​victims​ ​of​ ​sexual​ ​abuse​ ​and harassment ​amongst​ ​University​ ​students​ ​to speak ​up​ ​and​ ​also​ ​a​ ​mode​ ​to​ ​create​ ​awareness for ​students​ ​on​ ​their​ ​rights​ ​in​ ​line​ ​with​ ​the recently signedd​ ​Sexual​ ​Harassment​ ​bill.​

After ​the​ ​BBC​ ​Documentary,​ ​Sex​ ​for​ ​Grades​ ​rocked​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​of​ ​Nigeria​ ​in​ ​October​ ​2019,​ ​the​ ​long​ cloaked ​truth​ ​about​ ​the​ ​oppression that ​young​ ​women​ ​face​ ​in​ ​the​ ​hands​ ​of university ​lecturers​ ​started​ to ​come​ ​to​ ​light.​ ​For the ​longest​ ​time,​ ​young​ ​women​ ​seeking​ ​higher education ​have​ ​been​ ​preyed​ ​upon​ by ​several academicians ​high​ ​in​ ​power​ ​and​ ​have​ ​been oppressed,​ ​victimized,​ ​and​ ​helpless.​

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Starting from the 25​th​ of October to the 31​st​ of October, they are kicking off the first edition of I GO TALK Youth Summit, the largest gathering of university students across the country to build collective power and voice in the fight to end Sex4grades and sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities.

Tribe XX Lab is laser focused on promoting gender equality, deliberate living, transformative leadership and community development through the design and delivery of trainings, workshops, seminars, collaborative partnerships and data gathering.

Visit: Tribe XX Lab & I GO TALK

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