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Meet Adejoke Tugbiyele: Nigeria’s Charming Visual Art Entrepreneur

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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.

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Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care is bringing petcare to your home

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Vetwork Inc Founders, Abdelreheem Hussein and Fady Azzouny (Source: Vetwork)

Pets today are considered family members, best friends, confidants, and so much more. Taking care of them requires more than just love and dedication, but also the right knowledge to recognize when something is not right. Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care industry one country at a time and its mission is to make pets healthier, pet owners happier. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Fady Azzouny Founder and CEO of Vetwork Inc talked about his entrepreneurship journey, his vision for petcare with Vetwork and the future plan. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Why did you start and what’s the passion behind it?

Fady: Petcare should be easy, as it stands its full of inefficiencies for both pet parents and vets. Instead of a crowded clinic with a waiting time of 30-45 minutes, vets come to you at home at the time you choose. Rather than try to muster up a massive amount of money to fund a clinic, vets can practice their services without any initial cost and make extra money to live a better life.

The vision of regulating the petcare industry involves a lot of innovation, our dream is to use the available technologies to make everyone’s lives easier and right now we’re on the right track.

 

Alaba: What is your background?

Fady: I graduated as a veterinarian, but I consider myself an entrepreneur. I saw some problems in the veterinary market while I was still studying and started a bunch of projects, with a few of them turning into medium sized companies. My initial problem was the absence of technology in my solutions, with Vetwork I think we can really achieve my vision of making petcare easier.

 

Alaba: What are the problems you are solving and what is your value proposition?

Fady: Its simple, we are solving the problem of finding a good vet by selecting our vets from a pool of more than 1000 annual applications. And the problem of waiting in the clinic through Home visits available 24/7. Also, we are addressing Vets problems of low wages and salaries by offering them easy access to extra income.

Vetwork is reliable, affordable and available petcare.

 

Alaba: Tell us more about the process, users, business model!

Fady: As we stand the process is the same across Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE). We onboarded more than 300 vets across these three countries. These vets help us cater to our customer’s needs. A pet parent can log into our website or app and request a service at the time of their choosing. A vet will be assigned and introduced to the client.

The vet will then arrive, conduct the visit and deliver a detailed orientation on the tips and tricks of petcare. Our medical records also allow us to follow-up with our pet parents to make sure that everything is going according to plan and their pet is getting better.

 

Alaba: What are your main challenge?

Fady: Since we promise to deliver all your pets needs to you, finding the right groomers, trainers, vets and boarding facilities is always a challenge due to our strict onboarding guidelines.

 

Alaba: What is your achievements and coming plan?

Fady: After launching in three countries our plan is to start expanding further into the MENA region and build our presence in the countries that need us the most. Our tech infrastructure allows us to launch in any country in a matter of days and we plan to take advantage of this to test markets and become your pets partner anywhere in the Middle East.

 

Alaba: Do you think the ecosystem support you?

Fady: Ideas and mentorship, we’re always happy to learn and listen to other people’s ideas on how we can make petcare an easier process. We try our best to promote pet adoption since a lot of shelters are full of pets that need a home. Access to people with a wider audience can surely help us deliver our message to the people that need us the most.

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Zoe Adjonyoh, the Ghanaian Irish Chef, Writer and Activist revolutionizing African Cuisine

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Zoe Adjonyoh, Founder at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Source: Zoe Adjonyoh)

Zoe Adjonyoh is on a mission to bring African food to the masses. Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and chef from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana. Described by the Observer as “the standard bearer for West African food” and named by Nigel Slater as ‘one to watch’ bringing immigrant food to Britain. She was named one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out and most recently has been included as one of ‘The 44 Best Female Chefs in the World’ by Hachette Cuisine France. She became a judge at “The Great Taste Awards” in 2016, which is known as the “Oscars” of the food industry, and in 2018, she won the Iconoclast award at The James Beard Foundation.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

Zoe began by selling Ghanaian food outside her front door during the 2010 Hackney Wicked Arts Festival to ‘make a bit of pocket money’ after returning from traveling across The United States. After the popularity of the stall she set up selling peanut stew outside her front door, Zoe went on the host many supper clubs in her home consistently selling out.

Zoe has been making waves in the international food scene ever since. Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London, Berlin, Accra, Russia and New York, and is a leader in the new African cuisine revolution. Along with her world-renowned supper clubs, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.

In 2017, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen became a roving private dining, street food, wedding and events company, which Zoe ran alongside her chef residencies. The brand is a prominent force in the festival community around the UK, including Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective, and came runner-up as ‘Best Street Food Trader’ at the UK Festival Awards 2017.

Revolutionizing West African Food

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the first modern West African Restaurant in the United Kingdom. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the epitome of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice, alongside Zoe’s contemporary West African creations.

In 2014, Zoe began writing her debut cookbook titled ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ and was released in 2017 by
Octopus Books. The first modern West African Cookbook to be published in the United Kingdom. Due to its demand the publishers decided to re-release of the cookbook in November 2020 and is the process of working on her second book.

Source: Zoe Adjonyoh

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Coco Olakunle, the Nigerian Dutch photographer passionate about humanity, inclusion and diversity

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Coco Olakunle is a Nigerian Dutch photographer with a background in Human Geography based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her cultures and lived experience are constant sources of inspiration. This produces a photography style that can be seen as a crossover between documentary and fashion, where she always try to highlight the importance of the subject’s identity and background. During her work time, she likes to create a space where the subject feels comfortable and at ease being themselves and letting their personality show. Coco finds that when the subjects in her work feels comfortable, it is felt in the overall process and in the end product.

Her work revolves around people and the personalities they embody: Coco uses her camera as a way to engage with humanity and peacefully open the doors of full spectrum inclusivity and representation. She’s constantly creating spaces for her subjects to express themselves and discover who they are. The subject is always the starting point but what you see in the image is actually a snapshot of her vision: how I want to see us.

“For most of us, 2020 was a tough year. At the beginning of the year, all my jobs were cancelled. Being in lockdown and not being able to work forced me to rethink my skill set. I wasn’t able to practice photography though photoshoots, but I was able to share my experience as a freelance photographer with others. During that time, I got the opportunity to be in front of the classroom multiple times at various art academies, including one I had been previously rejected from as an applicant. To me, this proves that there are different tracks and ways to achieve your goals. Talking to the next generation of visual artists about my work and the philosophy behind it was a new experience for me. It was refreshing to bring other perspectives to the table, especially not coming from an art academy myself. I feel a great responsibility bringing new perspectives into these institutions and guiding students in finding their visual identity and translating it into their creative work.” Coco said.

One of my absolute highlights from 2020 was shooting the cover of ELLE magazine’s September issue. This was super exciting because I got to focus more on the fashion side of photography, and it was such an honor to have my work on the cover of such a big magazine. I look forward to doing more work in the field of fashion, where I can bring my photography style and cultural background to the table. I am constantly inspired by so many great African photographers, some of which are Nigerian, which makes me even more proud. Seeing all the creative work that comes from the continent inspires me from a distance, and even more when I am there.

Coco aim to get back to Lagos, as soon as possible. She said, “Creating in the motherland is very personal for me because it’s a way for me to connect with and learn more about my culture and my people on a deeper level. Being on Nigerian soil gives me a different type of creativity and inspiration from within and I love working with my people when I am there. My camera is like a passport that gives her access to new people and stories which I love bringing back with me and sharing.”

One of her personal projects is a documentary fashion series about her family in Lagos, which she sees as a personal exploration of her Nigerian culture and an exciting challenge. The idea for this project stems from when she was young. “I dream about Nigeria a lot and created my own image of how it would look in my head, and how my family would be. This visualization is my starting point for this series, blending my own vision with what I see when I am there. This project is a way for me to connect with my heritage and discover more about Nigerian culture, and, through that, myself.” Coco said.

In terms of personal development, she hopes to explore different sides of photography she is less familiar with. Coco is excited to master the physics of lighting, because she believes light is how you paint a picture. She loves learning new things in general, making the entire process to be a fun one.

“The past year brought me a lot of new opportunities and new perspectives which I am grateful for, and hope to take with me further into the next years. For the new year, my focus will be on sharing and creating supportive environments where other photographers can connect with and uplift each other.” She said.

A few weeks ago, Coco organized a ‘Creative Catch Up’ for a small group of creatives to reflect on the past year and share ideas for the next year. With good food, music and a table filled with (photography) books this get together turned into a supportive environment where they shared project ideas, thoughts and insecurities. Something she thinks they as freelancers should do more often.

Her work

Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle

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