Buki Akib is an incredibly talented British and West African designer. After studying at Saint Martin’s, she has done one collaboration after the other, with the coolest brands and magazines (Darkroom, I-D, Urban Outfitters are a few examples). She now lives in Ghana, and conveys Ghanian and Nigerian crafts to her contemporary creation. What enables her to marry local crafts and design in such a natural way? We, at HLOW, wanted to find out.
Can you tell us a bit about your story between UK, Ghana and Nigeria? Where do you live, where did you grow up, where did you study and where do you live right now? How is this triple location(/identity?) influencing your work?
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up and studied in London, England. My parents made it very important that I was in tune with my culture and roots. I often went back home on holidays . I like the idea of a triple location identity, it makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to travel and explore. It is part of the story telling: design from the eyes of an African born in West Africa growing up in England then going back to West Africa. I came across Ghana first through my late mother, she was a generation of Nigerian settlers born and bred in Ghana until they migrated back to Lagos, Nigeria. So I guess i have always had an affinity with Ghana. I am still constantly amazed by each country’s richness in history, art and evolution which contributes to my work. I now spilt my time between London and Accra.
We personally were in contact with you through our previous business, IreneIrene, an internet shop selling your beautiful Wives Collection, with which we totally fell in love, could you tell us a bit more about this series?
The wives collection was special to me because i wanted to touch on the subject of polygamy. Wives collection was a follow up from my Menswear collection “Fela” which showcased the talented musician and activist Fela Kuti who had 27 wives. From afar it seemed ridiculous to have all these women but on the other side, Fela gave these women shelter, stability and status when society demonized them. The bags were named and created distinctively to suit each wife’s personality. For instance, one of the bags had a shoulder pad tassels to emulate the movement of the dancers on stage.
You work with traditional Yoruba hand woven Aso-oke with cotton, silk and linen, could you tell us more about this craft and its history?
Hand weaving on the loom has been around for centuries in West Africa. Our looms are smaller in width compared to looms in North Africa or Japan. The graphics woven on fabrics were always a way to signify a tribe, a special occasion and remember history. It is almost a form of communication. This form of communication is fundamental to how I create Art. This is my universal language.
You have worked for I-D, ABOVE and ZOO and had collaborations with Urban Outfitters or the late cult London shop, Darkroom, how did you enjoy these experiences?
Every experience was different and humbling. I have worked with museums, jewelry company and cult stores like Darkroom. All these experiences have made me realize the art of story telling is endless. In any medium or discipline. I hope to work with other craftsmen in Accra and North Africa has I journey through the wonders of Africa. I am a devoted student to these masters.