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Voices Of Africa: Bubu Ogisi Is ‘Decolonizing The Mind’ With IAMISIGO

IAMISIGO is a contemporary wearable art and home textiles brand based between Lagos, Nairobi and Accra. Launched by Bubu Ogisi, their work primarily focuses on how fashion and textile can not only keep history alive but also pass on information for the future through the preservation of techniques and expression through matter. Recently, IAMISIGO launched their first home collection, which expounds upon their mission statement of maintaining the cultural significance behind traditional materials, and utilizing those materials in designed objects that interact with the body.

Reed Davis: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Bubu Ogisi: Everything really but most importantly the concept of spirituality and individuality. By this, I mean, examining and understanding us beyond being human beings through the idea of divinity. We create and destroy; are we gods or descendants of gods? The self participates in everyday life in agbon (the visible world) and in Erinmwin (the spirit world also known as the world of the ancestors) which is home to one’s spiritual guardian (Ehi). Power resides in one’s own head (uhunmwun) and in one’s Ehi with whom the head cooperates with. One’s head can either curse or bless one’s actions. The Edo place themselves at the center of creation: Edo ore I se agbon – Edo the land that extended to the visible world. The Edo refer to themselves as Ivbi Oto children of the land.

Our Ehi is like the clothes you wear. All of you is a ritual space, your body is a temple. Your body becomes a spiritual landscape, that is the energy field, designed, constantly reworked and reactivated. You design what you wear. The art of the idea of divinity spans around the term Osa in Edo (Orisa in Yoruba) a spiritual mindset based on the notion of family, the large family descended from a single ancestor, encompassing both living and deceased. By establishing certain ties in divinity they are able to control certain forces of nature. Without love, faith and dignity one can never penetrate the mystery of knowing what Osa is. It is everything in human life. It’s in positive energy, water, leaves, the earth; it is real.

The spirit of human individuality is visual, aural, and musical rather than written. Like a spirit, it can’t stay still; it’s constantly in motion.

What’s most important to take from this, is how this mythology exists in every tribe and culture you find on the planet.

Seen here, a palm raphia wall hanging would traditionally be hung from a window or outside the home to ward off malevolent spirits.

Seen here, a palm raphia wall hanging would traditionally be hung from a window or outside the home to ward off malevolent spirits.

Reed: Why is it important to support local artisans?
Bubu: It is important to continuously and consistently work with local artisans within and around Africa by merging different ideas from different but yet very similar cultures to expose the world to the unlining artisanal secrets in Africa. The ideology that exists behind creating pieces that are purely crafted with our hands from nothing essentially and bringing life into minds from ideas that have been handed down from generation to generation. I see it as a form of preserving our stories and our history as Africans to also create new eco-innovative processes and designs that evolve the craftsmanship process of making.

Palm raphia lamp shades dangle from the ceiling, complimented by raphia cushions, raphia baskets, and a raphia rug. The palm raphia is extremely versatile and highly durable.

Palm raphia lamp shades dangle from the ceiling, complimented by raphia cushions, raphia baskets, and a raphia rug. The palm raphia is extremely versatile and highly durable.

Reed: Describe your most recent collection.
Bubu: My recent collection of homeware pieces stems from an ongoing research project in discovering the healing powers that exist in the use of Arecaceae.

Palms (Genus: Arecaceae) are prominent elements in African traditional medicines as a source of raw materials for consumption, construction, and other functions of daily life. Traditional remedies are derived from palms throughout the tropics and subtropics to cure many disorders. Since palms are part of the everyday life of nearly all people in Africa, it is expected that they are also important in the spiritual framework of rural life in Africa. Palms are still considered sacred objects, assuring protection from malevolent forces. It is fascinating that ritual uses of palms are not only present in medicinal practices but in many other events practiced since time immemorial until today.

In Cameroon, fresh bud leaves of Raphia vinifera are still suspended as a curtain in the villages’ entrances to ward off the evil. In Benin a Vodun Vo-sisa (ritual palm raphias used in Vudu) used to be placed opposite to the house gates to defend the inhabitants from harm. In Benin and Togo, ill people carried twigs of Elaeis guineensis around the neck or arm to achieve invulnerability. Also in Ghana, the Akan burn inflorescences from Elaeis guineensis so the smoke drives away bad spirits.

The forest itself is the permanent guarantee of man’s duration, an altar where one appropriately renders gratitude and belief, all-encompassing shrine found in nature, we consistently take from the forest and rarely give back, in this way this space installation pays homage to the forest and divine inspiration: leaf branch and tree, the use of raphia, in particular, continues our AW21 collection as an indication of spiritual presence an incarnation of the spirit of the forest separating the secular from the sacred areas, thereby revealing at the very least an influential cultural force contemporaneous with the rise of the earliest black urban altars of ancient Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Benin and Kongo. We have expanded the feeling of communion with an all-embracing presence in the God’s forest (forest as God) by abiding with African belief in the forest as the ultimate source of spiritual instruction for this collection of homeware pieces. Raphia screens veil us with protection – remove day or night or dry or wet and everything falls down.

Reed: When did you realize you wanted to be a designer/artist?
Bubu: I think I have always known, especially at a very early age, that I loved creating things from scrap, my mother would always gift me fabrics as presents and I loved going to the seamstress to tell her about what I wanted. I had a very cray sense of style as a child so I guess that transitioned into my design and ideology behind design.

I was very obsessed with architecture and how the body exists in different spaces but most importantly how the space exists around the body in terms of what you find in different spaces. I honestly believe in a free world, a decolonized world free of rules and barriers free of judgement, and I guess the only way a free world would ever exist is from an immensely creative community, a community that isn’t for competition but for co existential unison through creativity.

Featured here are mule-style shoes and a matching hat both made from palm raphia fibers, from IAMISIGO’s AW21 RTW collection.

Featured here are mule-style shoes and a matching hat both made from palm raphia fibers, from IAMISIGO’s AW21 RTW collection.

Reed: What is the last book you read?
Bubu: The Lost Cities of Africa by Basil Davidson


Click here to see more of the Voices of Africa series.

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