Ever so often, i get asked the same question, “What are your plans?” As one who does enjoy a little bit of indulgence on the blonde side, the usual response would follow, “what do you mean?” They would proceed to with a lecture on whether or not i have looked into a career in either advertising or corporate communications. The lecture will delve into the merits of my qualifications and its correlation to world of corporate branding. Then further revealing earning possibilities, perks and the likes. Other times i had been asked about my occupation. Then i mention that i work on the radio, i am then asked again what I really do. Of course after reiterating that “i work at a radio station” it is followed up with a “who do you live with or are your parents alive?” The statment is accompanied with a look of shock horror as though to say "God forbid your parents know what you are doing"
Excuse my extensive blonde moment but then it finally occurred to me that to most, i don’t have a real job. We are just merely overindulging in a vocation. Apparently all i do is turn up to work, sit in front of a microphone and just move my lips for less that 365 days a year. Some have even insinuated that they can’t believe that i get paid just to do that. So sadly as I’m not calculating taxes, profit and loss, suturing an artery, developing computer codes or strategising a PR blitz for a juice company, whatever i do is merely a vocation. Not that one should care much but the sad thing about this is the power of the stereotype. During these conversations about ambitions and life plans, i have found myself throwing in my private practices slash vocational occupations into the mix and unbeknownst to me has added a little extra credibility to my occupational repertoire. With some scepticism, they still add with bemusement “do people really make any money from writing”. Well thanks to the Cassava Republic and Farafina generation, writing has become somewhat prestigious.
Though a career in radio is highly unacceptable as a real job, being a writer means i still have a bit of a brain to string a couple of sentences together. As myopic as it may seem this happens to be a largely collective state of mind. I recently discovered it also is likely to affect your dating quotient too. I met a guy with a nice corporate job who referred to my job as a “THING”. In his words “you said you do a thing with Dan Foster on weekday’s right”. Besides the jabs at my day gig, there are always numerous references to the fact that i wouldn’t know what its like to have a real job.
In my hiatus of implosion sometimes what i really want to say is “look idiot, i have worked before you even dreamt of graduating from university. Waitress, supermarket checkout girl, company administrator, recruitment officer (that’s what we call the London hustle baby), BBC, production company, we have done it all and guess what, im just 25..and oh did i add that i have a first class degree from the third largest arts institution in Europe,..and just before i forget, i paid for it myself thank you very much”. But then again, the beauty of an implosion is that it never spills out of your head if you don’t want it to. So all i say is that i believe am free to do whatever occupation i choose and shouldn’t be crucified for it either, how ever unintelligent or unserious you think it is.
BY WANA UDOBANG
During the British summer, the country’s collective state of mind is equally dictated by its unpremeditated skyline as much as it fashion trends. I remember one of these summers walking down Oxford Street. The Selfridges window was decorated with stuffed tropical wildlife, spears, horns and mannequins’ draped in all shades of African print. The window backdrop was plastered in Ghanaian Kente cloth and off shoots of elephant grass sprouting from different corners. As you can already tell, that summer, European fashion was going African.
Since then, it has been observed, that print has come to define African design or even the African fashion aesthetic. From Lisa Folawiyo’s bejewelled Ankara garments to Odio Mimonet and even Zebra’s ready to war line, print has become the main course in the African designer’s staple. Hilfiger and Lauren came to embody the All American look, even then, they saw the need to diversify to satisfy the insatiable buying taste of trendy fashion consumers.
In terms of the retrospective, designers Kesse Jabari and Nikki Africana started of working with African fabric. They varied from Adire tie die, Asho Oke, George, Damask, Ankara to even brocade and lace, the Y2K generation haven’t completely departed from this model. Though Tiffany Amber works more with romantic and ethereal fabrics like chiffon, silk and lace, Mali’s Xuly Bet opted for fabric with solid blocks of colour in its last gothic inspired collection. Still there were enormous traces of Print. It makes one begin to believe that there is a likelihood that this monopoly of Print may become detrimental to the African designer as it has come to detract from the technique and dexterity of the African clothes constructors.
Though different iconoclastic trends are still traced to its lineage in certain eras, like corsets to the Victorians and floral to the hippies, every knowledgeable fashionista can see its evolution through the decades. Granted the two thousands saw less originality and more a re-invention of the wheel, no particular attribute has come to strongly define a designers nationality or race.
So should being an African designer be one who just works with African fabric? Some might argue that people should be able to work with what they know as well as what influences them without giving into the paranoia of global acceptance. At the end of the day Yinka Shonibare’s Print influenced and revamped Nelson’s ship has been commissioned for the fourth plinth in Tralfalger square. The same can be said for the Japanese kimono and for the south East Asia with their Saris.
Don’t forget that though Vivian Westwood has been ordained the Dame of opulent fashion, she was once the goddess of punk rock. There is a need to become more than the Ankara before it becomes us. This homogeny of fabric should not obliterate its handler.
Our last office meeting was dreadful. Well, all our office meetings are. A mass listening of your self played back to all. They call it the “aircheck tape”. We do this every week and it helps you know how dreadful you sound. Because strangely with the air check tape you just never sound right. Your a repetitious babbling bundle of mess. That’s it. That’s what you sound like, a hot pile of audible mess. So everyone in the room spits out bile alternatively known as constructive criticism. After a while of attending these meetings, you learn to take the good, accept the bad and just move on with the ugly. But that day i was told something a bit more interesting. After listening to everyone around the table drivel about how i could improve my very unsatisfactory performance on my Sunday show, my boss said to me “i don’t think you have a personality on Sundays”. Of everything he said i was most perplexed by that. He later explained that everyone liked the acid tongued, gossip ridden alter ego that i displayed on weekday mornings when presenting the entertainment digest ( a character named Mizz Infotainment who made a guest appearance only ten minutes a day). He said i needed to give the people what they wanted. I should become the authoritative figure on information (well soft cell trashy gossip). In my defence i told him that i felt it was unhealthy for me as an individual and as a professional.
Though during my internal monologue, i was really saying “wasn’t i already giving the people what they wanted, haven’t i given you people enough of my soul already?”. My friend is found dead with stab wounds in the woods, i have to be funny, witty and crazy, my aunt is in hospital with a lump in her neck, i have to be funny, witty and crazy, she dies a week later, i have to be funny, witty and crazy, I’m going to a funeral at twelve noon, my mother is in hospital, i get dumped in the morning, i still have to be funny, witty and crazy. Funny, witty and crazy have come to define me. I had conditioned myself to supress pain and all forms of other emotion because i have to be funny witty and crazy!!!!!!!
I had been told a fair few times that i was nothing close to my persona on the radio. People said when they listened to me on the radio i was insane and overly hyper. General unqualified pseudo psychotherapist had come to a conclusion that i showed schizophrenic and slightly bi-polar traits. I had successfully turned myself from campaign journalist cum custodian of the fourth estate to radio buffoon and still it wasn’t enough? They seemed to be breeding superstars in this place and until i had come full circle as a ten minute persona of my own invention, i was nothing close. My friend Banjo says maybe I’m looking for relevance. I think i have become a victim of my own invention. Fun sometimes doesn’t seem so fun anymore. I reckon i have created a monster. But hey, bills have to be paid and mouths to be fed. No time to check into rehab just yet.
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