» As an African designer, everything we do is sustainable. As long as pieces are sourced and made here, the idea of sustainability is embedded within the fabric. This collection somehow proves this point: it shows the actual essence of fabrics — in this case, recycled plastics and raw wooden fabric— create this world where everything has disappeared or gone and this supreme being has managed to survive with fashion. »
– Bubu Ogisi
It was hard for me to interview Bubu Ogisi, given how much I knew her already. To talk just about her new collection and how it is a manifestation of sustainability seemed contrived because she embodied all these principals without having to ever speak of them.
gbubemi the tempest
a quiet tempest
a storm looming in the distance- floating air, landed fire
but you want its rain
coloured, spicy water.
the rain is from the ground, of the ground
you will drown in that spicy, colourful rain of the earth
I interview her on an evening of one of our nights out. We are getting ready at hidden bar, her new spot. She burns sage in the room, weary of evil spirits that will come to ruin our night. We laugh, she pours ogogoro in hollowed out gourds called calabashes and then we begin to talk, under the calm shade of a palm tree in the green room.
Tushar Hathiramani : You’ve had a whirlwind summer: Kenya and Uganda for research then pop ups in Ghana and Ivory Coast. How are you feeling and what are your next plans?
Bubu Ogisi : I’m a nomad. I don’t really enjoy being in one place for too long. I’ve always been travelling since I’ve been a kid, collecting memories from the different places that I’ve been to. I’ve been thinking about this attitude towards life for a long time and I want to make sure that my work is a reflection of my personal beliefs. To answer your question, I feel good. As regards my plans, I see my brand and my work being more a reflection of a nomadic lifestyle across the African contient. I want my studio to be where I am— I don’t really want to be in a fixed location.
Interesting. But aren’t your roots in Nigeria? What will become of your flagship? Don’t worry that will always be there. I see my flagship as a point where people can come and explore all my collections but also get the full experience- think of it as a creative hub of sorts. I’ve recently opened a speakeasy called hidden bar in the space behind the IAMISIGO showroom. It’s a place to showcase sound, installation and film and it is super intimate. It is part of my new foray into art direction and installation, which I’ve always been obsessed with. Again, to answer your question, I see the Lagos space becoming more of a point of connection. The IAMISIGO studio will follow me wherever I go. And wherever I go is wherever the wind blows.
Sounds mystical. Are you spiritual? Definitely. Spirituality is deeply engrained in the Nigerian mindset. And I am from Warri, in Delta State. Spirits are a real thing there. I also often call myself a witch- a powerful woman who is capable of doing anything, even making magic.
This idea of the woman shines through in all of your collections. It would be silly of me to ask why, but can you tell me a little more about this? I come from a line of very strong women. My mother was in the military, which is to say she was as tough as they get. A lot of my inspiration comes from my memories of her getting ready in the mornings. Shirts, pants and jackets were all worn in the strictest and most regimented way- it was so beautiful for me to watch. I believe this energy in my mother has translated on to me. It also exists in all women from Africa. To me, God is a she. And she’s black. And she’s a creator and has always been creating.
I’ll talk about this sentiment with regards to my newest collection called “She Supreme Higher Entity.” As part of my research, I imagined a post-apocalyptic world in which only a single being has survived. She is supreme, all knowing and all-powerful. I created pieces with this being in mind with a strong eye towards the use of material that could exist in this non-world: barkcloth and recycled PVC.
Post-apocalyptic scenarios sound gloomy. Do you think of death often? Not really. I do however think that it is inevitable and that we must accept it. The only thing we can do is try and put a positive spin on the life we now have a hold on. The idea of exploring materiality within the African context is to also deal with the fact that death exists all around us in the form of waste: whether it is plastic or otherwise. It is only reasonable that faced with this predicament, we find a way to put a positive spin on this waste. I’m really excited about the idea of making materials like plastic and barkcloth wearable.
I.AM.ISIGO. fall 2019
What’s barkcloth? Barkcloth is this amazing material that is made out of tree bark-something that is normally thrown away. I discovered this in Uganda and I fell in love with it. It is traditionally used for funerals and coronations in order to preserve the body. This ability to preserve resonated with me as I felt my supreme being would need to preserve herself in this new post-apocalyptic world. I held on to the idea of preservation as meaning preservation in time and the fact that my supreme being would need an equally supreme material. I also liked the idea of bringing this material away from the future (post-apocalypse) to the present (pre-apocalypse), bringing inherently futurist fabrics into the space of the present.
Plastic, too, is equally metaphorical. It will witness the entirety of time- it’s half life is an odd million years, I believe- and as a result, it is also a timeless material. For this collection, I have employed both of these materials to create a uniform for the supreme woman.
This sounds beautiful. I love how sustainability is embedded into the material and your practice. I don’t really like to use the word sustainable. That word is trending now. As an African designer, everything we do is sustainable. As long as pieces are sourced and made here, the idea of sustainability is embedded within the fabric. This collection somehow proves this point: it shows the actual essence of fabrics — in this case, recycled plastics and raw wooden fabric— create this world where everything has disappeared or gone and this supreme being has managed to survive with fashion. And in that sense, creating pieces that can apply to both worlds. Final part is recycled PVC in black and transparent. Creating a past, present and future scenario of how life was, is and should be via a supreme entity.
You’ve inspired me. This idea of raw and unfinished. Looking at it from a purely African aesthetic. It’s not the idea of sustainability. That word is trending now. As an African designer, everything we do is sustainable. As long as pieces are gotten and sourced and made here, the idea of sustainability. This collection is to prove that point more so.
in SWAG high profiles, issue 1