Nana Kwasi Wiafe is the founder and creative director of Very Ghanaian; a clothing line. He is also a stylist and 2020 has been an amazing year for him. He worked as a stylist on Beyoncé’s visual album ‘Black is King’. He also worked with Kim Jones, a fashion designer and Amoako Boafo, an artist, as a stylist on the Dior Men Spring Summer Collection 2020.
Describe your journey to becoming a designer/creating a brand?
Growing up have always been interested in telling my own story and with my love for fashion it was no coincidence I decided to create a brand which is aimed at doing just that .
My journey started as a model initially, even tho I still actively model I have been able to use that platform as a pivot to transition into styling and now a designer and creative director for my brand Very Ghanaian .
You worked as a stylist on Beyoncé’s visual album “Black is king” for the Ghana crew. How was the process, planning the looks?
The process normally starts with inspiration, team meetings ,listening to the music and with the mood board establishing the story telling direction, I move on with pulling of looks and putting them together for each scene.
Beyoncé and her entire team go to great lengths to execute their vision so a lot of research goes into every look to ensure it’s complimentary to the overall vision .
I also love showing emerging brands/talents so I always make an effort to feature these brands.
A big thank you to my brother Joshua Kissi who was the director for the Ghana visuals, he has always believed in my talent and put me on whenever an opportunity comes up and the rest of the team David Boanuh and Sharifah Issaka
Where do you see African Fashion’s future and it’s influence on the whole fashion industry?
I believe the future is African fashion, brands here are telling incredible African stories rich in history,culture,heritage and inspiring at the same time.
Recent research has shown that people buy into brands that they connect to more especially with the stories they’re telling and brands like Tongoro, Maxhosa, Very Ghanaian , Loza Maleombho ,kente gentleman, Orange culture, Rich Mnisi, Thebe Magugu etc are leading the way with that and would be leaders of the industry in future.
What roles do you think social media plays in African fashion today?
For the most part social media has been a blessing for African Fashion , it has helped the world discover emerging brands from the continent , giving them the platform to show their work and exposed a lot of talent which wasn’t happening in the past.
For me the lows of being a designer is building the business side of it alone , without a team you can trust from the on set it’s a bit difficult, also production in larger quantities is a problem because we don’t have enough factories here producing sustainably.
Some of the highs that comes with it is being able to express myself through design and using that to tell my story and impact lives. For me that is all that matters.
From your page , I can tell you are passionate about promoting African style. When did you first realize that was important for you.
My love for Africa was discovered at an early stage born out of curiosity.
Our sense of style , art , history,culture and our people. We are so beautiful and cool so that piqued my interest to find out more .
Our style as Africans has inspired the world for centuries and still does so it only makes sense to push it more for people who also don’t know about it to know this style.
What would you say to anyone looking to get into fashion ?
Let purpose led you and prepare to risk it all .
In what ways would you say COVID-19 pandemic will affect the nature of the fashion industry?
Covid-19 pandemic has already affected the nature of the fashion industry for good and I believe this will continue.
For me it has change it in a good way, like crowded shows are not really needed anymore, you can equally do a show online and the world will still see it .
Having physical stores are becoming less important compared to having an online store and our way of doing business has change for good!
Any tips for young fashion entrepreneurs?
I have a few
Don’t wait too long , start now.
Protect your ideas , register your business and trademark soon as you start .
You can’t do it alone ,have a team because team work makes dream work .
Black is King or a marvelous narration of black pride that displays black beauty, strength and culture through Disney’s Lion king protagonist Simba, journey with the music of The Gift curated by Beyoncé. The film premiered the 31th of July on Disney+ and the next day on African platform like DSTV, Canal+ …
After getting amazed by these high quality visuals with dances, rhythm and researched aesthetics with the collaboration of our amazing creatives from African countries through direction, fashion and filming production we have to point out and show those references that made us lift up from our chairs.
The film was in work since 2019, proving again that Beyoncé’s NDA contracts have enough power to silence anybody. We’ve seen colors, Afrofuturism aesthetic but most importantly blackness through ages and all over the world.
Beyoncé represents an ancestor that will follow the young king into his trip and teach him about the circle of life and witness every moment of his ascending to be a king despite sadness, anger and lost of his own self, from his dreams, and his new accomplished life with Nala and their new baby. In this narrative Beyonce amplifies women gift to give life and show that women are in the center of the creation of the world.
Through African Tradition
The symbol of White
The first scene revolves around Baptism, like the birth of Simba in the circle of life. We can see ancestors, priests sagging and priestess with Calabasas washing children faces and feet, holding flowers and praying. In many African cultures white means “Purity” and also remind us of Komians women in Akan societies, these women considered as medium were able to be in contact with the spirit world and ours. They wore white, had nude feet and could see the future and always accompanies the King and royal family in their reign through protection and even afterwards, whe he passes.
The ceremony use body paint on the young king by his ancestors that solidify his status, and ritual of purification as young king, it reminds us of kaolin (White Clay) that is used in ritual and symbolize joy (Dan people with yangbah dance), peace and mourn, cultural ceremonies in Akan societies and all over west African tribes. Even the Fang of Cameroon and Myene in Gabon, the dead will cross the river of tears to become a spirit , in Gabon the Ogooue they use white clay also to represent ghosts.
But white is also refered in ancient Egypt as mourning, it symbolize death through mummification of passed pharaohs, shroud that can be seen in Nile video clip that represents “The king has died” after Simba’s naivety and fight against the image of funeral always symbolized by black in western societies.
The use of Calabasas is really symbolic, a non-edible fruit that grows in Africa and America that isused to create utensil, musical instrument (balafon, maracas, djembe), its round form is a symbol of cosmic energy and women that are the perfect recipient for holding life. For example in Yoruba’s Orisha myth, Odudua and Obatala merge like two half Calabasas form the universe and represent the duality of the creation of the world.
Snakes can be seen as evil creatures in western religious belief, but in many tribes in Benin, togo vodun, and even dogon tribe where they represent their past immortal ancestors, they are seen as sacred, protectors. The Nommo androgynous twins of dogon is a python.
African spirituality is rooted in animal source of power and image of spirit and are used to portrays divinity and venerence. We can see a bull head of batammaribain Benin and Togo, mursi women in Ethiopia, the bull was a symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt whose horns were worn by Hathor goddess of love, family and also by Odiani people of igbo.
Golden and Divine status
Many great scenes representing the masai jumping contest in suit From Kenya and Tanzania. We’ve seen lot of wraps display in plenty of scenes, represent symbol of marriage, status. The lip disc from east Africa, popular in Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and are symbol of social status too.
The Akan crown, golds and umbrella Ohenekyinnie that means authority over his people. Omo people in Ethiopia, Guere in cote d’ivoire, mastered the art of body painting as cultural expression in Africa and flowers head pieces.
Scenes about balance reminds of Maat one of the most known goddess in Egypt, without forgetting Gods in Vodun Liza and Mawu through he portrayal of good and bad, light and dark that cannot exist without one another.
Adinkra symbol, one of the first written languages from Akan (Most popular in Ghana), is represented in this scene, and this sign is a symbol of wealth, power abundance and solidarity.
Red ochre by Himba women in Naminia mixed with cow milk is used to to protect their skin from the sun, give them a beautiful rich hydrated skin. Their thick hair symbolize fertility. In the film they are symbolising duality of male female spirits/ancestors .
We can see art from the Ndebele of south Africa, Masai jewelries of kenya, celebration of love and return back to the values of motherland that is the real royalty, not the crown and artifacts.
This visual send us far than earth, but to the creation of the world through the Dogon people, a tribe living in west Africa (Mali, Cote d’ivoire…) that refused the arrival of islam and Christianity and have a belief deeply rooted into nature, celestial bodies as the universe and their knowledges of space, astronomy till this day fascinating modern day scientist. In their spirituality the universe was created by the Amma and this God created the earth who was a women and fertilizes her to creates Nommo an androgenous twin deities and its first inhabitants to represens duality. They even have masks that represent the movement of the sun called Sirige. Beyonce represents every celestial mentioned in their tale like the stars, the sun, Sirius, Comet, Black Hole, the pleiade seven sisters to portray how the dance of all these bodies created the world like the dogon speak of in their oral tradition.
We can see green man that represents water genie in Bambara, dogon, Azuza of west Africa (Ghana, benin, togo) pygme genie male, Congo with ireyi cult Toula in Niger, also created by the foam of the sea.
We can see Kanaga masks wore by the Awa society, a mask that is used in a ceremony called Dama and establish the connection between the earth and the sky to usher the sprits and accompany the dead into the spirit world that show this vision of the creation of the world to the young king and his ancestors portrayed by the stars. They always pay homage to their first ancestors like mufasa showing his ancestors to simba.
Representation of Black Beauties
In brown skin girl, The film is pushing Black girls and woman in Disney spaces and is a real statement on universial beauty that misrepresented in its film and Disney princesses. Those girls that beauty is and always have been undeniable through their versatility and diverse characteristics, the song praises darker skin in this colorist society, an ode to black beauty portrayed through Kelly Rowland, Naomi Campbell. She portrays young girls in contemporary princess outfit thinking about cendrillon ballroom, reference to Rapunzel with huge braided hair, Beyonce included herself as Rapunzel, to celebrate versatility in Afro.
We’ve Fulani braids, bantu knots , Nigerian hair scuplture, hair from Hamer people of Ethiopia, mangbetu with lipombo skull elongation which is a sign of beauty intelligence and power making us think about Nefertiti representing beauty through ages.
Beauty universiality and blackness through the world with south/east Asia where colorism is harsh and economy allow the commercialization and encouragement of bleaching.
African Women bodies
Busiswa wearing Isicholo of zulu, is celebrating african woman curves that have been demonized and sexualized all these years reference to Saartjie Baartman a south african enslaved woman that lived a terrible life because of racism. The hips movement like the earth reminds of assiko dance in Cameroon or dances in Congo that are centered on the hips.
African Spirituality and water (Like Fela says water no gets enemy)
Water is source of life, purification to baptize, regeneration and is important in the circle of life (Ships were seen as trip to the afterlife).
Its very important in African spirituality. We’ve seen her dance with water, on water (river) mazina maganda an Uganda dance to vibrate and bring life to the water. She pays homage to african deities that are connected with water , the orishas from Yoruba mythology, that she mentionned that accompanied the young king through his fight for enlightment, we can mention Yemaya (igbo) also Mami watta in Benin, Togo, vodun, Faro in mali link to Niger river and has a strong relationship with water through music reminds of blues,in saheli tribe where water is a necessity which they are always seeking for.. We remember that the Nile was the center that explain how African migrated through the whole continent, Abla Pokou that sacrified her child to save her people (Baoule myth), water has memory and recover the truth and hold our spirituality, water and woman share life that they give. In mali they have a strong relationship with water, nobody can exist without water. The image of African women taking charges on their head in calabases walking kilometers to get safe water from well or rivers for their family.
Through Lion King
In Mood 4 eva, we can see a display of eccentricity and careless and fantasy world that reminds African dictators through presidential wealthy mandate like Mobutu and Marie Antoinette in RDC with his cheetah famous hat. Its represent the famous phrase “Hakuna Matata” which is a celebration of life. The animal prints are here to remind us of the animals in Lion King the film, we have the morning report by Zazu reference with beyonce reading her morning paper, and the flamingo scene with synchonised dancers in the pool with pink. This dream will send Simba into a world where he will only see his fantasies that scramble his perspection of reality and build his illusion of happiness to ignore his worries.
We can see Beyonce in a tree as Rafiki in Already and others scene th Lion King’s fans will love.
Black is king is a counterbalance narrative towards the hate, incomprehension towards Black people in the world ! Lets seek wealth, real royalty that are not represented by monarchy but by our community values, knowledge and love for each other.
Some great news to Africans who were worried about missing on Beyoncé’s new visual album ‘Black Is King’.
The much anticipated visual album was recently announced with an exclusive premiere on Disney+ (31 July 2020) which is not yet available anywhere in Africa
A distribution deal was announced to make ‘Black Is King’ available in the continent, including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Cameroon, Liberia, Burundi, Senegal, Togo, Somalia, Benin, Congo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Gabon, Cape Verde and many more countries through MultiChoice Group’s M-Net and Canal+ Afrique.
Yes, that means fans will be able to watch the premiere on Dstv, with date and time to be announced.
The visuals will include local stars such as Warren Masemola, Connie Chiume, Nandi Madida, Moonchild Sanelly and Nyaniso Dzedze.
The visual album is curated by Queen B herself as a writer, director, and executive producer. ‘Black Is King’ was put together within a year and will reimagine lessons of “The Lion King” for an audience of “young kings and queens in search of their own crowns.
The news come with a new trailer which was premiered today. The new trailer provides a glimpse of some of the special guests in the film. They include models Aweng Ade-Chuol and Adut Akech, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Tina Knowles-Lawson, author and Lupita Nyong’o, singer Kelly Rowland, Pharrell Williams and JAY-Z, among others.
Check it out below:
Black Is King’ was in production for one year and features an impressive list of diverse voices on its creative team, including directors Emmanuel Adjei (the film “Shahmaran”), Blitz Bazawule (the film “The Burial of Kojo”), Pierre Debusschere (“Mine” and “Ghost” videos for Beyoncé), Jenn Nkiru (“BLACK TO TECHNO” film), Ibra Ake (creative director and producer on “This is America” video for Childish Gambino), Dikayl Rimmasch (“CACHAO, UNO MAS” film), Jake Nava (“Crazy in Love,” “Single Ladies,” “Partition” videos for Beyoncé) and co-director and long-time collaborator of Beyoncé, Kwasi Fordjour.
A new visual album written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé is on its way.
Black Is King will celebrate Black resilience and culture, and premiere globally on Disney+ on July 31, according to a press release. The album is based on the music of The Lion King: The Gift, the Beyoncé-curated soundtrack album for the Lion King animated remake released last July, in which she voiced the character of Nala.
The film, which was in production for one year, will star the album’s featured artists as well as special guest appearances. A minute-long teaser video is available on Beyoncé’s website.
The press release says the album honors the voyages of Black families throughout time, and tells the story of a young king’s journey through betrayal, love and self-identity. Guided by his ancestors, father and childhood love, he earns the virtues needed to reclaim his “home and throne.”
“These timeless lessons are revealed and reflected through Black voices of today, now sitting in their own power,” it reads. Black Is King “is an affirmation of a grand purpose, with lush visuals that celebrate Black resilience and culture. The film highlights the beauty of tradition and Black excellence.”
From the mind-blowing 1-minute trailer, you will notice South African stars such as Warren Masemola, Connie Chiume, Nandi Madida, Moonchild Sanelly and Nyaniso Dzedze and Nigeria’s very own Yemi Alade.
The visual album will debut on Disney+ on 31 July 2020. This has to be somehow weird because the platform is not even available in Africa, even though this is also to showcase the continent’s talent. Hopefully, this will be available in a more accessible platform.