Photography by Roman Meza | Interview by Tariq Dixon
Fawohodie - the first collaboration between Studio Anansi and TRNK - draws inspiration from the entangled relationship between traditional African aesthetics and Western modernism.
Combining influences from traditional West African art with derivative works by European architects, Fawohodie proudly asserts that Africa reverberates ineluctably throughout modern art, design, and architecture. In Ghanian, Fawohodietranslates to independence - to free yourself from. This collection is largely inspired by a series of post-colonial, modernist architectural projects erected in Africa throughout the 1950-70s. These buildings, which include Rinaldo Olivieri’s “Pyramide” in Cote d’Ivoire - were commissioned as monuments to these countries’ newly-found independence, while simultaneously reclaiming Africa’s contributions to modernism and acknowledging its inextricable relationship to the west.
Read our interview with the Evan Jerry - the creative mind behind the collection - to learn about his origin story and inspiration for the collection.
In 2018. I had been working for five years when my partner and I decided to travel for a bit. We traveled to different parts of Asia, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Then my partner got a job in London, I went with him. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, and then I was like, “This is probably the best opportunity for me to delve into my own practice.” So I ended up launching Studio Anansi at London's 2018 Design Fair.
What's the significance of the name?
Anansi is a spider from old Ghanian folklore. There’s a whole series of Anansi stories that my mother used to tell me. He's a bit of a trickster, but at the end of each story, there’s always a lesson to be learned. For my design practice, I wanted to tell stories from an Afro-Caribbean narrative, at least as a starting point. That's why I picked the name.
What’s your mother's cultural connection to that folklore?
My mother's from Jamaica where Anansi stories very well-known. Even though the stories originated in Ghana, they’ve been passed on for centuries, even through slavery.
How did you first realize a desire to explore your personal culture through design?
It was actually through my studies, while I was at Oslo University. I was heavily into Scandinavian design at the time. When I was there, I recognized that so much of the aesthetic and sensibility is informed by cultural rituals. I saw the beauty in that, but I also felt like an outsider - I felt very disconnected from it. But it made me question the rituals of my own culture and its relationship to design. That definitely was not taught to me in school and no one knew how to direct me as I started to look. Most people had very little to no knowledge.
As a segue, what inspired this particular body of work (Fawahodie)?
Anansi is both a brand and a personal project where I'm always seeking ways to express and to move forward in newer, different ways, while using the past as reference. I feel a need to go back to the root - or at least the root as I understand it. Black culture and aesthetics have such power and global influence, and I think it’s because of it’s ability to look to history, while constantly reinventing.
I approached you after I saw your Provenanced exhibition where you were exploring the similar ideas. I thought a collaboration would be a great way to further explore some of these concepts I had been mullling over.
Did you have to undergo a lengthy research process or did you already have this knowledge base from years of exploration?
It’s definitely an ongoing journey. I wouldn’t say I had a ton of research and knowledge prior, but it wasn't all completely new to me either. The process is definitely continual - particularly Black history, which I was never taught or encouraged to learn. So I feel like there’s a layering effect…I'm constantly removing layers of knowledge and sometimes untruths, because there's always something to learn, or a new perspective to gain.