GHANA, LE KILT
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Livio Bez
STYLING BY MORENO GALATÀ
INTERVIEW BY Jonathan Nkrumah
Jonathan Nkrumah speaks to Sefa Gohoho
After she uses her iPhone to send a message to one of the designers, Nana Brenu from 1981, she then thumb-scrolls through her calendar to digest the meetings and appointments scheduled for the day. Hours later, she shuffles from place to place to ensure that she is present to participate in meetings where she is needed to keep projects moving forward across different West African Countries. A master at using technology as a tool to be efficient, Sefa seems to have enough time in the day to enjoy a quiet moment or two to contemplate and be sure of her thoughts and actions. One thing I observed about Sefa Gohoho Boatin was that she spoke with passion and light. The most important thing to her, it seems, is financial inclusion, and regional integration in Africa. Her positive energy and drive are admired by many of her colleagues. “I know we can do this. Let’s make it happen by linking Ivory Coast with Nigeria!” Sefa said with excitement in a staff meeting one day. The intrinsic desire to help others, the belief that one can’t be happy until they’ve helped others attain their dreams, Sefa’s uncompromising need to contribute her talents, and the ability to be an effective leader are all positive qualities a person should possess when working for a nonprofit organization such as the UNTAMED EMPIRE FASHION AND ART COLLECTIVE that is exceptionally passionate about benefiting others by effective, sustainable business growth and trade across the region for the brands it works with.
Sefa Gohoho is a Ghanaian Entrepreneur who aims to make her career out of being a luxury brand custodian. She is the Founder and Chairman of the board of trustees at Untamed Empire, a fashion and art collective in Accra. She is Co-Founder of CANOE Magazine, and is the CEO of Pan African holding Company SONGHAI AFRICA. Songhai Africa is a privately owned company set up in 2010. Its multidisciplinary, multinational team of professionals share a strong entrepreneurial culture and growing expertise in managing companies and brands with high emotional content, able to create a distinctive experience for consumers. Songhai Africa focuses on three investment sectors: Luxury Consumables, Hospitality, Organized Retail. Songhai Africa invests primarily in Ghana, but also studies potential acquisitions in West and Southern Africa on an opportunistic basis. Songhai Africa focuses on a selective number of investments and builds a close, long-term, partnership with the founders and man- agers of its portfolio companies.
Sefa is from a Diplomatic family, and has lived or travelled to over 15 countries in Africa. Sefa entered the Luxury Market in 1998 by partnering in Accra’s high end retail outlet Definitive Touch, a Boutique with an adjoining Lingerie Store. Morgan Société Anonyme, DKNY Uk, DONNA KARAN Uk, Graham & Greene Uk, CANOE MAGAZINE. Founder, the Songhai Trust Foundation. Africa 2.0 Board Member, UNTAMED EMPIRE concept store. She was educated in Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and England. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics. She speaks French and English.
Why is Regional Integration important?
The issue of regional integration is particularly prominent in Africa, where the continent’s current trade intensity is barely 12 percent. Our African Government’s own agenda aims to boost intraregional trade from the current level to 25 percent or more by 2022. This is an ambition that must be embraced by Africa’s traditional and emerging trading partners considering how much benefit we can all get from this trade. While Fashion and Art are hardly recognized by public officials as key economic forces, the African Fashion and Art sector has been largely dominated by an informal economy that operates without any regulation capable of helping the sector to raise finance, improve labour conditions and upgrade generally itself without help. A few brands such as Nana Brenu’s 1981 stand out and must be supported to cross borders with their products.
The EU used to be Africa’s most important export destination until China took over, but really, Africa and Africans must trade with Africa for so many reasons, including eradicating poverty, creating jobs, and celebrating the best of what is in Africa!
I am a brand advisor in that I help creatives strategize and determine not only what projects or evaluation strategies make sense but I also help creatives understand the various sustainability vehicles, some of which include distributing their products outside of their home countries, or producing outside of their home countries. I work closely with them to strategize and find options to fulfill their brand intentions.
I have been very lucky to meet some of the most successful, wealthy and powerful people in the world. All of them have provided me with inspiration and I admire their abilities. Many have become my guides, and they have all taught me to think GLOBALLY! However, I believe that one must be immersed at home in Africa, and also take on the world! In particular, I admire Nana Brenu of 1981. Nana is a master of Fashion and understands the value of a high-quality product, marketing and partnerships. We have learnt so much from his cross-border operations, between Ghana and Italy, we salute his attempts at finding production in Accra, and we look forward to launching him in Lagos, Nigeria, hopefully this year.
At Untamed Empire, I heard you say “more connec- tivity tends to generate trust and a need for trust”. Why do you say that? Is that part of what UN- TAMED EMPIRE stands for?
Absolutely, we choose to ignore the borders in Africa, we believe that our culture is luxury in itself. Maybe the best way for me to explain our belief is to tell you the words of our manifesto:
“We belong to a little-known, global movement, an African tribe of cultural nomads who regard this World of Wonder as both a foreign land and our homeland. We belong to a fluid state without borders. Although land and water may still separate us; like land we ground each other and like water we flow into each other. We speak in many tongues, but in our world, understanding transcends. We know where our feet are planted, yet are filled with memories of places from where we have journeyed. We are eternal seekers using mixed media, music, fabric, textile, fashion, art to get our message out into the world.
Love is our currency, it fuels our creativ- ity, and composes our songs. Peace is our anthem and we pledge allegiance to the light that shines in all of us. It is through our stories that we weave our reality. Writers of our own history and tellers of our own stories. We are witnesses and art is our evidence, of the artist inside us all. We believe in art’s freedom. Its creativity, its twists (and its lawlessness), its design contradictions and its eclecticism.
African art reveals, saves, inspires, un- veils. The independence of African artistry – for the complete liberation of art! We believe that we are living in the Age of Africa, and that this better Africa is by design and not by acci- dent. Embrace your UNIQUE“
I love that! Let’s talk a little about how you are trying to regionally integrate fashion brands and artists across West Africa? What inspired the Collective?
The brands themselves were the inspiration. They deserved more than the market was offering. They needed alternative distribution outlets for customers to find them easier. We believe in the beauty of collaboration and regional integration, especially in Africa, where we have been kept apart. What unites us most is our cul- ture, and fashion and art are part of our culture. We work with artists and brands that consider themselves “excellent” to pursue a strategic, yet minimal brand investment to take them across Africa and beyond. The Untamed Empire is a unique business that creates innovative online and offline creative spaces to promote, support and retail, the finest independent fashion and design talent from Africa.
The Untamed Empire ‘serviced retail’ concept provides an opportunity for luxury brands to showcase and sell their premium collections direct to consumers through a dedicated retail space online and in the real-time experience of the Untamed Empire store in North Ridge, Accra. A proportion of the membership fee goes towards supporting the African Foundation for Design and Culture, a local art incubator.
What are your thoughts on Ghana’s fashion and art scene?
It’s growing, it’s buzzing, it’s exciting!
In three words what does West African creative in- dustry mean?
Bold, disruptive, world-class.
All kilts by LE KILT, all jewellery by LIA DI GREGORIO.
SPECIAL THANKS: Nana Brenu and Louis Tayman