Africana Goes Pop

The high-end fashion and art magazine Pop'Africana celebrates Africa from the creative perspective using modern aesthetics

Text by Flora Wong

Founded and visually directed by Oroma Elewa, the semi-annual fashion and art magazine celebrating Africa using bright pop art colours and high-end aesthetics continues its direction to stand out from the masses of generic fashion magazines. Pop'Africana prides itself on delivering a rejuvenated image of Africa that is graphically creative and authentic. Featuring beautiful visuals and well-resourced content, the magazine is a refreshing substitute by focusing on the celebration of certain ideals and playing on art influences. They recently released a now sold out mini-book as a prelude to their first issue due this fall Fall/Winter, whilst their blog features updates on backstage photos, events and parties to favourite models of the moment.

Why did you think it was important to create a magazine focused on Africa in addition to the multitude of fashion/art magazines out there?
Oroma Elewa: Yes, there is a plethora of fashion/art magazines out there, but I don’t think there is a multitude of non-mainstream, art-driven, inspiring magazines about Africans out there. And if there is, I don’t know of them. But whether or not these publications exist, there can always be more. Pop’Africana is different in many regards. It’s younger; it’s braver; and it’s honest. The crux of Pop’Africana is from a direct place that speaks to Africans in a sincere language. In conveying all this, I wanted to produce a magazine with an African aesthetic that can sit comfortably next to my favorite fashion/art/culture magazines, such as A Magazine Curated By, Purple, Dazed & Confused, and Self Service - competing strongly in content and design.

Do you think this will limit you in any way in terms of the future?
Oroma Elewa: If content determines readership—which I think it should—then no I don’t think so. Pop’Africana has a global focus and a global audience. It’s simply about a particular aesthetic and style, but the reach is by no means stunted. There are a lot of magazines out there that occupy a niche that is solely western or with a stamped-on aesthetic, but this didn’t stop me from buying, loving or wanting to be a part of it regardless of who created or whom it was created for. Besides the world is so intertwined that, one way or another, the extent to which Pop’Africana reaches individuals can only grow to be limitless.

What is the aim of the magazine?
Oroma Elewa: When I created Pop’Africana, I remember telling my boyfriend that if only ten Africans that were as fearless or as weird or as individualistic as I am understood and loved the magazine then my goal is accomplished. The main aim to inspire and celebrate individualism.

How did you source your team to produce the magazine?
Oroma Elewa: In all honesty, people find me really—and, of course, I also find people. The internet and the growth of social network portals have made this team building process pretty easy. Also I’ve also been fortunate to have known some people prior to launching Pop’Africana that I presently work with. Pop’Africana currently has a team, a group of African creatives in New York, Paris, London and Dar es Salaam.

What is your background? Say, writing, styling, and design?
Oroma Elewa: I went to school for design (fashion), but I’ve returned to the classroom on a slightly different tangent. I’ve worked for a few design houses on both the retail and design ends. Naturally, I picked up photography along the way because I wanted to be able to produce my ideas from conception to actual/final product without depending on anyone. Being a visual thinker, a marriage with photography was inevitable. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember; I always keep a sketchbook handy in times when the rush to doodle overwhelms me. Random, but I’m really into facial features. My whole life literally revolves around art so Pop’Africana didn’t just happen. It brings everything I love to do and do well together.

Who inspires you?
Oroma Elewa: Inspiration rarely remains firm for me. Many are fleeting visuals that are both trivial yet substantive (i. e., the 9 year old daughter of my Facebook friend inspired a whole editorial). I love Kanye West because he’s an innovator and Bi Kidude for timeless drive and her childlike spirit. Ben Okri carries with him age-old secrets about Nigeria’s art of god worship and I love that. Ken Saro-Wiwa should have written more books in Pidgin English. Viviane Sassen is quite amazing. I want to shoot Amber Rose.

What are your future plans?
Oroma Elewa: For the magazine: to print and make Pop’Africana local, everywhere. For myself, I plan to work as an agency represented creative director and photographer.

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