BY OYINDAMOLA LAWAL
LAGOS is in for a great treat this season. And Ngozi Josephine Ochonogor is steaming to provide a Yuletide of a lifetime.
Already, she has concluded plans for three big shows — an art forum (Pechakucha), fashion exhibition and a philanthropic workshop for orphans tagged, “Live! U.Mi-1”. All events will hold from December 18 t0 27, with each day featuring different shows.
Through the shows, Ngozi, popularly called Gozi, aims to bridge the gap between Nigeria and Japan.
Born in Lagos on March 8, 1974, Gozi left Nigeria for England at the age of 19 to study Software Engineering at the Imperial College, London.
However, in 1998, she enrolled at the Central School of Fashion, where she studied Ladies’ Wear, a decison, which has helped her career growth.
On her involvement in fashion, she says: “I am a fashion designer based in Tokyo with my brand U.Mi-1; I promote Nigeria in Tokyo. I work with different artistes and the synergy between us is used to create art. Basically, when I moved to Japan, I saw that the spirit between the people in Japan and Nigeria were quite similar. I had to abandon my London brand to start a new one.
“I have been doing that for over two and the half years, I have been on radio, I been to Tokyo fashion week. Basically everything I do, I use it to connect Nigeria and I think it is about time to come and do the same over here. With my brand, I have Live! U.Mi-1, it is actually the philanthropic arm of my brand.”
And on her show, which holds on Sunday, December 27, she says, “I have particiated in the London Fashion Week, same as Paris Fashion Week. I have also taken part in the Tokyo Fashion Week. I collaborated with a lot of Japanese artists. I have actually collaborated with Puma and Erickson Beamon to mention a few. I just think it is about time I brought my work home and so, basically, what I am planning to do is to showcase what I have in Lagos for everybody to see my talent. It is not going to be your usual catwalk show as you will see pieces of Tokyo come out; you are going to see pieces of different cultures. I am one of the new generations of people who travel and recreate our culture, like being married to different culture. I have lived in London and Tokyo; I have travelled to about 30 countries in the world and every time, I pick good stuff from that, so, you are going to see all that come out in my exhibition”.
Gozi recently joined the list of talented international artists to be interviewed on J-Wave’s Modaista show, and played her top funkiest tunes from Nigeria. The interview brought Nigerian culture and music to millions of Japanese fans.
According to her, “I promote the Nigeria spirit in every way I can. Recently, I was on the biggest Japanese radio station, Modaista. Basically, when top artists from America come to Japan, they must be interviewed on Modaista. I met one of the producers and he loved the concept of my brand, he said fashion design is not really going on radio, but you need to come and talk about Nigeria, tell us about the country. So, I went their and played my five favourite Nigerian artistes: Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Tony Allen, 9ice, D’banj and J. Martins (Good or Bad). I talked about Nollywood as well, and a lot of people are now interested in the phenomenon. It’s been on the air plane. A friend of mine, who lives in France came to Tokyo and was amazed, and he asked, “Is Nollywood really big? Is it for real?” I think that we have so many talents out there and we just need to package them. It is all about packaging and selling them out. But as things progress, we all need to progress with it and do something. I hope with my little input things could actually changed.”
Speaking on her cultural exchange programme, Gozi says, “What I do is that, I organise workshop with orphan and I teach Japanese orphans about Nigeria and I come to Nigeria to teach Nigerian orphans about Japan; so the whole thing is about unifying Japan and Nigeria.”
The event, which is encouraging dialogue through art, gives children a stimulating experience that can spur them to become creative in future.
The first workshop My imaginary Lagos was run in collaboration with architect Megumi Matsabara, and it had 15 children of Nonohana No le Children’s Home participating. A corresponding workshop held at Little Saints Orphanage, Lagos, where Gozi introduced 20 kids to Japan. The documentary videos were screened at a show in Tokyo.
This year, Matsubara is facilitating another workshop, this time inLagos, where she will meet the children from the Little Saints Orphanage and with the sound artiste Emeka Ogboh.
“ Megumi worked with me in my first event in Tokyo and this is the second one with her and would be done in Nigeria. She is actually coming to meet the kids with her camera. The whole point is to give kids a spark to be creative. I am also working with Ogboh,” she says.
“People always give money and clothes to orphanages without thinking of the future of the kids, so, I decided I will give them something that will take them through life, which is creativity; it would inspire them to think and fend for themselves when they become adults. That is what I do with Live! U.Mi-1,” she adds.
Each edition is made up of two corresponding workshops, one in Lagos and one in Tokyo. “What we are going to be teaching the children is all about theatre, we are going to teach them the Japanese Theatre. It’s going to be quite artistic and abstract. What we want to do is to teach Megumi, as well, how story telling is done here. We are going to teach Japanese too about Nigeria theatre and story telling. It is always about two volumes, we do one here and then take the replica to show the children in Japan.”
What does she hope to achieve with this?
“I hope to give the children a creative spark. For me, I think it is something quite beautiful because these are kids, who would not have had opportunity to experience art in this kind of way. Usually, when Megumi does creative education, it is because some rich parents have heard about her, because she is an established artist and architect; they have heard about her and they told the kids, you must go for this. She has really huge exhibition in well-renowned gallery, so when she met me, she was excited that she was actually happy to meet real people and real kids, who cannot afford to do this. I am happy that she is coming down to Lagos. The Japanese government is supporting her.”
...And Lagos tastes pechachuka
Her other event, Pechakucha, started in Tokyo. “It’s actually a forum for creative people to meet, to network and to talk.”
Done in 250 cities in the world, Gozi is bringing a piece of that to Lagos. It has a given format such as each artist coming with 20 images with each image running for 20 seconds. Basically, an artist has seven minutes to inspire the crowd. “I did the first Pechakucha, three months after I arrived Tokyo, where I met Mark, who encouraged me to present my work. After my presentation, I was asked to handle Lagos event. I think it is really important for Lagos right now because, as Fashola is physically reconstructing the city, we need to reconstruct our minds.”
The event, which is set to be an informal visual presentation about each presenter’s passion, gives the audience a chance to speak to those presenters who have inspired them. However, Pechakucha Night Vol 1 is the first time in Lagos and Nigeria, where contemporary art in all spheres unite.
It will showcase works of renowned artists both old and new, ranging from architects such as Papa Omotayo, James George, and Jite Brume to artists Richardson Ovbiebo and Megumi Matsubara while on fashion it will feature Gozi Ochonogor and Biki John, and film producer Zeb Ejiro.
Others are graphic designer, Ibukun Oyetunji; photographers, Tunde Kuboye and Abraham Oghobase; and Ogboh
“What I hope to do with pechakucha, is to carbonize all these people together, so art can become part of our fabric; when people come to Lagos they will say yes this is an artistic city, so creative. We are such creative people, but everybody is doing his or her own thing, what I want to do, is to create a forum where people can actually come and meet people. I am having 12 professional artists, both the old and new generation. I have got Ejiro, Kuboye, Ovbiebo and Papa Omotayo and others. What I want to do is to show that art doesn’t have to be about paint and sculpture, like we are all used to. There is an architecture, graphic designer, sound artist and fashion designer, among others. It is a kind of bringing Lagos to what the rest of the cities in the world are actually doing and have been doing for a long time. I believe human beings are similar in one way or the other and that if we can actually understand ourselves, there will be actually peace and progress. I believe Nigerians with all our problems and differences are beautiful people, who can actually do something positive. We are very creative, though that creativity died in the 70s. In those days James Brown will come to Nigeria to hear Fela play or listen to Tony Allen. Now everybody thinks about oil, we need to change that; there is more to life than just oil. Everybody knows that art and riches are alive, otherwise we are just going to be working day and night for nothing. So, I believe that with this, we can make kudos steps to better ourselves,” Gozi says.
Speaking on special guest appearances, she says, “that is still under wrap, I actually invited the Governor, because I believe that as he is restructuring Lagos physically, it is very important for him to be in touch with the people who will change things tomorrow. I feel that our generation is going to do it, it will take time but you have to start changing the mindset of people now. He can come down and be part of it and show that he is really out to restructure Lagos, he can’t just restructure just the building because if the people are corroded they will corrode the city, so it has to go hand in hand. ”
Hosting the night would be Tamilore Kuboye with Remi Solarin as co-host. The event, which will be held from 6pm to 11pm on Friday, December 18, at the Terra Kulture Gallery, Lagos, promises to be a fantastic night.