Loza Maleombho, Director & Owner ATELIER Loza Maleombho S.A.R.L
Cote d’Ivoire is going through rapid physical, social and economic changes. How important is it to preserve and promote your history and heritage while forging ahead, and in what ways are you achieving this?
I think cultural heritage is equally as important as progress & development and they must work together at all times to preserve ethics and integrity. I believe the minute you break with cultural heritage, you marginalize or alienate that portion of the population which finds value in that notion. It is very dangerous. In my work I am constantly thinking of ways to carry traditions in modernity. I ask myself how to communicate heritage in a modern language. So I work closely with artisans and do research on cultural heritage and incorporate my findings into modern creations.
Can you tell us some of your projects and their impact?
In photography, I created a series of selfies called AlienEdits that I shared on social media and a solo exhibition at Louis Simone Guirandou Gallery in Abidjan. The series celebrated cultural diversity and cultural heritage among African communities worldwide.
In Fashion I created the “Queen Pokou” collection (photo credits: Daniel Sery) and also in our Spring Summer 17 collection (Photo credits: Louis Philippe de Gagoue) which were an ode to the Baule Queen. In these collections I reference Baule and Ashanti artefacts a lot but with a very stylized and futuristic perspective.
These projects were well received and thanks to this new approach, they relate to a broader community than just Cote d’Ivoire. I was awarded the “Designer of the Year” award at the African Diaspora Awards in New York in December 2016 and listed among 2016 list of African influencers in Lepoint.fr. That was incredible.
How important are relationships for the sustainable growth and stability of Cote d’Ivoire and Africa’s emerging arts and creative sector?
Alliances between heritage and development serve to connect or reconnect. For instance, a portion of us African millennials have moved out of Côte d’Ivoire in our teens or twenties for an extended period of time. We left to foreign countries in America, Europe and Asia. Consequently, we were exposed and influenced by different cultures. Some of us entirely conformed to these foreign cultures and whichever the case maybe, I am sure it was an enriching experience for a lot of us.
However, in deciding to come back, I realize a lot of us have missed out on cultural knowledge that local people have gained while we were not here. This event created a gap between a few of us and locals. A primary reconnection for this division is made possible through the arts. Creative industries are a vessel for mixed cultures, communication of cultures, and innovation through cultures. So it is extremely important to make this connection while we aspire to a sustainable growth.
What would you like to see happen in Cote d’Ivoire and in Africa when it comes to promoting art, monetizing art, and sustaining it within our continent?
We must broaden the platforms to display the arts. I would love to see more schools that specialize in the arts and African art history. A focus on art awareness with art fairs for example and promoting cultural festivals (which we have plenty of), working with artisans and artists on monuments and architectures, renovating and promoting our museums are steps to take in this movement. This will create awareness which will naturally open a conversation between artists and the African consumer.