Aiwekhoe Iyahen is from Nigeria, Barbados and a little bit of everywhere else, a globetrotter, a truly inspiring woman and the founder and editor-in-chief of Luxe Noir Magazine, a bi-annual magazine dedicated to promoting African art, design and travel.
We caught up with her and got a little glimpse into her world.
“Luxury is about meaning, it’s about attaching meaning to what you’re doing, it’s not something that is embedded in something that costs 50 Million Rand or 50 Million Dollars, it’s how you perceive something, for some people time is a luxury, for some people fresh food is a luxury, and so I think it’s a very intimate thing, but it’s not attached to money, it’s attached to ideas.”
How did the magazine come about?
I was bored, I was very bored while working in Geneva, I was working on trade policy and those sort of issues, and I always had an interest in the arts, my parents were collectors, and I found myself in a situation where I was almost dissatisfied with what I was doing at the time, and I thought if there was a time to explore an alternative path, this would be it. I had a blog at the time, I used to write stuff about interesting things I saw online, about artists, about design from the continent and I was having a conversation with my sister and friends and they said, ah, maybe you should do something with this, so that’s how it all started.
I think the timing was also perfect, because generally speaking there is a great interest in Art and Design coming from the continent and what that looks like, and so having a platform where you’re able to define that and help people understand and see the continent in a new light was something that really informed the start of the journey and why I’m doing what I’m doing with the magazine.
I just started to put together content for a publication that I would like to read, so I was making a publication for someone like myself, and I knew that okay, everyone always talks about how print is dying, nobody reads magazines, but the thing is people are a bit more discerning about what kinds of magazines they purchase, and I was fortunate enough to be in a place where I had access to independent publications, and so I just kind of did my research on a growing industry, which is a niche industry, small publications, less about advertising, and more about content, and so I took my queue from there and it was just about focusing on creating something that’s very unique and different, and not cliché.
For me that was the primary goal, it wasn’t necessarily about having a mass market magazine, that was 20 000 publications in circulation, it was about creating a voice, and having a really solid vision that I wanted to see of my homeland and using that as the base for the publication.
Is there a particular piece, artwork, artist or designer that has inspired you or touched you the most?
There are several, but maybe I’ll just speak about one or two, the first one is an artist called Aboubakar Fofana, he is a Malian artist, and what he does is, he’s trying to revive traditional indigo dyeing in Mali, which is something that goes back hundreds of years, and he’s operating in an extremely difficult environment, from a climatic point of view, but also from a resource point of view and it’s a challenging place to be in because obviously, you know, with imported textiles and synthetic dyes, It’s difficult to kind of revive an ancient technique but he’s somebody that I admire because his craft is a spiritual practice and he’s deeply engaged with process, and so when you meet someone like that, it’s transformative, because they are so invested in their work and they’re invested in protecting the heritage of the continent in a real and tangible sense. So, he’s almost an ambassador for what it means to be a craftsman operating at the highest level on the continent.
I had an opportunity to meet with him in Paris, because, when people think of you know, exceptional textiles, maybe they don’t necessarily think of the continent but he is someone who’s skill is appreciated by the biggest fashion houses in the world but very few people on the continent will necessarily know of him, and yeah, he’s just someone who is really about his craft, and he’s really knowledgeable about the history of the continent, to the point where he can tell you the history of a woven cloth, why it was woven in a certain way, why the colour blue is important to people culturally.
How would you describe your style?
I like simplicity, I often err on the side of casual, not too casual, but comfortable. I like the idea of having a signature style and in an alternate reality I actually have a Pinterest board called Uniform. I like simple pieces, obviously I also like pieces that represent heritage, in whatever sense, so I love this necklace (Mille Collines Bongani Necklace in Black) I like things that have a story, so I’ll have the basic, simple uniform and I like to accessorize with something a little bit more interesting, maybe one piece, if it’s a jacket, if it’s a necklace or something that has a story, I like that idea, so it’s almost like a basic palette and then you add stuff on top of it.
What values are important to you? What values define you?
Humility, I admire people who are humble with whatever accomplishments they have, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people who are at the top of their game, but some of the best people I’ve met have been so grounded, and they are constantly reminding themselves to, how do I put it? To not be carried away by ego, so I believe in humility, I believe in hard work and focusing on whatever it is that you’re doing, focus on that and make it work, and there was a quote and I always get it wrong, but it’s almost like “never be more than you appear to be’ in a sense? But always be more than people expect you to be”. I don’t like grandstanding, and all of that, I really admire people who are dedicated to their craft, and humble, and for me that’s extremely important because especially in the art and design world, I think there’s a tendency to kind of be caught up in this whirlwind of beautiful images and all of that, especially when you work in Luxury, there’s a tendency to kind of be caught up in personality, and grandstanding and materiality. I think it’s really important, especially for Africans who are operating in that space to understand that you come from a different tradition (this is not prescriptive by any means) but the definition of Luxury in Africa ought to be different, it can’t be the same as the status quo.
How would you define it (Luxury)?
It’s about meaning, Luxury is about meaning, it’s about attaching meaning to what you’re doing, it’s not something that is embedded in something that costs 50 Million Rand or 50 Million Dollars, it’s how you perceive something, for some people time is a luxury, for some people fresh food is a luxury, and so I think it’s a very intimate thing, but it’s not attached to money, it’s attached to ideas. That’s one of the things I am hoping to get across with the magazine, is to kind of get people to understand that there is value in ideas and it’s only the value in ideas that makes things worth purchasing. So, if you value an idea, if you value how somebody approaches something, you begin to talk about Luxury.