The décor at home was a mixture of African — masks, a zebraskin- covered drum/coffee table, fertility dolls — and European — I mean, we had a room divider with a full tea set on display. When I entered the media space as editor at a couple of men’s magazines, I got into the whole suit thing because it was expected, amassing a collection of ties that would put your average “English gentleman” to shame. In time, however, it felt uncomfortable; like a performance that didn’t quite reflect me, the man brought up with pan-African ideals.
This coincided with, finally, a shift in African design, across spaces. Design that reflects and draws upon, as Adjaye observes, geography, story, narrative, and culture within a contemporary context. Now, when I look through my wardrobe, or around my house, or at the art I’m drawn to, or at the jewellery that I wear, there is a clear thread: the marriage of all my influences, from the cultures in which I grew up to the creativity that inspires. The skull rings with the Ghanaian beaded bracelet, the suit with a Kenyan kitenge, and Adidas shelltoes.
In a way, my father’s forcing me to engage with all the elements of who I am has influenced how I navigate my world — and the world of design.