Oroma Elewa

Visual artist, Creative director, Businesswoman in Marrakech, Morocco

Illustration by William Godwin

July 19 2016

Today’s feminism is a dramatic departure from the radical heydays of Gloria Steinem‚ Dolores Huerta and Carol Hanish. In the place of their lofty‚ if unattainable‚ ideals‚ millennial women have come to adapt a pluralistic feminism that encourages mutual affirmation‚ self-love‚ and rather than rejecting it as oppressive‚ leverages fashion as one of its most salient tools. Oroma is one new wave feminist who wears her politics especially well‚ and we’ve long admired her from afar for her work‚ which includes one-time print mag Pop’Africana and a contemporary take on the classical intellectual salon.

You are impossibly stylish. Where do you think that comes from in you?

Thank you.

What style I have now comes from sticking very strongly to my aesthetic sensibilities.

You founded #abrunchofgirls‚ which esentially functions as a salon in which you and other women discuss complex societal issues like ageism‚ sexism‚ marginalization. How did this come about?

It began for a number reasons. Culturally‚ socially and economically‚ women are at a disadvantage. We harbor so much that it affects even how we see ourselves. Very few women can attest to consistently having deep‚ honest‚ enriching conversations with other women. And then there are the societal rules of validity that force women to remain in a state of what seems like perpetual competition with one another.

The grave negatives that I’ve noticed in the culture of women are disturbing. Overall‚ I think we can afford to correct how we treat‚ see and interact with one another in more ways than one. A BrUNCH OF GIRLS is trying to create a safe‚ elegant‚ cultured and loving space where we address issues we have with ourselves‚ with one other‚ and with those things that affect us all as women.

Call it a therapy session‚ a networking space‚ a-wow-nice-to-finally-meet-you-I’ve-been-following-you-on-Instagram-forever space‚ A BrUNCH OF GIRLS is all these things.

Do you think clothing and style are means by which we can push the discourses of feminism‚ racism and discrimination in general‚ forward?

I do. Style is very important in telling any story well.

Why did you move to Brooklyn instead of‚ say‚ L.A. or Miami or London?

I choose Brooklyn when I lived in New York because it is very diverse and inclusive culturally. For a West African living in New York‚ it was the place to be for food or familiar cooking ingredients. It was the place you could afford. Brooklyn was far more forgiving.

It was never too chic. Though always reminding you of its realities‚ its poverties and extremes but when compared to the rest of the boroughs‚ Brooklyn seemed kinder and sometimes it was. Harlem was equally inter-esting. Anyway‚ I don’t live there anymore.

Do you make it home to Nigeria often?

I live here part time now. I share my time between Port Harcourt‚ Lagos and Marrakech.

Paint us a picture of where you grew up. What was your neighborhood like?

Picture closely built compounds—some with protectors‚ others without. Imagine the sound of chatter and crying children‚ of teenagers playing or arguing and of traders announcing their goods like American ice-cream trucks. Imagine the smell of oven-fresh bread‚ of fried or roasted food by the roadside‚ or the aroma of a traditional‚ well loved dish.

That is generally the mood. It’s like summer in Brooklyn‚ changing only when there’s bad weather or when it’s late and there’s no power. It’s authentically and uniquely black.

Tell us about Pop’Africana. It started as a print magazine and has evolved pretty dramatically‚ right?

Yes‚ Pop’Africana started as a fashion and art magazine in print along with original content on the web. That was from 2008 until 2012. Nowadays‚ it is a creative agency and a lifestyle brand. In addition to producing our own in-house projects and products‚ Pop’Africana also produces visual content for other brands.

So far under Pop’Africana‚ I’ve creative directed lookbooks for emerging designers and social editorial campaigns. I was particularly excited to have produced imagery for the African surf brand‚ Bantu Wax. Pop’Africana is still driven by stories and style so fans from its magazine days do not miss out.