Gambian designer wants to share culture with Ja

January 12, 2018
African fashion designer and artiste Kojo Lion.
African fashion designer and artiste Kojo Lion.
Gladstone Taylor/ Photographer African fashion designer and artiste Kojo Lion shows off his colourful shoes.

A Caucasian woman and Rastafarian man robed in colourful cloth and what appear to be custom-made shoes 'buss' the corner of Spanish Town Road and Collie Smith Drive in Kingston. Instantly eyebrows raise, although it is not rare to see tourists visit the area, particularly the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum, on a day-to-day basis. The assumption this time around is that the Rasta is the one giving the female a tour.

The man stops and introduces himself. "My name is Kojo Lion," he says, and a distinct African accent is heard.

Kojo Lion is from Gambia, and is only in Jamaica for a few days seeking knowledge on the African and Jamaican connection.

"I'm here to do a cultural exchange. So far, I see Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie put their effort into doing this. Even to one of our villages, Busua, where I come from, they provide (help and knowledge), but all these people are gone, and now I want to do the same by bringing the culture back," he said.

Suzie Metzner from California, who accompanies Kojo Lion, is actually his partner.

"I learnt about him in Ghana, but we met in California in person after I bought material from him a few years ago," Metzner said.

The two also have a business partnership where Metzner helps with the designs, as she is the founder of Knotty Girl Bikinis and makes Kojo Lion's headwear.

"He is very passionate about his vision," she said.

Cultural exchange, to most persons, means travelling to another country whether as a student or on overseas work programmes, as well as the exchange of artistes or athletes between countries to inspire a mutual understanding.

But to Kojo Lion, "cultural exchange starts with me sharing," and his vision involves linking with Jamaicans who have the skills to make clothing.

"I start by introducing my African clothing, through which people can see the beauty of their homeland, and next I will try to get a few children to take them to see and explore the land and how it looks," Kojo Lion said.

"My own vision is to have a hemp plantation in Africa [and] to produce material made from hemp, so we can make our own clothing like these shoes made by myself from Ghanaian cloth. These things I do to limit unemployment in both countries and villages. The prostitutes we see on the streets are not ... , it is just because of the situation why they are there. If we can combine and work together, I know the idea will help with all the sufferation," he continued.

Kojo Lion's work also includes music, but their stop in Trench Town is focused on meeting people on the road throughout the community, Metzner told THE WEEKEND STAR.

"We did not get a chance to do a full tour, but we will return when there is more time," she said.

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