Drawing on her maternal influence and working history, Jemiriye Adeniji tells how she weaves fashion into music to promote African culture in a meeting with Vanessa Obioha
When Jemiriye Adeniji opened the doors of her apartment that Thursday afternoon, she was neither dressed in African clothing nor sporting a headdress (gele) or headdress. She was dressed in a casual dress with her shiny black hair tied in a loose knot. Perhaps it was intentional to reveal the other side of her away from indiscreet cameras. Over the years, her colorful and impressive headdresses have become the symbol of her personality. Sometimes her hair is wrapped in a jelly, other times covered with a turban.
At home she was free and hospitable, she joked as she recalled her childhood memories. His love of headdresses travels far in that story that he peeled in layers. When his mother worked in a textile factory.
“I come from a family that appreciates and celebrates the African perspective. We had a lot of ankara in my house. My mother worked in a textile factory, so she used to experiment with some of the fabrics. Neighbors usually come to my mom to help wrap their gels, “she said.
Watching her mother’s skillful and elegant way of tying headdresses fascinated her so much that she subconsciously began to emulate her, replacing her when she wasn’t available to help the neighbors. Plus, growing up with her grandmother wearing beautiful headdresses fascinated her the most.
Jemiriye, as she is popularly known, would make good use of her skills when she went to work at the Nike Art Center. The founder of the famous arts center, Nike Davies-Okundaye is a quintessential African textile artist and designer, known for her gaudy and majestic geles. Whenever there was a head wrap workshop at the art gallery, Jemiriye was among the facilitators. In the United States where he currently lives, Jemiriye organizes head wrapping workshops for different breeds.
Also, the singer is fascinated by the royalty that comes with the headdresses. As a child, she was intrigued by the royal appearance of the late South African singer Miriam Makeba.
“I loved the way he looked every time he went out.” The headdress means more than fashion for Jemiriye.
“It represents many things. Primarily, it is a symbol of African pride for African women. When a woman loses her husband in some African cultures, she shaves her head and uses a headdress to cover up baldness. Nowadays, women in America suffering from cancer use headgear to cover their heads after losing their hair due to chemotherapy. The headdress is something that has come to stay. It’s just that we all think there must be an opportunity to wear it. It doesn’t detract from you in any way. Elevate your beauty.
As a cultural ambassador, Jemiriye is passionate about any art form that promotes African culture. Like fashion, she uses music to celebrate her African heritage. He was in Lagos to promote his new single, “Lagos”. The song, he said, is an ode to the city that was an important part of his journey.
“Wherever I am in the world, the spirit of Lagos shines. I can’t be in the back seat. Even though I’m from Osun state, that hustle and bustle, I can do it and never give up, the spirit is always in me. “
The accompanying images of the music show iconic Lagos locations such as Freedom Park in Lagos Island, the National Arts Theater, Iganmu, Ebute Metta Train Station, among others.
Although familiar with many parts of the state, Oshodi remains dear to her for good reasons.
“I spent part of my formative years in Oshodi. I remember when I was a little girl I used to take my mother to the market to buy things and I was always amazed at how she negotiated with traders. I learned the power of trading from the Oshodi market. You have to be smart. You know what they say about Oshodi then, you may lose your hand and your change in the Oshodi market. I learned the sense of the road from Oshodi.
The singer inherited her passion for music from her parents. His father was an avid music collector while his sonorous voice is a gift from his mother.
Her musical pursuits took her to unexpected places and brought her fame. For example, in 2006, she led the theme song at the Pan-African Women’s Conference in South Africa which was attended by South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela and other powerful women leaders from the continent. That experience opened her eyes to the plight of the average African woman. Since then, she has made her mission the preaching of the emancipation of African women. It is important to her that women in Africa are financially independent.
“When I went to Europe, I saw that women were calling the shots, they were organizing, spending, empowering men too. I’ve always been that kind of woman. I saw myself through the school, “said the artist who graduated from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism. The way she sees it, women can play a fundamental role in building peace in Africa: you just need to give them a place at the table.
“We are mothers. We know how to take care of the child ”.
In addition, in 2014, she became the first African to sing the baseball anthem at Citizen’s Bank Park Stadium in Philadelphia during the celebration of Jackie Robinson Day.
Jemiriye’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” which sent a message of peace to Africa and around the world, was unveiled at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil. The musical style of the talented singer is rooted in Yoruba folk, afrobeat and jazz. It can be called afro-fusion as it blends different sounds to give it that unique feeling. Currently, the former Nigerian Idol contestant is working on an album due on an undisclosed date. Her mission through her music and fashion is to spread the message of hope, love and beauty.
“I am a messenger. I carry a message for someone out there and I pray to God not to die with my messages ”.