“So many artists have the talent, but they do not know about scaling their art into mainstream acceptance.” Ganiyat Sani told me during one of our recent conversations. We spoke about Lady Kwali, the potter on the 20 naira note, a skilled potter from the Gwari region of northern Nigeria. For years, she made beautiful pottery, but she was limited to her local community. Her story changed when, in 1950, Michael Cardew discovered her work and resolved to expose her to mainstream opportunities. The rest, as they say, is history as we have it today.
While we cannot neglect the importance of talent in the creative industry, there is a need for a suite of other knowledge that contributes to an artist’s success. Skills like writing, researching, pitching, communication, networking, and even digital skills. An artist serious about thriving in the contemporary marketplace needs to be well equipped with skills beyond painting, shading or stroking.
Having worked with various artists and fashion designers in Northern Nigeria through the annual Kaduna Fashion and Art Exhibition, Ganiyat noticed a deficit of transformative knowledge in many talented northern artists. She later realized that this is not just a northern Nigeria problem; it is a global problem. A lot of creatives all over the world do not know the intricacies of pushing their works to a global audience.
Ganiyat thought that this needed to be changed. And she is specifically stunned by the almost non-existence of global representation of creatives in Sahel Africa. In 2021, she founded Gazelle Creative Collective to champion the representation of Sahel African art and fashion through educational, curatorial, editorial, and management platforms. She also hopes to use Gazelle as a point of contact between the government and the creative community, exploring the creation and propagation of policies that would enable the creative sector to thrive.
Shortly after a recent workshop hosted by Gazelle Creative in collaboration with the NY-Based Visionary Art Collective, I spoke briefly with Ganiyat about the inspiration behind her work at Gazelle and the vision she has for Black creative expression.
TOPE AKINTAYO: How and when did your creative journey begin? What inspired or fueled your interest in exploring the creative industry, especially in Sahel Africa?
GANIYAT SANI: My creative journey began during my NYSC year; it was a time for me to look inwards and pursue my longtime personal interests. Encountering different creatives during and after university is one of the numerous inspirations that led me towards the creative path. Growing up, I never really came across creative works in terms of the arts and fashion in Northern Nigeria; this pushed me to search for them. I felt a gap needed to be filled regarding the adequate representation of fashion and the arts from Northern Nigeria and, ultimately, Sahel Africa in the global market.
What are some of the biggest revelations you’ve experienced since you began threading this path?
The creative industry is a world filled with unlimited possibilities. Collaboration is powerful and should be explored in almost any venture. Being a creative goes way beyond creating works or executing ideas; there’s so much technical work that needs to be done to move ahead in a creative career. Networking is key
What are you most excited about in the future related to your work?
Im excited about breaking more boundaries expanding my reach and network beyond Africa. I also look forward to carving a niche where all my work can be in synergy. This involves doing what I love and contributing to the growth and success of artists and fashion designers in my community.
What are some of the challenges you face, and how are you navigating these challenges?
I’ve had experiences where I’m short of funds and relevant human resources to achieve a certain goal. I’ve learnt to be more outspoken about my challenges because you can get the help you need from several sources that have what you need.
How would you describe the vision you have for Gazelle Creative Collective, and what do you envision the result on a wider scale?
Gazelle Creative Collective will be a globally recognized organization for artists and fashion designers to develop, get discovered and be showcased to a global audience.