Angela Ahamisi strikes you like an unassuming businesswoman. But she is larger than that. On a recent visit to her cultural centre called, â€œMy Nest African Galleryâ€ in Akerele, Surulere, Lagos, a fresh discovery was made on how this trained lawyer found her way into curating culture.
As a young lady, Ahamisi was obsessed with history in secondary school and even proceeded to study it at the University of Benin, Edo State. By the time she got to 300 level, her father made arrangement for her to move to Edo State University, Ekpoma where she studied Law. As the first child of the family, the expectations were high. It was also a period when parents had little or no respect for any course other than medicine, engineering, law and accountancy.
Nature has a way of reversing plans. Ahamisi graduated and proceeded to the law school. Later, she worked at several blue-chip companies and then joined the first GSM company in Nigeria. After ten years, she knew she had to do something else that is fulfilling.
â€œOne morning, we got to work, and 500 of us had been laid off. Meanwhile, I had been toying with the idea of doing this. It was a year after I started it that I lost my full-time job. We were given letters on a Wednesday and by Thursday, I resumed here and I have been here ever since,â€ she recounted.
As the creative director of â€œMy Nest African Galleryâ€™â€™, Ahamisi studied the needs of her environment before she decided on what to do. Of course, Akerele, in the heart of Surulere, is a hub of African fabrics and accessories. Hence, she started with African fabrics, costumes, souvenirs, food and drinks. She also specialized in African themed-interior and wedding decorations. In time, she found out that most of the children who visited the gallery asked a lot of questions about the African culture and heritage.
â€œI started the programme by talking first to parents about the need for their children to know about our culture. Luckily for me, I started with a school from Lekki. The administrator of the school walked in here and was very excited by what she saw. I told her about the heritage and culture classes and she thought that it could be a very good excursion for the children. She brought 30 children here and we showed them what we had.
â€œWe also tell them about people who could motivate them like Chimamanda, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Queen Idia and Queen Amina of Zaria. This is our way of giving back to Nigeria,â€™â€™ she said.
Ahamisi also believed that the surge of immigration amongst young Nigerians who seek education abroad makes it imperative to inculcate the moral values embedded in African culture. For having a big target, My Nest African Gallery needs more space. At the moment, the showroom at the gallery doubles as the venue for the heritage classes. More schools are showing interest in this initiative although the classes can be organized in schools when requested.
â€œI want parents to begin to pay attention to our African values, heritage and culture. Many youths are losing it. Many of them are on drugs and the perception they have is that it is civilization to get high but the African value does not encourage that. In the African culture, there is a way a lady should walk talk and carry herself in public. There is a way a man attains manhood and carry himself. The churches are doing a lot by impacting values but the schools have their roles to play,â€™â€™ she added.