Mbari Uno wants to change the way Nigerians think about design

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Head Chef, Kol's Bistro and Bakery, Chef Ude Okoli; Hub Manager, Mbari Uno, Julia Obinna; Unit Head, Aziza Design, Ese Ebojie; Director/Co-founder, Mbari Uno, Chuma Anagbado at the official Launch of Mbari Uno(House of Collaboration)

By Solomon Elusoji

Mbari Uno, an innovative collaborative design hub, has officially opened in Lagos.

The design hub, according to Director and Co-founder, Mr. Chuma Anagbado, seeks to “empower the individual” through design.

The hub, which is cited in Ikeja, will host design workshops and has spaces for designers to exhibit their works and even work remotely.

Mr Anagbado said this is the first of many design hubs from Mbari Uno.

“This kind of space needs to exist across Africa,” he said at the opening. “There are gaps within the design industry – we don’t have a holistic direction for how people can find designers. We started as a website, documenting designers across Sub-Saharan Africa; one year later, we’ve been able to launch our first space.”

Mr Anagbado added that Mbari Uno will be involved in design activism projects in its community with an eye on solving social problems. The team has already been to Makoko to train locals on becoming First Aid responders.

“We want to have design tours, conferences and even a design publication,” Mr Anagbado said. “We want to get to a level where design is legislated in Nigeria. Our focus is on training the human being; it is sad that small Italy has more designers than the entire Africa.”

Mr Anagbado believes design is essential to Nigeria (and Africa’s) emergence as an economic powerhouse.

“With Design being the first stage of any manufacturing or production, there is a need to understand its necessity and pivotal role in development, hence Mbari Uno is critical to transforming our economy from consumerist to manufacturing one,” he said.

For Mbari Uno’s Hub Manager, Julia Obinna, design isn’t just graphics or fashion design, but extends across a spectrum of categories, including business and space design; some of these ideas are woven into Mbari Uno’s first hub, which is cited at the heart of Lagos.

The hub’s design is postmodern. The walk-in dining area is placid, roofed with rafia and smells of exotic spices from its signature char-grilled restaurant. The doors and windows are made of glass and transparent. Inside, the floors are polished and the walls are painted in bright, comfortable colours.

“There is a ShowRoom, an Exhibition Space, is a combination of a concept store, reading room and a lounge,” Ms Obinna said. “It serves as a malleable space that can be used for product and art exhibitions, a reading room, and small fire culture events such as poetry reading and digital product presentations. There is also a Kol’s Bistro & Bakery; a char-grill bistro serving locally inspired delicious cuisine, drink, coffee etc.

“For Multimedia enthusiasts, there is Sylvan Studios which is a Photo, Audio and Video recording and creating facility. The Work Room is an open plan co-working space that is designed to inspire collaboration and innovation. There is Aziza Design, a multidisciplinary design firm using human-centered experiences to design solutions. Lastly, Learn Room which is an auditorium styled space that can sit up to 35 persons and is used for seminars, meetings, and training can all be found within the Mbari Uno House of Collaboration.”