This Black History Month, I spoke to three black women – Marian Kwei, Dentaa Amoateng MBE and Elainea Emmott – making their mark on the arts and the wisdom they’ve earned through hard work and determination along the way-Bianca Barratt (forbeswomen)
The International music and arts market is more competitive than ever, with women making bold moves from within and internationally.
In a special feature on women entrepreneurs of the diaspora, We highlight on the power a lady who has taken her passion and made it profitable within and internationally.
Yemisi Mokuolu is an accomplished independent producer and creative industries consultant. She founded Hatch Events in 2003 with a focus on profiling and promoting African arts and artists and Hatch Africa in 2013 to offer specialist support developing the creative industries across Africa.
She has produced some of London’s largest African arts festivals and co-produces the ‘Asa Baako’ festival in Ghana and “Oliva Tweest: An Afrobeats Musical” staged at the Barbican and Hackney Empire.
Her credits also include Artistic Director Amnesty @ Edinburgh Fringe. As a creative industry consultant, she has worked for agencies which include; Arts Council England, British Council, Bank of Industry Nigeria, City University and Goethe Institute providing extensive creative business advice, research and training across Europe and Africa.
Derek Ato Sey spoke to the British entrepreneur about how she grasped her passion and turned it into a profitable venture.
Derek: Tell Us a little about yourself.
Yemisi: I am the founder of a consultancy called HATCH which, over the past 10 years, I have developed into one of the foremost agencies in the UK working for the growth and sustainability of the Creative, Cultural and Entertainment industries. My special focus is on African creative content and the creative industries across Africa.
Through HATCH I have delivered, as a producer, large-scale festivals and arts seasons and, as a creative industry consultant, I have delivered pivotal capacity building programmes, enterprise development projects and urban regeneration programmes in the UK, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Clients I have worked with include Amnesty International, Arts Council England, Bank of Industry (Nigeria), the BBC, British Council, NESTA, Ravensbourne, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, and the Royal College of Art and Social Enterprise London.
As part of my mission, I wanted to open up African arts to the world. Whilst studying for my degree, I was shocked that not a single African artist was listed. How could they, therefore, call it History of Art! African artists weren’t part of history and somehow I felt that meant that I wasn’t either.
Derek: What is your passion and what drove you to start Hatch Ideas Worldwide
Yemisi: I meet people all the time with really powerful and amazing ideas that can provide much needed social, economic and cultural benefits, who come across an unbelievable number of obstacles in order to achieve this. Through, Hatch I wanted to be able to help them overcome these obstacles and give them the insight, support and resources to realize their potential.
Derek: How did you manage to enter into Ghana’s arts and entertainments space.
Yemisi:Through my friend Kofi Debrah. We’d been working together in the UK since 2002, producing club-nights, gigs, concerts and festivals promoting African arts, culture and artists. We really believed in and were passionate about the power of festivals to bring people together and provide economic benefits to local communities. So, when Kofi went to Ghana in 2009 and called me saying, “I’ve found the place!”, I immediately knew this was where we were going to host our festival. The people of Busua welcomed us and we’ve been there ever since building Asa Baako into one of Ghana’s largest and most popular modern festivals attracting people from across the country and the world to celebrate African arts, culture and artists.
Derek: What are some of the challenges you faced and is still facing.
Yemisi:Honestly, its hard being a female entrepreneur and even harder being a Black entrepreneur in the UK. There are certain attitudes I have to overcome daily that are really demotivating. I am just so grateful for the love, respect and support of my family and friends who keep me motivated.
Derek: What are the major highlights of your journey.
Yemisi:The first festival I produced is still the major highlight of my career. It was incredible to have the vision for and gather the support to host a festival in central London, that was held in 2005 over 8-days; bringing 40,000 people together to celebrate African music, culture and artists. It was incredible to create a platform I’m extremely proud of, where artists such as D’banj was spotted and many more creatives launched their careers.
Derek: How do you see Ghana’s art tourism-positives and negatives and way forward.
Yemisi: There is a renaissance that is taking place and people are really coming together at all levels to make it work. We need more collaboration, partners, ideas and investment at local level to sustain this energy and realize the potential of this opportunity.
Derek: Which is your favorite festival, Asabaako or Oliver Tweest and why.
Yemisi:Hee hee, what a question. I love them both. They both challenge me to work hard and create platforms that bring people together to enjoy Africa’s dynamic and fast-growing music and arts scenes and support aspiring artists and creative professionals.
Derek: What advice will you give to a reader who wants to follow your steps.
Yemisi:Find a mentor. Believe in your vision. Develop your skills. Stay focused. Get in touch.
Derek: Lastly, what are you working on now….
Yemisi: Five Cowries Arts Education Initiative. I’m really proud to announce that we’re working on behalf of Lagos State to deliver this initiative. Five Cowries recognizes that we need to create more opportunities to raise education standards. And integrating the arts into education is a way to achieve this, by making learning more accessible, inclusive and fun; especially for students with learning difficulties. We hope to be able to expand this programme into Ghana, which will create opportunities for artists who can use their creativity as educators and mentors.
It is refreshing to acknowledge the fact that women are blazing the creative trail internationally and worthy to note the presence of such strong women as Yemisi, Dentaa, Marian Kwei and Emmot.
To know more about Hatch Ideas visit http://www.hatchevents.com
CREDIT: Derek Ato Sey