Africa is exploding right now. News from the continent has too often been war, famine and poverty, but a new generation of young Africans with a global outlook are playing a key role in growth, development and positivity. This could be the century for African youth.
WAFFLESNCREAM is a UK/Nigerian skate lifestyle brand that gives voice to Africa’s street and skate culture. Creative director Jomi Marcus-Bello, art director Nifemi Marcus-Bello, head of sales KC Obijiaku and business analyst David Fisayo were all born and raised in Lagos but studied in the UK. Together with head of photography Oliver Cargill from Leeds they’ve built the brand to bridge the gap between the UK and African skate scenes. Rather than accepting handouts from charities or relying on international brands to develop products for the African market, the Waffles crew are out to show that African youth can do it themselves.
How and why did you start WAFFLESNCREAM?
WAFFLESNCREAM was born out of love and frustration with skate and BMX culture and clothing. The love is for everything the culture stands for: the freedom, the friendship, the adventure and just the feeling of being independent. The frustration comes from not having a brand that embraces this culture in Africa and which is run by Africans. There have been brands who have tried, often big ones who have launched smaller projects here and there, but everything is heavily “African-ised.”
A lot of these efforts have a charity feel and vibe to them. Africans have become caricatured by charities and we’re often made to look like either beggars or war-hungry people. It’s rare that the cool subcultures of Africa get shown. Guinness did a fantastic job with their recent Congolese sapeurs ad, which I think is the only time I can think that an African subculture has been presented like this, with an empowering face.
In Africa today, there are a number of thriving subcultures from skateboarding to BMX, punk to hip hop, graffiti to illustration and photography. American cultural movements like jazz or hip hop present themselves in very empowering ways but when it comes to Africans it always looks very poorly done. These people are not being celebrated properly. From this point of consciousness, a group of us decided to put all our skills on the table and, with help from mutual friends, create a brand that does just that. Not all of us are African but the hunger is still there (pun intended).
Is it a good time to strike it alone?
Most definitely. There is a huge amount of growth coming out of Africa right now and the rest of the world is looking to expand into the region so our timing is great. The numbers are there for proof. Africa is the last frontier.
What were you doing beforehand?
We were all at uni and doing odd jobs to get some cash flow and keep things moving, but we all finished studying this year and some of us are working full time.
What challenges have you faced?
One of our biggest challenges has been getting coverage and exposure but we are not too bothered right now because we believe in what we’re doing and that will pay off in the end.
This is a culture rather than just a business, so whatever happens or whatever challenges we face it’s going to keep moving. One of the main challenges is for the older heads in Africa is to understand what we are doing and why it is necessary. They are very stuck in their ways and not open to growing. The old African heads are the hardest to crack.
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
We take our inspiration from friends, conversations and life as we know it. We’re also inspired by the people who have come before us and sold dreams from the streets, executed everything properly and done it all in an empowering way: Supreme and Stüssy. For me, the most inspirational place is Lagos (Las Gidi), the City of Gods. The hustle and bustle is everywhere, even in the food, haha.
Are there any indie brands out there that you think are doing great things?
In the same space as us, I don’t think so. Not that we know of, anyway.
What does independence mean to you?
Not having some money hungry corporate (bank or person) breathing down your neck for money and improved performance if we fail to deliver one month.
What’s the single greatest lesson you’ve learned from setting up your own business?
When shit hits the fan you see people’s true colours because you see where their strengths lie but also their weakest points.
What are your ambitions for the future of WAFFLESNCREAM?
Give Africa and its children a new face.
Find out more about WAFFLESNCREAM.