A Vibe Called Tech, Gucci and Manju Journal come together for series celebrating Ghanaian culture and gender fluidity
The project launches Charlene Prempeh’s creative media agency, set up to explore the intersection of Black creativity, culture and innovation.
- Jenny Brewer
- 8 October 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Charlene Prempeh has made an esteemed name for herself in the creative industry thus far, working with the BBC, The Guardian and Frieze, writing about Black culture for the Financial Times and Vice, and consulting the Royal Academy and Art Fund on diversity – and that’s just scratching the surface. Over the past few years she’s been quietly throwing all that experience and knowledge into her new agency A Vibe Called Tech, intended on bringing Black design and innovation to the foreground of culture, and today, it launches its first creative media project in the form of a collab with Gucci, no less, and Ghanaian publication Manju Journal. Produced during lockdown and across continents, the vibrant and powerful series of images shows what Charlene is made of, and has a great story behind it too.
The series of portraits and films celebrates Gucci’s Jackie 1961 bag, designed by the label’s creative director Alessandro Michele and draws inspiration from a vintage piece with a genderless attitude. The campaign titled We are all they explores questions of gender fluidity and its place in Ghanaian culture. “The idea is based on the fact that pronouns in Ghanaian dialects are genderless,” Charlene tells It’s Nice That. “‘They’ is used to describe male or female rather than ‘he’ or ‘she,’ and Manju wanted to explore what a fluid approach based on Ghanaian visual culture would look like.”
“It's interesting because there is often an assumption in Western culture that Black men are hyper masculine and Black women are overly sexualised,” continues Charlene, “but this concept challenges those stereotypes and provides insight into the cultural nuances of Ghana that very few people outside of the country are aware of.”
Charlene’s agency sets out to nourish the Black community and encourage a culturally diverse lens across design, technology and the arts, doing so through partnerships like this one, as well as events, research and workshops. We are all they was produced in Ghana by an all-Ghanaian team including photographer David Nana Opoku-Ansah, and Manju Journal’s creative director Orlando Mensah and fashion director Kusi Kubi, who came up with the creative concept.
Charlene’s heritage is Ghanaian and has visited the country several times, so working on the development of a creative concept from so far away “wasn't as daunting as it could have been,” she describes. Charlene and A Vibe Called Tech's creative director Lewis Gilbert first invested time in refining the brief, discussing how best to deliver the assets. From there, the work involved quickly planning logistics – how to get the clothes through customs, making sure everything was Covid safe, and bringing everyone together including models and creatives. “We were basically on the phone to Manju non-stop for a couple of weeks and we all fed into the best way of editing the films and telling the story of gender fluidity in Ghana. Gucci were incredibly supportive… this is the first of many projects. We're super excited to be developing narratives that centre Black culture and Black creatives and this is just the beginning.”
The project exemplifies the ethos of the agency, encouraging brands to connect with Black creativity in a way that supports the financial and cultural independence of the community, and empowers Black creatives to create their own narratives. It also represents one of a number of investments by Gucci into Black-owned media brands in Africa. “I’ve always been interested in creative power,” Charlene adds on the motivations behind the agency, “who holds it, who doesn’t, and why, and how this pertains to outcomes for Black people globally.” The agency, she says, was “a natural extension of this curiosity and an attempt to interrogate power dynamics in a way where Black stories and Black Lives would be given the attention they deserve”.
Gallery© A Vibe Called Tech, Manju Journal and Gucci: We are all they, 2020
© A Vibe Called Tech, Manju Journal and Gucci: We are all they, 2020