It’s not often that a thesis project alone catches our eye. Usually, graphic designers need time to perfect their skill, diligently refining their practice years beyond graduation. And then, sometimes, there are designers such as Modupe Lamikanra who excite us from the get-go. Born in Lagos, Nigeria and now based out of New York City, Modupe’s thesis project is based on her Nigerian heritage. “The title, Aso-Ebi, takes its name from the Yoruba term for ‘family cloth’,” Modupe tells It’s Nice That. The project first came to Modupe from a zine she created using archival images from her parents’ old photo books, and decided to build outwards from there. “I spent a considerable amount of time sourcing images and exploring Yoruba traditions and fabrics,” she says. “The final look was inspired by Ankara and Adire, which were brought to Nigeria during colonisation but have since become staples in Nigerian fashion and visual culture.” These final three designs represent Modupe herself, her father and her mother, she tells us.
The hibiscus flower is of particular note in the project, repeated throughout as a motif which ties in links to Modupe’s family home (“it was ubiquitous there”, she says) and an interpretation of her family crest. “For this project, I learned how to screen print, as it felt like a better way to replicate the look and feel of the wax fabric compared to digital prints,” Modupe adds. The zine-like effect of screen-printed visuals is apparent throughout Modupe’s wider portfolio, too. Her poster work is equally eye-catching, proving to be dynamic re-interpretations of the 90’s DIY aesthetic within counterculture movements of the time. “I'm drawn to their aesthetics because they push for more accessible design,” the designer explains.
Her list of influencers doesn’t end there, either. Modupe’s work as a radio DJ for the last four years has helped her discover a myriad of new music which she works to incorporate into her designs. “I have a book called Too Fast to Live, which is full of old punk and rock posters that I love to refer to when I feel stuck on a design,” she tells us. It somehow works harmoniously with the recurring ‘folk art’ visuals Modupe carefully weaves into her work. “I am fascinated not only by its visual appeal, but also by the meaning behind the term ‘folk art’ and how we classify certain works as such,” she says.
Overall, Modupe remarks how “extremely proud” she is of her thesis. “I've always been a fan of history and stories, so delving deeper into them as part of a project was very meaningful to me,” she says. “I'm grateful for how much the project allowed me to learn not only about Nigerian culture, but also how globalisation has shaped our understanding of non-Western cultures.”
Modupe Lamikanra: Use Me (Copyright @ Modupe Lamikanra, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.