Chuma Anagbado on creating solutions to our problems by ourselves
Chuma Anagbado is a product designer and design activist that is passionate about creating scalable and sustainable design solutions through research & collaborations. A leader of thought, and an influencer in the burgeoning Nigerian design industry who amongst other interests, Co-founded Mbari Uno ; a community-focused platform for design Research, Education & Solutions Development across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why did you decide to become a product designer in a country where your craft is not recognized and respected like the other creative arts careers?
I’d rather say the discipline is still developing as opposed to not being recognized or respected. I chose Design and Design chose me. The sum total of my life & educational experiences is what i currently do. Being a professional that is skilled in many aspects of design, the term Multidisciplinary Designer aptly captures my profession. I remember vividly growing up as a kid that all i wanted to do was take things apart and put them back together. I loved to deconstruct any phenomenon simply to know the details of how it came to be or was made, this mostly turned out to be ‘destructive’ as i could not put things back together. But i did learn with every episode and got better with time till i became a designer – a person that plans and develops, roadmaps, frameworks etc to lead to sustainable solutions for identified problems. I defined life for myself and designed new meanings to everything i have been thought. I basically live by design.
The South East is a region renowned for it’s craftsmanship and artistry in cities like Aba and Nnewi. How will Aziza Design help the entrepreneurs in these cities to design products that will earn global appeal?
Recently I did a trip to Power-line and Aria Aria markets in Aba. I wanted to see first hand what is produced, learn their process and seek ways to enable wider market access and quality product finish. Aziza Design is a business to business platform that has given birth to Mbari Uno; which translates to ‘House of Collaboration’, a platform for networking, exploration & promotion of the ‘Design practice’ in Sub- Saharan Africa. On the Mbari Uno platform, we will profile design entreprenuers designers, designer makers, fabricators, craft houses, design markets etc that live and work in the South East. We will host events that will build awareness and spread knowledge about latest trends and contemporary practices in design globally. We will showcase the works of design and we will continually publish and create avenues for learning, networking and personal growth. We will build design hubs in communities across Sub-Saharan Africa. The ultimate aim to establish and entrench the culture of creating solutions to our problems by ourselves. We will enable the telling of our stories ourselves and we will design how we think, interact with each other and our environment. We will design our products based on our latent needs and realities. In deed there is huge industrial activity along the Onitsha, Nnewi and Aba axis with Port Harcourt as an exit point for goods via Sea. With this comes the opportunity for design; the first stage of product or service development, to thrive.
How can the region promote and encourage her industrialists to patronize product designers for products sustainability?
Identify the problems around you. Seek to create products and services that will solve them. Think of the economic viability and technology feasibility. Identify what worked and what failed, keep doing the former and resolve the latter.
What do you have as advice to the youths of the region who will like to build careers in product design?
If you think it, you can do it. Live by Design!
What plans do you have to give back to the region based on your skills and experience?
The world is a global village and we can make huge impact from anywhere we are in the world. I do not need to relocate to the east to be able to make a desired change or impact. I think of humanity as one and i work to make life better for humanity. I happen not to be a product of any South East welfarism or structure and owe no duty to give back to the South East but to Humanity, wherever i find myself. The world is my playground and humanity is my field. My vision is to achieve global impact by being amongst the humans that will fully establish and champion the promotion of the Design industry in Sub-Saharan Africa.
What we should be talking actually is how to achieve a cultural & innovation export of sorts. For instance, Aba is yet to grow beyond its geographical location because of sectional mindsets. Aba is a culture, a lifestyle, an attitude, a movement etc that breeds innovations and industrialization. We should design a framework that will replicate this culture in different cities across the world, thus birthing a one-of-a-kind innovation cluster that will embody the Aba essence and promote its existence. China has done it well via the establishing of China towns all over the world. A place where you can go and have a wholesome Chinese experience; cuisine, architecture, culture, artifacts, products, people and so on. Such culture export can be promoted and funded by a South East Chamber of Commerce and has the potential to become a great income earner and remarkable cultural export. Not just product or services, attitudes, mindsets ways o living, trade sustenance systems, skills acquisition structures, guilds etc. are all exportable. Beyond their excellent trade & entrepreneurial skills, The Middle Easterners of the world for instance have been able to export the Kebabs, Sharwarma & ‘Shisha’ smoking culture to be a bit a specific. If you do the maths and arrive at the economic activity and income generated by these cultural exports, the figures may deny anyone sleep for days. It is a huge income earner and great tourist export. It’s high time the Aba phenomenon is productized, transported and established all over human settlements in the world. This kind of thinking that births solutions based on latent needs and existential realities is what the Mbari Uno platform has been set up address.