Zikoranachukwuebuka Ikebuaku, the creative lead at Ohlanna bu Zikora, is delighted to present this spring-to-fall 2024 demi-couture collection — Otanjele, an 8-look artistic assemblage whose beginnings draw from a seemingly eclectic but related array of “Inspirative” sources.
Ohlanna bu Zikora’s work heavily leans on fine pattern cutting and soft sculptural dressmaking. This body of work (Otanjele) takes its core from a familiar Igbo idiom translated to mean that when one agrees, his “Chi” or personal guiding spirit is in agreement with him. It fondly reads as thus:
onye kwe, chi ya e solu ya we kwelu
According to Ohlanna bu Zikora, this idiom is a beautiful concept denoting that our chi’s always remain by our side and will follow our lead as we take charge of our own destinies. It seeks to encourage humanity to find the courage to bask in the knowledge that our destines are fully driven by the conscious choices and actions we take.
From this background, Otanjele explores the intricate nuances of feminine power as iterated through the lenses of women who choose to BE. It traces the choices made by women to combat the visions of smallness and imbalance that’s inextricably tied to the entire concept of femininity.
The Igbo word, Otanjele refers to the eyeliner. It is a cosmetic product popularly referred to as “Tiro” in local Nigerian parlance.
The choice to develop the premise of this work, based on the eyeliner, is to infer the significance of the assortment of choices women make through their entire timeline as humans, even in something seemingly basic like wearing a cosmetic item like the Otanjele.
In Igbo culture, It’s widely believed that the eyes are a significant portal/door to the soul, hence in Igbo cosmetic ritual, wearing Otanjele around the eyes is seen as a conscious effort to protect and equip oneself with perceptive ability to decipher between good and bad.
Based on this I decided to fully expand this subject matter into a comparison between the eyes and doors.
The choice to juxtapose the human eyes to doors is to establish a possibility of similarities in meaning between both objects. These carved doors of Igbo origin, known locally as Mgbo Ezi, were made from slabs of the sacred termite-resistant Oji tree also known as African oak or Iroko, some of them standing as high as 1-1.5 meters.
These doors were used as gates to the entry of homes and shrines of Ozo-titled Igbo chiefs. The panels were richly decorated with textured reliefs of diamonds, squares, rectangles, triangles, half-moons, quatrefoils and graceful loops on the public side, a perfect comparison for what the eyeliner does for the eyes, and most importantly, a deep and ultimate visual representation that exudes power, nobility and fine taste.
Through this collection, the essence of dressing to establish power comes alive: by reimagining classic modern-day wardrobe shapes into complex renditions of form, shape, decoration, volume, texture and function, all fuelled by a combination of selected aesthetic elements from Uli motifs, the curvilinear shape of lining the eyes and in exaggerating the defining features of the traditional Igbo blouse and two wrappers fondly worn by the women of south Eastern and south southern parts of Nigeria.
Above all, my interest with Otanjele is to visually excite and create an interesting visual take on clothing that doubles as figurative armour for women who are embarking on a journey to defy odds, to defy patriarchal anomalies . Pieces that assure them of what they represent and of their choices to wield their own destinies.
See all the looks from the collection below:
Ohlanna bu Zikora prides itself as a demi-couture brand. Our democratised vision allows for a fine couture experience but with easier price points, sustainable techniques and quicker lead times.
All pieces are custom-made to order following the unique body measurements and fit needs of individual clients. We also observe a strict tradition of Toile fittings as it gives the design team and the client a precise vision of fit and stylistic elements.
All looks from the collection are completely available to be modified, reworked and styled in varying degrees following clients’ tastes and wardrobe needs.