The digital platform Manju Journal has been celebrating the creativity coming out of Ghana since 2015. With Ghanaian creatives Richmond Orlando Mensah and Kusi Kubi behind the wheel, their creative direction ensures that the plethora of rich art forms coming out of Africa are given the spotlight. Working alongside all mediums from photography, to music and fashion, etc. Manju has garnered global acclaim, collaborating with fashion houses such as Gucci and Burberry, as well as, media publications such as i-D and Dazed. The work coming out of this platform is intentional, inclusive, arguably radical, and beautiful.
Firstly, Manju Journal is a global art and culture platform dedicated to amplifying young African creatives, meaning collectivity is at its core. For a second, I’d like to focus on Founder: Orlando Mensah and Creative Director, Kusi Kubi, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, I’m Richmond Orlando Mensah, Ghanaian-based creative and founding director of Manju Journal. After years of working with some diplomatic sectors in Ghana and other African countries, my passion for creativity led me to launch this online platform. I started Manju in 2015 as a digital platform to celebrate the creativity coming out of Ghana, Africa, and the global diaspora at large. The focus was to explore fresh talents in the region from contemporary African fashion, photography, music, and society. We have grown from an online platform to a creative studio (launched in 2021) where we collaborate with innovative global brands and institutions who are interested in investing in Black and African culture leading us to working with luxury and heritage brands like Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, and Gucci.
Kusi Kubi who works between London and Accra as a Stylist and Creative Director joined Manju in 2020 to take the role of  Fashion Director. As we are both Ghanaians working together, it is amazing to see our ideas come together beautifully to create meaningful and strategic projects for the platform. Kusi's strong experience in fashion with brands and publications like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Amazon, SHOWstudio, i-D, Dazed, etc. over the last years makes him completely right for the role.
Now that we’ve met you, I’d love for Manju Journal to introduce itself to our readers in its own words, what would you say is quintessentially Manju Journal?
Manju Journal is a global African art and culture platform that continues to celebrate emerging talents on the continent and diaspora. We are not tied to a particular industry, but instead, champion creatives ranging from fashion design and artists to photographers and visual storytellers. What ties the work we curate for our audience is an interest in African visual culture and narratives and presentations of those of African ancestry. We aim to be the leading African media platform putting emerging talents at the core of global creativity through immersive physical and online experience. We fill the gap that’s been left empty and neglected for far too long. Our vision for Manju is a simple one: being a source of inspiration for global African talents.
Manju Journal Metalmagazine 4.jpg
We Are All They by Manju Journal x Gucci x A VibeCalledTech. Benjamin Mensah and Dennis Quaye photographed by David N.O. Ansah.
Fashion specifically has been at the core of many African nations' identities and cultures. As a Ghanaian, I cannot separate Ghana from Adinkra symbols and how they are incorporated into the architecture, Kente (traditional cloth), and jewellery. Have you always expressed yourselves through fashion and art?
That’s definitely true. Fashion has a very strong relation to the Ghanaian culture and society. We are dedicated followers of fashion and it goes beyond the vibrant colours we see every day. Each ethnic group, with their distinct culture across the length and breadth of the country, represents themselves uniquely in the way they dress while heritage and culture play a significant role in stylistic choices. An example can be seen from our project with Gucci and A VibecalledTech in 2020, where we incorporated the Teku headpiece- a symbolic item seen among the Akan tribe as we explored fluidity in Ghanaian society.
How important is it to celebrate Blackness and Africans through the lens of our own people? Many companies, during the summer of 2020 at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, have engaged in performative diversity. What is Manju doing for artists other companies can't or won't?
This is a very important question. What we do as a platform and creative studio is to collaborate with brands and institutions who are truly interested in investing in African culture. Our idea for this form of partnership is very strategic. We believe that celebrating Black culture should not only be a focus in the diaspora but should also extend the narrative to creatives in Africa where these brands and institutions also get their inspirations from every day. As much as it may be difficult sometimes for collaborations like this. We make sure every project we propose is significant to the continent, something we can always come back to for inspiration as Africans. The future is here, African creativity is growing large on a global scale and it definitely makes sense to use our channel to bring more attention to the blooming creative scene here.
Africa has consistently been overlooked by Western powers and presented as a one-dimensional monolith. Manju is resisting this narrative by showcasing with detailed intention how rich, deep, and diverse Blackness and African heritage is. How does each African creative you work with, or showcase teach you something new?
We carefully select particular creatives we work with on each project from production, photography to the entire creative team. We are always open and interested in listening to each and everyone’s ideas whilst focusing on fresh talents on the continent, telling diverse African stories in every field of their work. I believe this is one thing that has made most of our projects really stand out. It’s so beautiful to see that your ideas strongly align with the team you work with.
Manju Journal Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Photography by Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-Nti, Styling Kusi Kubi. Courtesy Manju Journal & Burberry.
There are not many spaces dedicated to embracing and uplifting, Africa, and the current political climate and media continue to spread anti-black sentiment. To me, Manju feels like a safe space for African creatives. Is that what you were hoping for with the platform?
This has always been the aim for the platform. A creative space for young talents to find inspiration in whatever they do. We carefully curate content that aligns with the rich and dynamic stories coming out from Africa and the global diaspora- thanks to our wonderful contributors. This can be attested through our Instagram account and as we gradually transform from digital to print very soon, we hope this initiative will continue to inspire every young creative out there.
In 2020, Manju collaborated with Gucci on a project called: We Are All They, you explored how different Ghanaian languages lack gendered pronouns. How important is it for the African diaspora and Black creatives to be in touch with this kind of truth?
We Are All They was a very special project to us especially collaborating with Gucci for such a wonderful story (first of its kind in Africa). We totally felt like it was important to focus on a story significant to Ghana and somehow connect the global diaspora and the world at large in celebrating the rich stories from our country. This was the perfect moment to create such a story as it totally aligned with Gucci’s style of aesthetics. It was amazing to receive wonderful feedbacks from our audience and up until now it serves as an inspiration to a lot of people.
It is important now more than ever for Black people to feel secure in our complexity and variety. Through engaging in work that opens Africa’s identity such as the Burberry collaboration: Together and One. Has it always been an intention of Manju to explore the multi-faceted nature of Blackness that pop culture sometimes subdues, or has this just happened naturally over time?
Manju stands for everything Black and African culture, a core part in what we do as a media platform in celebrating creatives from the global diaspora. Our annual Hotlist project in partnership with i-D magazine celebrates creatives from Africa and the diaspora- a collaborative effort in sharing the stories of Black and African creatives to the world at large. In our partnership with Burberry, we explored Black identity in today’s Africa as it intertwines in every aspect of creativity hence taking inspiration from American photojournalist Kwame Brathwaite, who galvanised the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement in the 1960s, and Ghanaian image-maker Philip Kwame Apagya, who rose to acclaim for his joyful studio portraiture and vibrant, painted backdrops.
Manju Journal Metalmagazine 2.jpg
We Are All They by Manju Journal x Gucci x A VibeCalledTech. Benjamin Mensah and Anastasia Cobbinah photographed by David N.O. Ansah.
Manju Journal Metalmagazine 3.jpg
We Are All They by Manju Journal x Gucci x A VibeCalledTech. Anastasia Cobbinah and Brigitte Appiah photographed by David N.O. Ansah.
Manju Journal Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Photography by Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-Nti, Styling Kusi Kubi. Courtesy Manju Journal & Burberry.
Manju Journal Metalmagazine 6 2.jpg
Photography by Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-Nti, Styling Kusi Kubi. Courtesy Manju Journal & Burberry.