Ade Olufeko’s cultureshock story as an innovator and his likes is what Lagos continues to leverage
To understand a culture is to understand socio-economics and its non-linear disparities in the African global space, and this is to know also of one luminary Ade Olufeko who goes by the mononym Adeolu. He is the head of The Avenue Creative LTD and a multidisciplinary innovator who coined the phrase “The future is considerably female”. Adeolu trailblazes through innovation for many NGOs and the business fast followers, those who yearn for originality. Once in 2001 as a guest, he publicly imparted poetry and prose on an African night event, to a colourful audience organized by students at the University of Minnesota. Among the selected speakers on that eventful spring evening, was comedian Michael Blackson whose skits sent the audience of students and dignitaries into laughter of collective jubilation.
During the 1990s, statewide strikes in secondary school kept many teachers away from classes. Ade or Abayomi referred to then by his mates would scale the fence (skipping school) to play Capcom’s Street Fighter II video games at E-World and Mega Plaza off Adeola Odeku Avenue. This was common for most kids and the late bloomers alike who still scored high grades during final exams. Today Olufeko’s self-restraint as an adult from the public eye could be misinterpreted as being coded or an introvert, but a revelation on selective mutism (SM) as a child through his forthcoming book sheds light on otherwise misconstrued conclusions. We can all attest that when anyone is in the state of flow, grandstanding interruption can be trivial. He returned to Minneapolis in the year 1995 after the June 12th election annulment anniversary, during a massive brain-drain which was escalated by riots and the economic volatility of the beautiful city of Lagos.
Ifihàn ìrawọ a later name given by his father, Adeolu kept the green-white-green nation in his heart as he integrated into a new city he knew as a little child after birth. His first of several appearances before his public awareness was a collaboration with International Baccalaureate teacher Eric Schneider and (later a superintendent), invited Olufeko for 3 powerful class sessions, where he taught his classmates and peers about his culture in a very thick Nigerian accent. Barely 16-years of age at the start of 1996, it must have been exciting and at the same time nerve-racking, to unofficially represent the general Nigerian culture in a fairly robust school system such as the Minneapolis Public Schools. By the winter of that year and still a teen, Olufeko unconsciously acting as a bridge between cultures was at the Kare 11 TV studios in Golden Valley alongside another teen, Kenyan-American Anna Otieno. They were in a promotional segment for fashion personality Ona, showcasing African-American and African culture for Kwanzaa celebrations. This massive event took place at the International Market Square. Fast forward to a year later, he met Tunde Famodu a football coach and a celebrated aeronautics engineer from Addo Ekiti who later mentored Olufeko in football during Henry High’s 96/97 soccer season. One memorable game in Delano Minnesota was the coming back from 3 goals down, Olufeko silenced a small city with a winning goal — his name never showed up in the paper, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune reflected the scores. The grit and character of this Nigerian was the foreshadowing of the popular phrase “Naija no dey carry last”. In the early 2000s, he and his late friend Muyiwa (Oplay) would often go to one recreation center to test their wits in pickup basketball. The likes of WNBA star Lindsay Whalen and others in the day would walk on the court to play the pick-up stretch alongside the guys.
In this new decade, after 36 months of traveling and imparting globally, despite his collaborative dexterity and the creation of a writing style for the Visual Collaborative platform, Adeolu had to pause and reflect. He had to process what worked and shed what wasn’t relevant to eliminate the element of burnout. After delivering a keynote at Yale University, and a sabbatical, this impressive autodidact returns with testimonies of value and a reminder of what we all can be in our unique ways. We recall in 2017, through research he brought the monument of Sungbo’s Eredo back into social discourse and was one of the first people in Nigeria to talk about the concept of “design thinking” in 2018 TEDxLagos spotlight. He asserts in his public lectures that “technological advancement with no spiritual maturity or cultural compass will create imaginary innovation”. We need a little more of Adeolu and his likes in our lives to curb arrested development among the masses. As many Nigerians migrated in the last 5 years to new homes around the world, we celebrate the accolades of one who have endured the culture shock of leaving and returning.