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‘Culturati is a movement to instill fading cultures in the hearts of today’s youths’


Idris Aregbe

Eleven years ago when Idris Aregbe staged the maiden edition of Nigeria’s premiere cultural beauty pageant, Sisi Oge, his intention was not only to use the platform in promoting rich African culture; empowering young ladies into becoming super models was also a big part of the project.

Today, over 50,000 models have benefited from the initiative, while 11 have won the crown at different times. Ahead of this year’s edition billed for June 30, Aregbe spoke on his exploits, as well as motive behind the rebranding from Sisi Oge to Culturati.

What informed your decision to rebrand from Sisi Oge to Culturati?
The brand Sisi Oge was rebranded to Culturati in order to create an urban appeal that will distinctively capture the vast beauties of the African culture in its entirety.


After celebrating the 11th edition of Sisi Oge, which was a resounding success, there was need to rejig. Culturati is a cultural festival that showcases African culture.

As a matter of fact, it is a concept designed to showcase the good side of Africa to the world. We have quite a number of people who are doing great things African in Africa and all over the world, people who are growing the African continent. That was why I decided that we needed to take this brand further by rebranding from our usual Sisi Oge, which has been an annual cultural event, to a more encompassing brand, Culturati.

Now in its 12th year, the brand has passionately rewarded contributions by creative minds, nurtured cultural ambassadors, and empowered burgeoning art and fashion enthusiasts, while propagating the beauty of the African culture within and beyond the proximity of Africa.

So, Culturati is an edutainment cultural festival channeled towards a thorough acknowledgement and enlightenment of Africa’s rich history and values. It is a sustainable fusion and celebration of Africa’s arts and culture with a mission to revive indigenous culture on the brink of extinction on account of reckless abandon, as well as the rapid influx of westernisation.

This event will celebrate Africa’s exotic culture with a variety of entertaining engagements from arts and fashion exhibition, music/dance drama, cultural festival/pageantry and a host of other electrifying performances.

Culturati, formerly known as My Heritage, My Pride & Sisi Oge, is not just a yearly festivity; it’s a cultural movement aimed at promoting the African heritage with a strong desire to instill our fading cultures in the hearts of today’s youths. It is designed to sustain our culture and of course, we are also incorporating SMEs and expanding our scope.


What do you aim to achieve with this year’s edition?
The notion behind Culturati 2019 is to explore nature’s creative beauty, create a renaissance of our cultural heritage, raise cultural ambassadors, and grow SMEs in the creative industry.

To this end, we are building up programmes that are ongoing, to create the right momentum for the major event. The objective is to see how we can empower Nigerians. We are looking at culture from the prism of business and trying to tell the world that Culturati is not just about beauty pageants nor events, but promoting our culture with a perspective to also explore the business angle of culture.

The objectives of Culturati include, amongst others, to rebrand and re-introduce African cultures and traditions such as art, dance, fashion, music, food amongst others to the international community. It also aims at attracting international tourists to Africa, as well as to resuscitate our fading cultures through enlightenment, education and association. It will also create a favourable market to showcase our amazing heritage, while stimulating discourses around shared valued themes that participating bodies and individuals can buy into to foster socio-economic development – benefic.

What are those business angles of culture you feel people should explore?
We are fully ready to launch the Culturati online business hub, which would profile business owners in terms of fashion, arts, crafts, entertainment and everything that has to do with African value and heritage.


It’s a place where anyone, who is interested in any aspect of these businesses, can hook up with individual owner of these businesses. We are also talking to banks to see how they can give some kind of zero interest loans to support these ones. That is why the exhibition we are holding this year is also to identify those key brands in the market, which we believe can sell and which we can also give support.

With the rebranding, are we expecting new addition to the usual package?
Like I said, with Culturati, the concept is bigger and we have more to offer; we are offering additional content and a wider scope and reach. We are going beyond the mere fashion show and pageant to look at the business angle of culture. We are looking at promoting unsung heroes, who are actually growing the economy of the country. 

For example there’s a suya at Allen Junction, Ikeja, Lagos, called University of Suya, which has been running for about 37 years. We have like three generations that have been doing the business. They have been growing the business and empowering young people from one generation to another.

This is what Culturati stands for; we want to identify some of these key businesses and see how we can engage and empower them and also help them redefine what they are doing and then put them on the world map. We want to encourage them and let them know that there is a brand observing them and that they just need to continue to move forward and see how they can continue to give out their best to the society.

Whether we like it or not, if we grow our local business, we are equally growing our society. So, we are looking at turning passion into wealth and to also continue to see how we can empower young people to do SMEs. So, it’s not just about another pageantry event, but is about celebrating African values.


What will the programme look like?
Well, as a build up to the Culturati Night Grand Finale, which comes up on June 30, at the Balmoral Conventional Centre, Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, we had an interactive symposium on June 11, as well as Culturati Celebrity Football Match on June 20, at Fun Turf, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

On June 23, we will be having Hair Braiding Festival at Nike Art Gallery, Lekki, and an Art and Fashion Exhibition on June 30, at the Balmoral Conventional Centre, Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos. The event is primarily aimed at acknowledging and appreciating our treasured cultural heritage and traditions.

The Hair Braiding Festival/Competition aims at celebrating the best hands in the industry, especially local stylists, who are capable of making unique hairstyles.

The plan is to see how we can empower them to set up businesses and also connect them to one of our sponsors, Lush Hair, a brand of synthetic hair extensions. We also have the food aspect, which we are trying to come up with different recipes that have to do with the African vibes and for the African people.

In terms of fashion show, we have seen different sorts, but now, we are looking at things that are targeted towards promoting the African values and cultures. 

So far, how would you describe the impact of this project?
It’s been great with the pageants alone; we have trained over 50,000 models and we have had 11 queens over the years.

When you look around today, you would see some of our models featuring in most of the big shows in the fashion and entertainment industries. 


I’m glad that in the last 11 years, we have been empowering young people, directing them in the right path and providing them with amenities to excel. 

So, for us, we are not just a pageant promoter, it is about trying to redefine the African youths and the African woman in particular. So, we thank God for where we are today and I also thank God that we are fully rebranded and that we are fully ready for a proper businesses platform, to see how we can take small business owners from the level they are at the moment to a better level. That’s why for this year’s edition, we are partnering with a lot of big brands that also would be giving values to our youths.

Looking back to 12 years ago when you started Sisi Oge, did you envisage what it has turned out today?
Maybe I didn’t see it this way, but I knew it was going to be different from what was on ground then because I understood what my content and concept were all about; I was ready for it. And I thank God that today, it’s even bigger than what I envisaged. 

Starting about 12 years ago was tough but because it was what I really believed in; I had to push hard on it. I didn’t allow any obstacle to hold me back; I was willing and ready to contribute my own quota to the society. I was willing and ready to support people because I’m also a product of people’s support. 

What is your vision for Culturati?
It is for us to continue to grow and create more platforms for the younger generation, so that in the next five years, we would have so many beautiful things to show. I’m using this opportunity to call on Nigerian youths, to come up with beautiful ideas that would better our society.

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