When I first met Manoe Adusei-Owusu, now 23, we were still young kids with big dreams. We both originated from the same small town, permanently surrounded by endless dunes, sailboats, waves and seagulls. But while I was still watching pop princesses Xtina and Britney battle it out on MTV, I like to picture Manoe listening to old hip hop records on a dusty recordplayer. That is how affiliated she appears to be with hip hop related culture.
15 years later, not a lot has changed besides the scenery; swapping the Belgian coast for Ghent. Still young kids with big dreams, Manoe has catapulted her name in the sky with Sunkwa – a brandname representing her own illustrations. “I’d love to tell you some prodigious story concerning the brandname,” she grins. “Truth is, Sunkwa is just the name of my grandmother’s dog. It means Cry For Life or All Life is Precious in Twi, a native language spoken in Southern Ghana.”
Earlier this week Manoe launched a limited collection of t-shirts and sweaters, decorated with drawings of hip hop artists and filmcharacters from the late eighties and early nineties. All of them flaunting iconic hairstyles. Wesley Snipes, Big Daddy Kane and Tupac are just some of the legends gracing the front of her apparels. “I got inspired by oldschool barbershops,” says Manoe. “There were pictures of men with distinctive hairstyles hanging on the walls of my childhood home and I just thought that was kind of cool.” I ask her about her favourite featured hairstyle and she wrinkles her eyebrows a bit. “It’s a tough choice between Tupac in Juice or Spike Lee as Mookie in Do The Right Thing.”
The charming thing about Manoe is not only the precious poise she possesses or the way she modestly speaks about her work, but the fact that she derives a lot of her inspiration from her Ghanaian roots and her family. For example, her dad is the star in a recent Sunkwa-photoshoot shot by Manoe’s good friend Liz Dvorkina. She takes another small sip from her glass, nails painted bright purple: “I could have just used a beautiful model and placed her against a white wall for some good shots, but I want Sunkwa to be some sort of family-and-friends-project.”
Support your locals and get your own t-shirt or/and sweater at Des Affaires this sunday (at the courtyard behind everyone’s fave coffeebar Clouds In My Coffee) or just contact Manoe Adusei-Owusu for more information.
Text and polaroids by Charlotte Marron