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Photo courtesy of Alice Gbelia.

Ayoka-Deco is Alice Gbelia's effort to make supporting young black artists easier, as well as give them a platform.

Ayoka-Deco is what happens when art, visibility and affordability come together.

For Alice Gbelia, the Ivorian-French entrepreneur behind the project, the idea to build an online platform for young, black artists came after she was in need of paintings for her new home. "I went to Instagram and found all these young, black artists," says Gbelia. "But it wasn't a smooth process to buy from them."

According to Gbelia, the problem was twofold. Not only was it difficult for interested parties to learn about new artists, but it was just as difficult for young artists, whose primary selling platforms were the internet and social media in particular to reach the kind of audience they wanted to. Another challenge for the artists, "was making that sure you were not selling yourself short," Rahana Dariah, a British-West Indian artist featured on the site, adds.

Gbelia then decided to step in to build a website focused solely promoting the art she enjoyed seeing on her walls, with the hope that others would too.


"A lot of these platforms are really huge and it's really hard to get on the main page," Gbelia says, in reference to Instagram and other art e-commerce platforms. "[Ayoka-Deco] is about getting artists better commission and exposure."

Art featured on Ayoka-Deco by Rahana Dariah. Image courtesy of Alice Gbelia.

Beyond that, Gbelia believes the site has also has a responsibility to diversify what kind of art people have access to. Price has always been a barrier to acquiring art for many, and the general consensus is that good art is too expensive to invest in, but Gbelia knows that's not true. "We are right in the middle," she says about the price points of artists featured on Ayoka-Deco, which range from under $50 to a little less than $100.

"It was really important for me to make it affordable. I want people to know that you don't have to be rich to appreciate art," Gbelia adds.

More than the price point, the art on the site is attainable in other ways. Dariah, whose colorful images of wide-eyed black girls with curly hair and locks grace the site, is one of the many portrait artists whose artwork live on Ayoka-Deco. According to Gbelia, this is an intentional decision. "I don't think there are enough portraits of black people," Gbelia muses. "I want people to be able to see art that looks like them." Beyond issues of representation, artists on the site present refreshing new narratives around feminism, race and the LGBTQ community.

When asked what the future looks like for the platform, Gbelia envisions a painting from Ayoka-Deco in every living room and the range of the site's other offerings—including stationery, fashion and tech accessories as a must have for everyone.

"I want to be like IKEA," Gbelia says, as she notes the Swedish-founded company's ubiquity in homes around the world. "I want people to buy a plate designed by African artists from Ayoka-Deco and have it in their homes all over the world."

Meet the Ivorian Woman Behind the Online Platform Bringing Affordable Black Art to The World

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Moonchild Sanelly. Image courtesy of the artist.

Emerging Artists: Submit to Be a Part of MIDEM Talent Exporter

The new program will select a group of 22 artists from across the world through an open call for entries.

MIDEM, the music world's leading conference and trade fair that takes place in Cannes, France, has announced their new accelerator program for emerging artists across the globe.

The MIDEM Talent Exporter will select a group of 22 artists from across the world through an open call for entries.

"This live matchmaking format will shine a light on the most promising export-ready talent," a message from MIDEM explains, "and connect them with today's finest international talent buyers, including agents, promoters, festivals, media, PR, curators, music editors and A&R. They will also gain access to 10 music supervisors with the specific objective of building concrete business partnerships."

MIDEM Talent Exporter is born out of the Midem Artist Accelerator, a talent discovery and mentorship program that OkayAfrica has had the opportunity to be a part of. In the past artists like AKA, Bez, Moonchild Sanelly, Tshego, La Dame Blanche, Kyan, and other have been part of the program.

As MIDEM explains, the program gives artists the opportunity to "meet international business partners, be scouted by international festival bookers, find an international booking agent, find local promoters, find local PRs, get your music placed in film, TV, gaming, sign publishing and/or sub-publishing deal(s), sign recording deal(s), integrate music playlists, be spotted and highlighted by international media & journalist," and more.

Emerging artists can submit now for MIDEM Talent Exporter 2020.

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Ami Faku. Image courtesy of artist.

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