Opening Doors: Jubilee Clothe is Bringing Nigerian Style to Los Angeles | Presented by Uber

For Jubilee Gamaniel, being an Uber driver-partner is what allows her to pursue her entreperneurial dreams.

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The bright floral patterns of Jubilee Clothe dresses mirror the effusive personality of their designer and namesake, Jubilee Gamaniel, a creative force from Nigeria living in Los Angeles.

The filmmaker, model and designer has her finger in many different pursuits related to bringing more beauty to the world and with her burgeoning fashion business, she hopes to spread her vision from her home to the rest of the globe.

Gamaniel is also an Uber driver-partner. The flexibility of driving with Uber and this added earnings stream gives her the space to pursue the kind of creative life that she wants.

"I started driving with Uber," she says "because I wanted to have a way of supporting my business." It's the flexible hours and earnings that are so attractive to a young entrepreneur like Gamaniel.

Her mornings begin with quiet reveries over tea, before she begins work on her businesses, sending emails and such before heading out to drive.

"I go drive for like a few hours in the morning and I really love it," she says. Her early rides might involve bringing kids to the local high school or their parents.

"How else do you want to start your day?" she says. "A beautiful kid smiling in your face. I didn't feel like it was a job, I just felt like I was doing something to support the bigger picture." And when Gamaniel returns to Nigeria for business or visits, she takes advantage of Uber's ubiquity on the African continent by becoming a rider.

When traveling to Nigeria to visit family and pursue her business endeavors, Jubilee uses Uber as a rider.

"As an Uber rider doing business in Nigeria, it's a huge convenience moving around, meeting with tailors, manufactures and clients. It helps during tax season when I have to report expenses as well because everything is in one place. "

Fashion and making clothes was Gamaniel's first passion, before she fell in love with filmmaking. "I wanted to make movies" she says, "because I felt like I was the storyteller that had so many stories to share with the world."

But as she pursued one passion, she was noticed for another.

"I'll go out and people will be like, Oh my God, I love what you're wearing. I'll be like I made it. I didn't buy it. I made it!" she laughs. This is what inspires her fashion creations.

"It's so interesting how color really makes people feel a certain way," she says. It's this sense of making people feel good through her inventiveness and self expression that also gives her strength. "It made me want to keep pushing," she says.

It's the creative life that stokes her passion, and Uber helps empower that passion.

"It's something that I wake up in the morning and I want to do," she says. "I love it." Being an Uber driver-partner has also given her the opportunity to run her business in the way that she wants to. As it grows she hopes to be able to give back in a meaningful way

"I want to give back in an even bigger capacity and especially to my community and to Nigeria as well because I've seen how so many people have suffered."

Video Credits

Director: Taylor Jones

Producer: Adam Valeiras

Producer: Oyinkan Olojede

Editor: Taylor Jones

Cinematography: Robby Piantanida

Key Grip: Kevin Perez

Gaffer: Dante Skartoni

Sound Mixer: Luiza Da Silva E Sá-Davis

Color: Robby Piantanida

Arts + Culture
Photo by Bradley Meinz.

Chef Tolu Eros Is Cooking Up A Global Take Over

We spoke to the “Billionaire Chef” about employing Nigerian food to communicate culture to a global audience.

Nigerian celebrity chef Tolu Erogbogbo, aka Chef Tolu Eros, aka “The Billionaire Chef,” is honing in on his ability to entertain and educate through food. The culinary maestro has taken it upon himself to share the wonders of authentic West African food with curious foodies hoping to better understand the progressively popular cuisine. His latest conquest manifests as Ilé Bistro, a Los-Angeles based restaurant with the intent to give West African food the Hollywood treatment it deserves.

The 36-year-old chef grew up between Benin City and Lagos before heading to the United Kingdom to study International Business in 2008. There, Eros’s longing for the food that raised him inspired him to learn and watch how his matriarchs created the meals he wished to share with the world. His move to Los Angeles in 2017 saw the chef garner acclaim stateside by hosting a series of intimate, intricate, dinner parties in his personal home, in Hollywood. Eros’s desire to bring people around a dinner table evolved in his youth. In an interview with OkayAfrica, he said, “I'm the youngest in the family, and by the time I was around 10 years old, most of them had gone abroad, to university, and some started getting married, and I ended up being alone at the dining table a lot of the time,” – missing out on the evening family banter that often fosters intimacy.

His restaurants and food experiences offer ‘dining room table’ styled participation because food is best enjoyed with good company and a nice glass of vino. Ilé Bistro follows the same design, and community sits at the heart. The restaurant’s build-a-bowl system allows for patrons to explore the abundance of flavours in a more casual setting, on their own terms, and with the understanding that it’ll all be good in the end. The structure offers the option to choose a base - jollof rice, curried fried rice, or a pepper soup bowl – and add on an array of proteins or vegetables. A self-proclaimed ‘Culinary Entertainer’, Chef Eros’s position in Culver City’s Citizen Public Market is the perfect setting for the emphatic personality to shine in all his glory. As a Nigerian man proud of himself and his heritage, his personalized touch and commitment to delivering authentic Nigerian cuisine have given the Billionaire Chef a platform for which his overt cultural and national pride have a valid, and delicious foot to stand on. And, as reviews of his restaurants in Lagos and LA would show it, the man knows what he’s doing.

This year, Chef Eros was invited to host an exclusive dinner at the Coachella Valley Music Festival – making him the first African chef to do so. The dinner sold out within a week, and the chef commanded the festival’s prestigious Rose Garden – blasting Fela Kuti’s hits while giving each guest an explanation of the marvelous 14-course journey of puff puff, jollof rice, and more that their taste buds were embarking on – subsequently honoring him with the highest ‘Outstanding In The Field’ dinner ticket sales in the last 15 years of Coachella. Eros’s ability to host an exuberant culinary experience speaks volumes to the time spent cooking with his mother and grandmother, and the personal relationship he’s built with Nigerian and West African cuisine. “As a Calabar woman, my mom would always say, 'If food does not have love, you might as well not cook it at all!'," he said.

We spoke with Chef Eros about the energy behind being a culinary entertainer, the misconceptions about pepper soup, and how the youths should lead with passion.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

\u200bNigerian \u201cBillionaire Chef\u201d Tolu Eros in his Culver City food hall Il\u00e9 Bistro LA.Photo by Bradley Meinz.

Of all the research you did before taking the Ilé brand out of Africa – what was surprising in your discovery and what assumptions did you have validated about how Westerners experience African food?

The first surprise for me was how vague West African food was to Westerners – they barely had any idea. As a matter of fact, most people just think all we have is fufu and egusi, one or two soups here and there, and Jollof rice. The first thing for me was just how little knowledge there was – even when I started to really research West African food, I wanted to learn things outside of what my mom and grandma could teach me. There wasn't a lot of resources online, I couldn’t find anything. And even a lot of what you could find online, I would question mark a lot of it. But, the validation, for me has been the tremendous feedback we’ve received from the dinners we’ve hosted, and even every delivery. From people who have never tried, and were even fearful to try the foods, they say things like, “Oh my God, this isn’t as spicy as I thought [it would be].”

I think a lot of the misconception comes from, for example, pepper soup should not even be called pepper soup because it's not really about how peppery it is. It's about the bouquet of spices and the flavors that those spices bring together. It should be an aromatic broth if anything. There's been a lot of misconception about the cuisine. And for me, what I've learned more and more is that there's a huge appreciation for West African food, especially when it's done right and done with integrity and love.

What’s the greatest difference you’ve noticed between African restaurantgoers and Americans?

As an African restaurant owner, and I can only speak for myself, African restaurant goers tend to go in the fast thinking, "Ah, how could I pay this much for Jollof rice and other soups that I can eat at home? I can make it home." Unlike a Western restaurant goer that is going there for the experience and understands the amount of work that goes into standardizing and maintaining the standard and quality of food. But it is changing, though. I think this perception is gradually changing as I see more and more Africans coming out and enjoying the cuisine and appreciating and now celebrating it themselves.

Nigerian \u201cBillionaire Chef\u201d Tolu Eros in his Culver City food hall Il\u00e9 Bistro LA.Photo by Bradley Meinz.

Where do you believe other West African restaurants have been getting it wrong all this time?

I think for one, there's been a lack of integrity when it comes to the quality of ingredients being used in preparing the food. A lot of it comes from a cost perspective because West African food costs a lot to make. Palm oil costs a fortune, the amount of burn time if you're just costing how much gas we go through, etc. I find that a lot of people have tried backdoor approaches to execute the cuisine, and then it ends up falling flat because it requires that much work. Traditionally, Nigerian food has been cooked with firewood, because of the high burn rate and also how long it would take to stew something.

The second thing I would say has been the approach towards the brand integrity as well. I don't think a lot of young Nigerians have invested the time and resources into setting up West African restaurants. It's usually been a lot of aunties, mom-and-pops who don't really care too much about the branding. It's more so, okay, auntie knows how to cook, and Auntie will say, "No problem, I'll cook if you pay me X amount of dollars." And after a while, it becomes butter song. They hire people who don't even understand it and it ends up just falling flat. But I think that the time has come and I can already feel and sense that a lot of other young Nigerians are eventually going to start taking that leap of faith to invest in the branding, to invest in the sourcing of ingredients, invest in the standardizing of their processes to maintain the value and the integrity of our cuisine.

What was your experience like feeding the people at this year’s Coachella Valley Music Festival? How did that partnership come about?

It was mind-blowing. It was a dream come true, to be honest, because Coachella is such a huge stage. Music is at the heart of every human being. And Coachella is one of the largest, if not the largest, and most respected music festivals in the world. And a festival that has never really had any Africans take center stage, they had multiple Africans across different industries. You had Africans in the music space and you had an African chef, and we all did our thing. For me, it even started from the fact that the dinner sold out one week after it was announced, and was the only dinner to sell out with the highest ticket rating in 15 years.

On multiple layers from where the food was concerned, the taste of the food to just the presentation, you know I come with energy. And I'm running around the field telling people how to eat the dish, what to expect in terms of taste and flavor. I'm walking around with my jukebox playing Fela Kuti’s music around the field, and this is something that's never been done. Being able to bring the sounds of West African drums to the field that day was a dream come true. For me, it was a remarkable experience and it's something that I will do over and over and over and over again.

Nigerian \u201cBillionaire Chef\u201d Tolu Eros in his Culver City food hall Il\u00e9 Bistro LAPhoto by Bradley Meinz.

What is your wildest dream for the ILÉ brand? Do you have expansion plans?

I have quite a few. For the ILÉ Bistro brand, definitely to expand across the world, taking it in strides. I'm not going to rush into opening multiple stores in one year. I'm using this as my test of concepts. I'm experiencing all of my mistakes with this small one, and then I'm going to roll out a second one with the lessons, before we open the third, and gradually expand across the West Coast, into the East Coast, and then across America, and then into Europe, into Asia, into the Middle East, and even back into Africa. That's the ILÉ Bistro brand itself.

From a product perspective, I've always had dreams to have a brand that will be internationally recognized that will become a household name. I'm working on a number of products – spices, sauces – that should eventually hit the stores with the right partners in place, and you'd be able to get West African products in every home. But for ILÉ LA, which is really about entertainment, I always say that I'm not just a chef, I'm a culinary entertainer. I've used food as a medium of communication to celebrate the culture, and I want to do that on a much bigger scale. One of my biggest dreams is to have the biggest residency that really celebrates African culture with food as center stage. Celebrating music, fashion, and the stories of West African people whilst you are dining, whether it's 10 or 14 courses, and as God would have it, I've had all those experiences. I'm waiting for that biggest residency to happen so that we can have our first African burlesque store. I think that's it for the most part. There are a bunch of other aspirations in the fashion scene, but I don't want to say too much just yet.

Nigerian \u201cBillionaire Chef\u201d Tolu Eros in his Culver City food hall Il\u00e9 Bistro LA.Photo by Bradley Meinz.

What advice would you give to Africans wanting to pursue food as a profession?

Number one is to find your voice: What are you trying to say to the world? What are you communicating? What is your story? Who are you? Where are you from? What do you eat? I always say, "Cook what you love to cook, cook what you love to eat." Number two is to not be afraid to take risks – failing is part of success. Don't be afraid to fail, just fail better next time. Take the first step. Know that as you take more steps, the light at the end of the tunnel will become brighter as you carry on. Nothing is easy. The more difficult it is, the higher the reward.

Also, stay original, and true to yourself. And do everything with integrity. I know it's very tough, especially in this industry, but try your very best to cook with integrity, with love, and everything will gradually start to align. Go big or go home.

Photo by Marko Geber/Getty Images.

U.K. Announces Restrictions on Bringing Family Members to Join Foreign Students

In what seems like a shocking immigration crackdown, the United Kingdom is set to announce new immigration restrictions on foreign students, banning them from bringing family over to Britain.

The United Kingdom is poised to unveil a series of stringent restrictions aimed at preventing foreign students from bringing their families into the country. This measure, which is expected to be announced soon, underscores the British government's commitment to reevaluating its immigration policies in light of evolving priorities.

According to Business Insider Africa, the restrictions will primarily affect master's students and a substantial portion of post-graduate students, who will face a ban on their ability to sponsor family members to join them in Britain. The policy will not affect PhD students, though, because their courses typically span three to five years and are distinguished by their high level of specialization.

The decision to curb family visas for select student categories follows a surge in net migration into the U.K. From June 2021 to June 2022, net migration in the U.K. hit a record 504,000 according to data from the U.K. Office of National Statistics. Early estimates for the 2022 - 2023 year put net migration numbers even higher, at around 700,000.

The Conservative Party in the U.K. has urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to find ways to cut down on the surge. According to reports, the growing influx of immigrants has also spurred widespread calls for tighter controls and stricter oversight to address the soaring migration rates.

This has prompted the British government to take steps to control the rising numbers. Historically, the U.K. has had less stringent immigration rules, compared to countries like the United States.

While critics argue that these restrictions will take away the appeal of the U.K. as a top destination for education, others argue that it is necessary to safeguard the nation’s resources and infrastructure in the face of increasing demands on public services.

According to Business Africa, the impact of this policy will especially affect Nigerian students, who have been among the largest contributors to the U.K.'s international student community through the years. Last year alone, 59,053 Nigerian students brought over 60,923 relatives to the country. This new move could significantly hamper that.

This is a developing story.

Photo courtesy Wrong Men.

Baloji on Bringing His Style of Magical Realism to the Cannes Film Festival

He’s a force in the music world, and with the premiere of his narrative feature at the world’s most popular film festival, Baloji hopes he’ll be seen as a filmmaker to be reckoned with, too.

Baloji had been trying to make a feature film since 2012. “The problem is I’m a musician,” he tells OkayAfrica. “But I’m not a popular musician, so it’s more difficult to get funded. People say, ‘What does he know about that?’ or ‘He’s a rapper; rappers don’t make films.’” In 2018, after constantly finding himself rejected by film commissions, Baloji started self-funding his film projects. From Kaniama Show to Peau de Chagrin/Bleu de Nuit and 2019’s Zombies, he began building his cinematic portfolio; a resume of what he could do if given the chance.

Now, with his feature film, Omen (Augure), premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this week, there is sure to be no doubt in anyone's mind that Baloji is a director with a capital D.

Not that he ever needed any approval or permission. As someone who’s always wanted to use the full box of crayons to color outside the lines of his imagination, Baloji has channeled his creativity into poetry, rap, acting, painting – any form that suits the shapes his ideas take.

A still of the director looking straight at the camera. Baloji has been trying to make a full-length feature film since 2012, and now makes his debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Kristin Lee Moolman.

Born in Lubumbashi in 1978, having grown up in Ostend, Belgium, Baloji made his name known as MC Balo with the group Starflam, before going the solo route in 2004. As his music career developed, so did his artistry, and playing within the short film format helped him figure out a visual language to accompany his sonic work.

“I’m obsessed with symbolism in art,” he says. “I'm obsessed with surrealism and with magical realism in the narrative. I really learned to work on my framing and cinematography. I've been working for a long time to have something very established.” The language he’s crafted is one that aims to give visual reference to the kind of oral tradition he grew up with in the DRC, combined with the many other influences that fill Baloji’s affluent mind.

Omen can be seen as a culmination of his efforts over the past six years, since he started funding his film projects. It’s a fantasy that’s grounded in very real issues, namely the impact of patriarchal society. Through the intertwined stories of four distinct Congolese characters, Koffi, Paco, Tshala, and Mama Mujila, the audience is shown four different experiences of being labeled a sorcerer or witch, and how burdensome the weight of other people's expectations can be.

Baloji’s own name is a play on sorcery – determined by which side of colonization you are on, it could be taken to mean ‘devil’ or ‘men of science.’ “I’m obsessed with the social assignment you can put on somebody,” he explains further. “And how the culture can shift.”

From debt to the darling of film festivals

It hasn’t been easy to get others to see what Baloji sees, imagine what he imagines. Hence the difficulties in securing funding. Omen started with initial support from Belgian producers, and became a co-production between Belgium, the Netherlands, and the DRC. “Six months ago, we were in debt of 400K,” he says. “It was a nightmare. It was difficult to get funding because people just didn’t want to believe in something that doesn’t follow the industry rules, that just follows one character.”

Indeed, on the surface, Omen starts with the story of one man, ostracized from home, returning to the DRC before it splits into parts that take the audience into other emotional territories. “We live in a society that tells us that a narrative is about one character, and we have to be naturalistic, and we have to be close to the real situation,” says Baloji. “And so, when you say there is a scene of women entering a room and they start crying and wailing halfway into the film, they’re like, ‘Oh my God…’”

A still from the film, 'Omen,' of a man and a woman standing side by side. Marc Zinga and Lucy Debay play Koffie and Alice in Baloji’s ‘Omen.’ Photo courtesy Wrong Men.

Despite the obstacles, the production began filming in April last year and now the film will debut in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, a program at the esteemed film festival dedicated to must-see new voices. Reaching this point has been quite the whirlwind for Baloji. “It’s been a full-time job!” he chuckles. “I think I had three weeks off, but we cannot complain because it's a beautiful job and because you know you're working with a team that wants to tell your story, which is fantastic.”

While Baloji isn’t quite sure what convinced funders to support the film in the end, he believes it has to do with point of view. “We need to see different angles, different perspectives. It’s crucial,” he adds. “It’s what creates empathy.” And he’s surprised by what they were able to pull off, including creating elaborate masks inspired by New Orleans and the parades that take place from Congo Square there, linking the two places and their rich histories together on celluloid.

Connecting time and space

Although no existing town is named in the film, Omen was shot in both Lubumbashi and Kinshasa. There is no road connecting one city to the other, and Baloji says they couldn’t be further apart in socio-economic status either. He likens it to filming in Cape Town and Pretoria: “Cape Town is quite rich and has beautiful geography, and Pretoria is more labyrinthe and more of a mess.” Going from one to the other underscored the disparity of wealth, he says, despite shows of unity that might exist between the Congolese people. This, too, became another theme he incorporated into the film.

A still from the film, 'Omen,' of a pair of eyes with yellow eyeshadow on them covered by a cloud of pink smoke.Baloji’s 'Omen' ('Augure') will make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo courtesy Festival de Cannes.

Omen is the kind of film that would reward multiple viewings, and Baloji is aware he might lose some viewers who won’t give it the attention it deserves. After all, this is the man who made a short film about our collective phone addiction and called it Zombies. “I’m fighting against it myself, that’s why I love to go to the theater,” he says. “I need this moment where I’m disconnected from my phone and social [media]. We need this, we need a break,” he says. “The beauty of cinema is that you accept you’re going to watch something for two hours, or one-and-a-half hours, in the case of Augure (Omen).”

The film features music that Baloji composed. Yet not all of the compositions made it to the screen. He recorded four separate albums of music, each one existing as a backstory for each main character in the film. Though we may not hear it all, the music still informs what we see on-screen, building these characters’ lives as they play out before us.

It may seem like a lot of extra work, but it helped teach Baloji – who fell in love with filmmaking when he lived above a video store and learned the craft from watching a lot of movies – how to develop characters and their points of view. It also gave him the space for his synesthesia to lead the way. “I associate sounds with colors and locations so it really helped with the staging of the movie, and working with my DOP to get the rhythm and structure of the movie,” he says.

All of the work it took to get to this stage, to be at Cannes, is worth it. But Baloji doesn’t revel in it for too long. “I see the next challenge,” he says. “We are shooting a short film this winter, and I'm working on my second feature film, obsessively, which will probably happen in South Africa, because it's talking about race. It's between South Africa and Congo. It's also talking about patriarchal structure and the impact on it.” It’s taken Baloji this long to get his foot in the door, he’s not about to close it anytime soon.

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