“My greatest fear is being seen as a foreigner and not as a true African”
For many, Queen Ahneva Ahneva is just a radio host on Nigeria’s Classic FM, but to those in the know, she’s the wife to King Sunny Ade and has two children- a boy and a girl with the king of Juju music.
In an interview with This Day newspapers, Queen Ahneva Ahneva reveals the struggle she’d had in juggling life with her Nigerian family and building a successful career in couture design in the US.
She tells the paper, the pair met when King Sunny Ade came to UCLA to perform and she was of course asked to make him an outfit. “I have been sewing for my husband for years –that’s how we met,” she said.
“A friend invited me to one of his shows at UCLA in California where I lived in the US. They were a part of the organising team. I went backstage and she said, ‘King, we would like for you to meet our Queen of design. She makes African couture.’ We started chatting and lo and behold he invited me to make something for him. That’s how it all started with us. Every time he came to the US I would create something new for him. I would always make beautiful crowns for him. We had a little ritual we did where I would go on stage sometimes and dance with him and crown him with the new piece.”
Asked why she’s chosen to move to Africa after years of shuttling, she tells the paper she’s always been in tune with her African heritage, so much so that she earned the description ‘That crazy African woman’ from peers in the US for always mixing African fabrics and designs into her couture pieces. But nicknames aside, she’s earned a name in design and has received many high profile awards for her work. “I feel I single-handedly put African high fashion on the map in America. I have received over 100 awards for my work with African couture. One of which was the covenant ‘African Queen Award,’ awarded to me on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, from the United States Congress. It was a humbling experience. From then on, I was then known as the ‘Queen of Design’ by everyone. The Mayor of DC gave me my own day in Washington to honour me. I then received my own day by the Mayor of New York, for my work with the ‘Black Fashion Museum’ and the Harlem Institute of Fashion in New York. To top that off, I was the only African-American to receive an award from Mayor of Beverly Hills for my work with Traditional African textiles. Nike Okundaye was a big part of shaping my career because she has been supplying me with authentic African textiles for over 25 years, ” she tells the paper.
Now, the designer is following her passion with the launch of her Wearable Art Gallery and well being Cafe inside Nike’s Art Gallery in Lagos on Saturday the 22nd of November. With new talents bursting unto the African fashion scene everyday, one has to wonder how she intends to distinguish herself from this crop of new designers. “My products are uniquely creative, artistic designs; most of my fabrics are handmade by top textile artisans.”
“We use a lot of hand embroidered art, hand painted, beaded and dyed fabrics. I do a lot of cut-out inlaid and mixing and blending of different textiles to create the looks. I strive to promote the use of indigenous textiles; so I use a lot of hand-woven textiles. We have our own dyers and batik artists so we get the best from them.”
Asked if her husband’s Iconic status has influenced her business in anyway, she says this is the main reason she decided to drop her last name so his influence would be minimal, but she then adds that she hardly ever sees him anyway, as he is always booked for one event or the other.
Read the full interview here.