Conversation with…Akua Ofosuhene, Co-founder of Hub and Culture

Sisters Akua Ofosohene and Nana Evans founded the African and Caribbean cooperative of creatives, Hub and Culture, in 2018. Located on Peckham High Street, Hub and Culture is home to 20+ artisans of fine African products including home furnishing, clothes, jewellery, books, toys and body care products.

The shop is a treat for all, boasts celebrity visitors and was even visited by the Mayor of Lisbon. BBC Radio London’s The Vanessa Feltz Show featured the hub as an example of ‘Peckham Cool’. Hub and Culture also hosts dynamic workshops and events in their gallery event space that is also available for hire.

Nana Evans and Akua Ofosuhene

What is Hub and Culture?

You know we’re always trying to define it and I think we can say that it’s a cooperative that allows creatives to sell directly, from under one roof, to the public on the high street. The creatives can pay as little or as much rent as their business can afford. Some vendors pay nothing and those of us that make the most income pay the most. You can call it the quintessential home of all things African-centred.

What is the inspiration behind the concept?

I lived in Ghana for 5 years and whilst there, I was a member of a craftworkers’ association. It was such a positive experience – we received help from the government for example and were taken to America for a trade show; it was wonderful! I also had a shop and I would have some members trade in my shop. So, I formulated this idea for a space where crafters could support each other and where our businesses could thrive together. Having said that, I didn’t think I could make it work in this country, because when I came back to the UK, everyone was so Western and all about ‘me, myself and I’ and always mindful of competition. At the same time there was still a yearning for community and that made me think it was worth trying, so, with my sister I did.

What can we find in the Hub?

We have a wide range of products from books to fashion, jewellery, homeware, arts and crafts, well-being products and handmade lotions and creams. We also have a fashion designer based in Nigeria and a craftsman based in Ghana who both send their products over to us to sell. Then we have visiting visual artists who exhibit their work. There is also a space that anyone can hire to hold a workshop or event.

Now, Hub & Culture came up against a hurdle recently.

Yes, we did. Our landlord for most of this year was given an offer he could not refuse as a businessman and one we could not match, so we had to look for new premises. We needed to fundraise fast, so Nana set up a gofundme page. Fortunately, we were offered bigger, prime premises and were able to move in to where we are now on December 1st with part of the rental we needed. The landlord agreed a payment plan with us to meet the balance, and we still need to raise another £7, 000 to do this. We are of course working on other financial backing for the future, in addition to the rent we get from our creatives. However, the support and love we have received from so many people is incredible.

Who comes to the Hub?

We have a wide range of customers. A lot of customers know us from Facebook and Instagram and mostly come for the fashion. Our black customers are those that you can see have made a conscious decision to buy from a black business. Then our arts and crafts are mostly popular with passers-by and white people. Now that we are in a more prominent location on Peckham High Street, we hope to attract younger people because we do have a good flow of school children. But we’re not really engaging the 15-23-year olds and we are working on some activities that we can host for this age group.

What do you like about what you do?

I think it’s the great conversations that take place in the shop. The fact that it’s a safe space for people to say what they want to say, not just for black but also for white people. It is hard for conscious white people in particular to find a comfortable space where they can exchange and express their feelings about finding a solution to racial disparity and we are finding that they can do that in Hub and Culture.

What do you least like about what you do?

Maybe it’s the time away from my son.

I bet it can be intense because you don’t stop when the doors close right?

No, no! I was even sleeping in the shop one Sunday night because I was working late but needed to be in early the following morning. So, actually, I just locked up, spread a mat out on the floor, turned on the heater and just slept in there!

It’s a dilemma, right? There’s that feeling that you are building this thing for them but it’s taking you away from them.

Exactly. Then you’re not sure if you are making up an excuse that you’re doing things for them because if they’re not seeing you, are you really doing it for them?!

In a way, we are doing it for ourselves too right? We are ambitious and want to fulfil our own potential too, don’t we?

Exactly. There will come a time though when he’s doing his own thing and I will be the one chasing him down!

Where can we find Hub & Culture?

We are now at 27 Peckham High Street, so no more back corners!

In three words, describe Hub & Culture.

A vortex of love.

To support Hub and Culture’s fundraising campaign, go to:

https://www.gofundme.com/save-hub-and-culture?member=929464

Find Hub and Culture at:

27 Peckham High Street, SE15 3EB

Monday to Saturday: 1030am – 8pm

Sunday: 12-6pm

Follow Hub and Culture at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hubandculture/

Instagram: @hubandculture

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