Jimi Gureje : Making the World a Better Place

The Village @ Gureje

Jimi Gureje founded in 2002 The Village @ Gureje. The space is a very unique and special place in Brooklyn dedicated to community activities such as artist performances, organizations and bands meeting point.

Jimi came from Nigeria where he learned design and enrolled in art classes. He met there, Jimi King, an established designer. On King’s shop, Gureje was very quickly, in charge of the design and production. After few months of working for King, he branched out on his own and began to set up inventory at his parents’ house.

Gureje was only 19 years old when he opened his first store. It was in his native country that he met the person he calls his “spiritual mother”: Renate Albertsen-Marton, director of Goethe-Institute Nigeria (Lagos). This new connection helped him to have international art shows and travel to Western Europe (Hamburg, Germany) to participate in a Symposium for Ethnological Studies. Thereafter, he moved to United States and now lives in Brooklyn. He discusses with Jazz Times about why and when he decided to be a fashion designer: “I was raised to make or at least believe that I can make what I can use. With that said, I especially love to speak with colors, lines which form the print and texture which interestingly I have become more fascinated with especially haven developed with time various languages that resolve into what is made through me.”

A few months ago I visited The Village @ Gureje and saw an amazing jazz performance; I questioned Jimi about his choice of incorporating jazz musicians and performances at his space. He recollects: “The Village @ Gureje honors the life of a special person in me, Renate Albertsen-Marton, whom the gallery is named after. Renate was a German diplomat who served in my country Nigeria at the Goethe institute and was a fond art lover as demonstrated by her openness and generosity. She passed away in 1996 while was still working in corporate trying to raise money for the project. The Village features Jazz musicians and others including very traditional influence of jazz music”.

Gureje loves singers, rappers and… Jazz. He doesn’t remember the firts album he bought because I: “usually buy more than one at a time”. There really has never been a trigger for the art in Jimi Gureje. He views his art as he lives it: 'a way of life'… He even doesn’t dare to be classified or classify. Jimi believes in motion so much that " the integration is just as integral in how I deal with the influence of any particular music or genre. For instance, Jazz is spontaneous just like life. I think I have developed myself around this basis in my entire rendition in the ART" (with capitals!).

Nova Bar, a small bar attached to The Village @ Gureje, is where locals meet. There is also a large outdoor space in the back with tables. The place is always crowded. I’m curious about the creative process Jimi Gureje follows when programing music. He explains: “Since motion is important for me in music, everything else revolves around it. The texture through the introduction of applicable instruments and appropriate rhythm often enhance my composition or programming of music by adding series of what I call musical textures.” He analyses:” The Jazz scene nowadays is highly rehearsed, practiced which is contrary to how it was developed. Jazz erupted mainly from various jam sessions of people who are not only contented with calling themselves musicians but truly live by it, hence the level of seriousness in creativity"

Jimi exudes a kind of wisdom and peace. I’m in awe with the colors he uses for his creations. He certainly masters dye techniques: “My art is my style of living. It is my life and thus the process is as engaging as life can be and I follow the process organically. It has manifested from always wanting to be a farmer and applying that basis in process to all other applications as expressed through other creative art that farming is, e.g. painting, sculpting and making fabrics as I now do. The pleasing aspect is the response from its effect on others through interactions which I can naturally feel.”

This is a man who prefers the “here and now”. When discussing about the future and his art he confess: “Position has never been on my mind regarding an unclassified process and her results of produce that my work is. I'll rather live in the place that allows such production of the work that I do than to allow myself to be responsible for where it finds its self through application by others”.

Gureje’s love of blending past and present is obvious in his inspirations description: “The assumption or ideology that gives birth to the mainstream industry threaten a great deal of genuine minority's effort while it cripples the natural growth process deserving of the majority. While I admire a great deal of interest road to success stories of successful designers and artist, I have basically accepted the process as the path and indeed once you have paid the dues, I can feel it and I will always draw my inspiration from the courage that gives you success.”

All successful fashion designers/artist are tedium detectors, on the alert for when a look is no longer unfamiliar but ubiquitous. It can be easy to miss the boredom in Gureje because he's so fleet, so mercurial - so busy. But his frenzied multi- tasking suggests the depths his ennui could reach. He has devoted his existence to living as much as possible in the present, keeping himself attuned to trends, not just in fashion but in art, movies and music. He muses: “I am an artist that engages me in the process of creating my work as a process of living life. It carries me into various other life related product of creative energy which allows me to play a number of instruments like I play the congas since the finger is across a crucial part of playing any instrument. I currently run a boutique which specializes in mainly all original design ideas as requested by our customers over the years which we have also while fulfilling their creative needs made as part of our inventory of retail and wholesale items and pieces in the boutique. In addition to the boutique, the facility also house a community of artist as residence who are schedule to teach various classes in the art from Japanese drumming [taiko] to figure drawings etc. The community center is also the house of Renate Albertsen-Marton Gallery which organizes and features various local and international artist in solo or group exhibition. While I also operated the community space as an underground musical space for all these years with all the hindrances, I partnered and added a Bar to the location which more that supports our overall venture”.

When I think about all the amazing people I bump into every day of my life, I believed I’m blessed. People with different passions than me, different dreams and they again know more amazing people. I am always excited about meeting new people. Excited about their interests, their beliefs about life. I’m grateful for people I meet every day for many reasons but mainly because they are different from me and they can teach me something new. That said there are few of them with whom I really want to work with and I dream to realize special projects. I happen to think Jimi Gureje is an amazing creator with whom I hope to cooperate in the future. To my eyes The Village @ Gureje is the place for creativity in Brooklyn and with the water of time, ineluctable, I’m sure.

Jimi Gureje is one person that God has blessed. Some people who become blessed can't handle it. Gureje has been able to channel his gifts and talents to a good purpose, to lead a responsible, good and very productive life!

Visit The Village @ Gureje: 886 Pacific Street. Brooklyn, NY.
Phone : 718-857-2522

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