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Exclusive interview with Nana Sao

Nana sao at burning man.

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By Laura Querino on 17th August 2022

It's the first work of art in history ever to be created in Africa and displayed at Burning Man 2022 on the open playa.

"It's significant", modestly affirms Nana Sao, founder of Project Aikido, in this rare interview with The Sybarite, as we discuss the art installation Project Aikido has proudly funded.

Project Aikido is a platform dedicated to African art and music development, which resulted from Nana's participation in Burning man 2019 and noting the lack of representation, which has since led to this monumental moment for African artists.

"When attending Burning Man, I looked around and saw there weren't a lot of African art installations. Burning man is a project. One of the things of art is self-expression and the principles of engaging with people. Project Aikido is the marrying of promotion with African art."

The art installation 'The Resurrection of the Clothes Peg' has been designed by awe-inspiring, South African artist Usha Seejarim and portrays the empowering metaphor for the rise of the female voice and an expression of the desire to be heard by the marginalised. 

"On 28th August, we'll be at Burning Man, activating the experience by having a sunrise session, hopefully encouraging people to come and see what we've achieved.

Most importantly, to bring Africa to the rest of the world and use art as a basis of displaying the rich culture and diversity."

It's deemed the most prominent project by far, equally in its metaphorical momentum and size, and is one of 12 international projects all making their way to Burning Man.

"We raised financing, won the Honorarium art grant, and then constructed the art piece in Nigeria. Now, the 15 metres high, 30 tonnes of steel is packed in a 40ft tub on its way to the playa."

But the journey for this art piece and what it represents has stemmed far beyond Burning Man. 

As we discuss Nana's 20-year career, it's clear that his vision has always been steeped in the success of African businesses, leading him to the success of both Africa Capital Work and The Sao Foundation. 

"I started my career at an ideas exchange in New York circa 1999 and later established myself at Merrill Lynch before finally leaving investment banking in 2013 to start my boutique consultancy. Today, I run Africa Capital Work, which manages growth capital to midsize businesses in Africa, and most of my clients are from South Africa."

This decision would later ignite the journey to Project Aikido and the paramount of black excellence, not just to the present day, but for its future potential and the limitless talent in Africa. 

"This is by no means a one-off. My intention is for someone else to replicate it in the future. It's an opportunity to bring people together."

Read more about Project Aikido and the journey of 'The Resurrection of the Clothes Peg’ to Burning Man 2022:

https://www.projectaikido.com/


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