Gillean Opoku was born and raised in Sydney (Australia) to Ghanaian parents. She works as a digital designer by day and by night she runs Afroklectic with the help of contributors, Sefakor and Samira. Gillean is inspired by and passionate about her blog, Afroklectic, as well as, visual communications, culture, travel, and spirituality.
Q. You were born in Australia to Ghanaian parents. How was it growing up in Australia?
A. Growing up in Australia was an interesting experience. I was surrounded by the Ghanaian culture, grew up with the traditions and customs but I tried to reject it. It was an emotional rollercoaster, because I couldn’t see myself as Ghanaian and Australian simultaneously. I thought I could only be one and I wanted to be Australian. It was only until I was in my late teens that I was able to accept that I am Ghanaian-Australian. It’s not a clear 50/50 split, but it’s an organic fusion of the two cultures.
Q. In your ‘African Identities’ feature you say, “My ﬁrst time in Ghana was in 2004 and it was life-changing”. Can you describe this experience in greater detail?
A. It was like I went home for the ﬁrst time. Inside of me was comfort. Everything seemed so familiar and natural. I felt like I had been searching for myself for so many years and the day I arrived in Ghana I had ﬁnally found myself.
Q. What makes you proudly Australian?
A. I am not quite sure, maybe my accent. People often say I sound very Australian, even though I don’t realize it.
Q. What makes you proudly Ghanaian?
A. I would have to say the culture.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for Afroklectic and why did you choose that medium to express yourself?
A. I was constantly looking at blogs and watching online documentaries and stories about creative Africa whether it was in Africa or the Diaspora. They were all based countries other than Australia. I thought that we to needed a space which was Australian yet very African at the same time, promoting the creative culture in the African-Australian community. Besides that people outside of Australia didn’t and still don’t really know that there are Africans in Australia. I thought starting Afroklectic would be a small but great window of awareness for people around the world.
Q. Afroklectic.com is an online space celebrating the emerging creative culture within the African-Australian community; what can you tell us about the African-Australian community?
A. The African-Australian community is not as large at the UK or the States, but we are certainly growing very fast! When I was growing up, creativity wasn’t cool. Most parents wanted their kids to study the courses that could give them big titles before their names. It is still the case, but in the last 5 years a creative wave has swept through our community, perceptions are slowly changing. We have up-and-coming fashion designers, actors, musicians, and artists everywhere.
Q. In many ways Afroklectic opens up Africans to Australia, as much as it introduces Australia to African culture. What aspects of Australian pop culture do you think Africans would be interested to know more about?
A. People have misconceptions about Australia. Someone told me it was the end of the Earth and he couldn’t understand how Africans could live there. Someone else told me that they use black people to make ugg boots in Australia. I know they were joking, but it’s their lack of knowledge about Australia, which had them thinking about that. Australia is a very chilled country. I live in Sydney and as for Sydney there are always things to do – eating out, walks by the harbour and beaches, festivals and events always taking place like Vivid Sydney and the Sydney festival. It’s just one of those countries everyone needs to put on their travel list! My words cannot justify how beautiful Australia is.
Q. What is the best compliment you have gotten regarding your blog?
A. There are so many we have received. Most go along the lines of ‘I didn’t know that there were Africans in Australia. Afroklectic has opened me up to a new side of Australia’ and ‘Afroklectic has inspired me to follow my creative dream’. Getting messages like these are the most rewarding.
Q. What are some of your personal and professional goals? Where do you see yourself in ﬁve years?
A. In 5 years, I hope I am still running Afroklectic. Hopefully it will have more divisions like a web series. Professionally, there are so many things I would like to do. I don’t even know where to begin to list them!