This story is a part of Picture problem 12, “Dedication (The Woo Woo Subject),” the place we discover why Los Angeles is the land of true believers. Learn the entire problem right here.)
On this morning, it was suspiciously straightforward. Sika Dwimfo, higher recognized by his monomial Sika, is sitting in his 30-year-old store on Degnan Boulevard. He’s surrounded by African masks, Ghanaian followers, handcrafted jewellery, waist beads and burning incense. Giant items of artwork from totally different elements of the world adorn every wall. It is a place layered with as a lot historical past, colour and distinction because the match Sika has on proper now. On any given day, curating the suitable look can take him as much as two hours — typically he’ll undergo 10 outfit adjustments earlier than it feels proper. However once more, at this time wasn’t a type of days. Sika wakened with a imaginative and prescient, which turned extra totally realized with every bit he picked up from his huge assortment.
A fast rundown is so as: First, the shorts. Purple and gold African print. Then the tee, a Lakers joint which may increase eyebrows for anybody conscious of Sika’s notorious Clippers allegiance. (This was a Kobe dedication, so it transcended all that, he explains.) The kufi hat was bought from Taj Mahal Imports on Crenshaw, sporting a colour scheme and print that each performed off of and contrasted the shorts and shirt. The footwear: buttery ocher leather-based slip-ons from Morocco. The eyewear? At all times the Lennon-esque sun shades. (This explicit pair was bought in Chinatown for a pair bucks.) His lengthy gold necklaces, with pendants within the form of an African masks and a bicycle handmade by him, are not often taken off.
Sika has perfected the artwork of the overall uniform. His sensible juxtapositions of texture, colour and materials perform as a mode syllabus for individuals he encounters — each those that have come to know him and neighborhood passersby. His each day outfits are remarkably constant, however the power shifts relying on his temper. He’s been recognized to go away the home in a single factor and are available again to alter as a result of the vibe is off.
For the 81-year-old artist, grasp jeweler, enterprise proprietor and “Godfather of Leimert Park,” dressing is the very best expression of self. “I like to decorate, I wish to look good,” says Sika. “Now that I’m older, I determine it enhances me. I’ve to placed on one thing that makes me energetic.”
Sika was born in New Orleans and raised in Chicago. His mom was a tailor who made her son customized fits, which cemented his love for bespoke items and individuality in clothes early on. He got here of age as an artist in a time and place that was coursing with jazz, artwork and poetry, and Sika was on the middle of all of it. He owned a Chicago artwork gallery in his late 20s, befriending individuals reminiscent of Haki R. Madhubuti and Gwendolyn Brooks. It was Madhubuti and Brooks, Sika says, who put collectively $700 for him to safe the area within the first place.
However the winters had been harsh. And on the time, certainly one of his play sisters was courting Fred Hampton and would often go to California to be with him throughout his time right here. (There exists an iconic image of younger Sika, small afro haloing round his head, in dialog with Hampton at certainly one of his jewellery exhibitions.) Sika would hear all about this place — the solar, the power.
He was trying to find a house that exhibited the liberty that already existed inside him. And he stored listening to that L.A. was the type of metropolis the place individuals would stroll round with out shirts on. Sika, all the time the free spirit, thought, “I’m into that.” He got here to L.A. in 1971, at 31 years previous. It was his first time on an airplane.
“I had particular fits that my mom used to make for me, however after I moved out right here, I had nothing however Dr. Scholl’s sandals, shorts and T-shirts,” he says. He was staying in a five-bedroom mansion within the West Adams Historic District with roommates; his lease was $140 a month. “I acquired right here and that was it,” Sika says. There was no going again.
Since 1992, Sika’s has been a colourful mainstay on Degnan Boulevard. An individual may spend hours sifting by means of the racks of dashikis, beaded necklaces, Ghanaian baskets and Mali mudcloth. It began as a jewellery store, with a lot jewellery — all made by Sika — that it may fill the partitions. However now it has a bit little bit of the whole lot, and with Sika on the middle, it’s develop into a cultural landmark.
On a sleepy Tuesday afternoon, three individuals from the neighborhood got here in inside a span of half-hour simply to say whats up. Andrea Daughtry, who runs the native nonprofit For the Fem in You, got here in to select up a pair of earrings and chat with Sika. “For me, he’s like a grandfather I by no means had,” Daughtry says. “Once I began coming to Leimert, he’s the one person who seemed out for me from Day One. He does this for lots of people. We glance as much as him for knowledge and steerage and historical past — he’s the epitome of Black historical past for Leimert.”
With regards to his seems to be, the neighborhood expects nothing lower than a each day present. “We all know he’s not about to play with you,” Daughtry says of Sika’s model. “He’s giving vibrant colours. He loves to face out. He’s going to have a hat, footwear to match. His jewellery goes to be on, and also you’re going to see these sun shades. That’s his look.”
Sika is soft-spoken and observant. A December Capricorn, his presence is commanding, however not in an apparent or obnoxious approach. His power speaks first, then a witty comment will take you without warning, like when he playfully quips at his daughter Milan Dwimfo that “she’s a hater” for declaring the wrinkles on his T-shirt. He’s the kind of one that, when he talks, individuals lean in to hear. One thing vital is about to be mentioned.
Dwimfo, who now runs Sika’s alongside together with her personal jewellery firm, Queen Midas Gold, says that her dad has all the time been distinctive — in his methods of each dressing and transferring by means of the world. “He’s only a totally different type of particular person,” she says. “Once I was a child, my mates would all the time wish to come to my home as a result of our home was totally different. I went to Crescent Heights [Boulevard Elementary School], and all the children would have Kool-Support pouches and Capri Suns. We weren’t allowed to have that. However my dad was so cute — he would make me these little avocado sandwiches, or a bit selfmade salad with edible flowers, and all the time make me a contemporary smoothie or juice to take to highschool. He would decide me up in his Volkswagen van that had African print on it.”
You see images of Sika in his youth and it’s clear that he’s all the time had this sturdy sense of self. There’s a picture taken of him in 1977 at Festac, the legendary African arts and tradition pageant in Nigeria, in a muscle tee, layers of knickknack and a woven beanie, with a Canon digital camera in his hand. It’s dynamic and hanging. Sika, then 37, glowed.
“Once I was younger and would costume up, my buddies used to inform me, ‘Man, you actually look good in your garments. You have got one thing, one thing totally different.’ Now as I’ve gotten older, I really feel like that if I had listened to them, I might need been a mannequin. I really feel like a mannequin [now].”
Certainly, Sika has modeled for campaigns by Union and Mastercard alongside Dwimfo. With age, he’s additionally grown extra snug with prints and colour as an alternative of sticking to neutrals like he did in his youth.
For Sika, model has develop into an avenue to realize his most idealized self. It goes hand in hand together with his religious observe, which he’s been perfecting his entire life. Sika’s multipronged religious observe contains humility. Giving is one other of its pillars — he’s organizing his closet in preparation to provide away a few of his items to individuals he is aware of will respect them. He’s a longtime bike owner and is manifesting getting again on his bike once more (Sika used to experience as much as 150 miles at a time, and nonetheless nods at this way of life with the biking caps he typically wears). He prays, for issues like peace, prosperity and abundance — for others greater than for himself. He’s been principally plant-based for many years and has carried out as much as 50-day juice fasts. Dwimfo says he’s modified individuals’s lives by means of exhibiting them the probabilities of a extra vegan or vegetarian way of life. “I dwell a quite simple life,” says Sika. “I simply attempt to do proper as a lot as I probably can.”
Sika derives a sure power from discovering concord by means of clothes. Take his mixing of prints. When Sika mixes prints in a approach that hits good, he says it virtually appears like he can “run down a flight of stairs.” The place another person may not be nuanced or courageous sufficient to place two contrasting prints collectively, Sika figures out a approach. (It all the time, all the time works.) He additionally likes contrasting cultural items with streetwear. He’s presently obsessive about Converse Chuck 70s — 9 pairs and counting — that he will get from Neighbors Skate Store.
“It’s such a mixture,” says Dwimfo of her dad’s knack for mixing designs and kinds. “It’s such a mesh of the African stuff — simply distinctive prints in the way in which that he does it. The best way he connects all of it.”
The identical goes for his jewellery. “That’s my love,” Sika says. “There’s one thing energetic about it, and I don’t really feel proper if I don’t have it. I’ll return upstairs, and if I can’t discover it, oh, I virtually have a match.” Sika adopted jewellery as his medium when he was nonetheless in Chicago and have become well-known for his distinctive wire items. (Within the ’60s, after a Nina Simone live performance, he went backstage to provide her a pair of earrings he’d made. “We turned superb mates,” he says.)
Sika understands one thing vital about private model that solely the really fashionable have discovered: It’s a end result of all of your identities and experiences, expressed in a approach that’s referential to all of the locations you’ve been however pushes you ahead into the particular person you wish to develop into. It radiates from inside.
“Once I get up within the morning, it’s about how I really feel about what I wish to put on — what I really feel snug sporting that day,” he says. “No matter I’ve to placed on, it needs to be one thing that matches. And provides me some power.”
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