Johanne Affricot: I have no memory of working on a project I didn’t feel passionate about

You will quit only when there is no more room for one last try - Johanne Affricot Click To Tweet

Johanne Affricot is a freelance consultant working in the field of communication and events. She was born in Italy to a Haitian mother and a Ghanaian-American father. Two years ago she founded GRIOT, an alternative hub celebrating an aesthetic, creative and cultural diversity through arts and style. With her team, Johanne also designs and develops projects for companies, brands and institutional organizations related to culture, art, music and fashion.

Johanne is proud of her team and isn’t shy to shout out to them. Celine Angbeletchy, the editor in large of GRIOT mag supervises the English version and she is an Italian-Ivorian based in London. There’s also Janine, who writes content, edits French texts and develops relations. Gaylor Mangumbu, is the only man on the team and he is Italian-Congolese, writing GRIOT mag articles.


May you introduce Johanne Affricot to SLA readers.

Sure. I was born in Rome, the city where I live, to a Haitian mother and a Ghanaian-American father.

Once someone told me that I am an  activist. I prefer not to be associated to an activist. I would love to  but I am not. I know some activists in Italy, they put all their  energies on a cause. I do really admire them, so compared to what they  do I can’t say I’m an activist. If I had to define myself, I would say  that I’m a “culture activator” and a networker.  That’s the only definition I feel comfortable with, that makes me feel like I’m not stuck in a box. I can be a filmmaker, a writer, an entrepreneur, everything that is devoted to spreading culture.

I’ve been working in the field of communication and cultural-art events for almost ten years. I started with a short but important experience in the former Communication Department of the General Direction for Cooperation and  Development of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which I travelled to Mali for). Since then, I’ve always worked for communication and creative agencies. Four years ago, I decided to pursue a freelance path, working for artists such as William Kentridge (South African) and organizing exhibitions and music events. Beside this, I’m also running and trying to grow this project, GRIOT. The goal of GRIOT is to collect, recount and share stories that can inspire people and “activate” culture.

When you moved to NY what exactly did you expect? And can you say your expectations were met?

I haven’t moved to NY. I often travel to the Big Apple because I have many relatives there. Last summer I went to visit them and to shoot The Expats, a web documentary series (in Italian, English and French) that explores the lives of Italian creatives with African (and Caribbean) origins who chose to leave their motherland in the search of new opportunities, as their fellow white Italians do and as their parents did in the past, from Senegal, Haiti, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, etc.

The title of the series is meant to be provocative, seen that in the international community this term, expat, is often associated with white people who emigrate for work-related reasons and are privileged because of that, while Africans and other nationalities are called migrants or immigrants.

But above all, I wanted to encourage a reflection not only about the existence of black Italians in Italy and abroad (when I travel many people still find incredible that there are “black” Italians), but also Italians who do not know this “different” or “diverse” Italy. In two weeks I’m launching  two new episodes shot in London.

Let’s talk about GRIOT! Take us through the first 6 months.

The first six months were of discovery. I felt the need (I still do today) to see and spread a different image of everything related to Africa and its diaspora, without necessarily excluding other realities I’ve grown up with.

I created GRIOT for myself, for the people who feel the same as me and for my children (even if at the time I wasn’t a mother yet). GRIOT is for all those people who wanted to discover different stories or share their stories.

I grew up in a “white” country, and most of my family lives between Haiti and the US. While growing up, without giving the same importance I’m now paying to it, I always missed an aesthetic and cultural diversity, something that I’ve always enjoyed and experienced in my trips. But every time I got back to Italy, I missed it. And so I created GRIOT.

I’m a perfectionist when it comes to work and I had never written for a magazine before. Furthermore, I was afraid of ending up writing boring stuff, or experiencing a “cultural clash” with a world that was mine but truly not mine. You know what I mean…but in the end everything has become so familiar… maybe because it has never been something alien…it was just asleep somewhere at the back of my mind.

Four months after I launched GRIOT, I designed and developed the first Italian event for African-Caribbean-Italian creatives, and proposed it to the American Academy in Rome, which is the most important American art institution outside the States. The American Academy in Rome was organizing an exhibition called “Nero su Bianco – Black on White”. 27 artists (African, African Americans, and Italians) were invited to explore the radical shifts in perceptions of the Afro-Italian identity and subjectivity in contemporary Italy, from cultural, social and political points of view. So, on that occasion I organized “AfroItalians in the Arts Today”.


How is it looking at the moment?

It is growing. After the first episodes of The Expats came out I was contacted by a media agency to develop content for some other projects. Same thing happened three weeks ago. Let’s see.

It’s not easy, because GRIOT is self-financed and everybody involved in GRIOT, I’m talking about the core members, is investing in it, in terms of time, which is something very precious today, and creativity. They see the potential of it.

What business priorities are you focusing on now?

The main priority is always producing content. I believe we cannot talk about business without talking about content. It means culture.

In terms of business, the main focus is producing music and art events, editorial and videos, and develop projects related to fashion.

Sometimes you have to put aside friendships and sacrifice for what you believe in Click To Tweet

Business development and project management are your strengths. Tell us how you do it.

It’s right. These are my strengths. The key skills I need for it are vision, determination, and perseverance. Vision, you must have a clear idea of what you want for yourself and for those surrounding you. Perseverance, you must try until you can to achieve a goal. You can quit only when you see that there’s no more room for trying. Determination, sometimes you have to put aside friendships and sacrifice the time you would commit to your family and invest it in what you believe.

Diplomacy, is another fundamental skill you need to develop businesses and manage projects. Passion is another important factor. I have no memory of working on a project I didn’t feel passionate about. And last, but not least, people skills. I am from Rome, so I’ve got a good balance of people skills.



What can you say is the experience that made a great impact on your life or one that made you to see things differently?

There’s not just one experience but many experiences that impacted on my life and made me see things differently. The more people you meet and have different experiences, the more you evolve and see the world differently.

What is your vision for your community or the world at large?

With regards to Italy and Italians with African origins, my vision for my community is to keep up what I’m doing, that is building a cultural, creative and artistic movement where people can meet, share their stories and arts.

My vision for the world at large, especially Africa and its Diaspora, is the same: narrating and sharing their stories.

If I hadn’t fantasized a lot I would not have been able to do many of the things I’ve done Click To Tweet

Are you a realist or a fantasist?

I am incredibly realist, sometimes too much, but there’s also room for imagination. When I was a teenager I always used to fantasize. Growing up I found the right balance.

I think that if I hadn’t fantasized a lot I would not have been able to do many of the things I’ve done. So I cannot stop fantasizing because it’s my fuel, I would not be able to create and do what I’m trying to do.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Janine Gaëlle Dieudji: I like changing and renewing myself

We don't have to be afraid to share ideas with people, this is how beautiful things happen Click To Tweet

Janine Gaëlle Dieudji is a bi-national French and Cameroonian graduate of Culture and International Relations from Lyon 3 University in France. She also holds a Master Degree in Political Science from Paris 2 Panthéon Assas University.

She’s been living in Florence, Italy, for the past six years, a city she has since fallen in love with. This is how Florence became home to her and the place where she started to build her career as an art professional. She considers herself as a ‘multi­local’ by believing that we belong to all the places we have lived in. Home is where the mind can create and feel rested at the same time. This is what the life journey is made for, exploring to become the person we decide to be. 

Janine, what is an art agitator?

I consider as an art agitator to be a person who makes the difference.

For me, it’s a person who makes the art scene move and is committed to it. It could be a curator, an artist, an art dealer, a gallerist or a collector. The ability to inspire others by your achievements and the way you humbly contribute to the dynamism of this versatile field.

Janine in Yaoundé by Rodrig Mbock

 What gave you the sparks to follow this career path?


Well, I truly love what I do which helps a lot. The absolute truth is that this path in a certain way chose me, actually.
First when I landed six years ago in the renaissance city, Florence. I was there for a year through a study exchange program (Erasmus). I had no idea six years later I would still be here, but I fell in love with this city, and every time I tried to leave (I have tried three times), I always come back after a couple of months.
The second time (in 2012) I was about to leave Florence because I wasn’t happy professionally. Then, randomly, I met the artist Clet Abraham. We quickly got along and I think he saw something in me, which became a working relationship. After six months in Lyon to complete my Master’s degree, we started a three year, beautiful and enriching collaboration.
Two years before Clet, I had a two month internship at the city hall of Rosny-sous-Bois in France where I assisted the Director of the Cultural Department in the organization of Beninese artist Zinkpè’s exhibition. At that time, I wanted to be a journalist or work in a cultural department of an international organization like the UN, La Francophonie or a French Institute abroad.

What’s the best way for one to make a name for themselves?

It may sounds cliché, but I would say to be yourself, stay humble and always be curious to learn something new. I believe that these ingredients make people excel at what they do. Humility and originality are the key, but also the hard work you put on it. One can not forget that fears and struggles are important in ones daily development.


Humility and originality are key to making a name for yourself - Janine Gaelle Dieudji Click To Tweet

Filmmaker Jean Louis Livi, PR Festival Janine Dieudji, Festival director Francesco R. Martinotti ©Filippo Menichetti

How is it like working with talented people such as Johanne Affricot of

It’s definitely inspiring. Johanne Affricot is one of a kind and I’m very grateful to work with her. She’s multi-tasks, a great mom, a wife and a do-er with no fear.
She created two years ago, the first Italian webzine celebrating an aesthetic, creative and cultural diversity in and from Italy – African Italians – and the African diaspora. From this project, she pushed forward by creating a webserie,  The Expats – a a documentary web series exploring the lives of African Italian creatives living abroad in the search of new opportunities. Two new episodes filmed in London will be released by the end of this month. The use of the term in the title of the series is meant to be provocative and encourage reflection not only about the idea of black Italians in Italy and abroad but also Italians who do not know this “different” or “diverse” Italy.
I was very excited when she approached me a year ago, we immediately clicked the first time we met, we have a lot in common and work well together.


I realized that together we do better and we go further - Janine Gaelle Dieudji Click To Tweet

You have a lot of experience as a contributor. What is the most valuable thing you have learnt so far?

I realized that together we do better and we go further. I like changing and renewing myself so being a contributor on different projects makes me do different things and it’s exciting. I recently collaborated with Justin Thompson on the organization of the Black History Month Florence, we had at least 50 events all over the city, in only one month.

My main satisfaction was the Clay Apenouvon’s installation “Film noir, danse de survie” which I curated in collaboration with the City Hall and Institut Français Firenze. I met  Clay  almost two years ago at 1:54 art fair in London where I discovered his work and I love how down to earth the artist was. After that, we decided we want to collaborate, so we started in Florence, and hopefully will do more in the future.

My point is we don’t have to be shy or afraid to share ideas with people, this is how beautiful things happen, by putting our strengths, capacities, and inspirations together. With this philosophy, I’m actually doing a collaboration with Wires eyewear on the Italian and French market, and I’m planning to organize a Street Art Festival in Cameroon for 2018, as soon as I find some partners to fund it.

by Darrel Hunter

So Janine is also a translator. Is there a code of ethics when it comes to translating?

I’m new in this field actually; I started a couple of months ago in a multinational corporation, General Electric, I was translating engineering and computer science files. Honestly, I had no clue of what I was translating the first days, so I had to study different manuals and technical languages, I did a lot of research and it made my life easier. I’ve always been passionate by languages, I actually speak three and half (Spanish is the half, I understand it well but since I’m living in Italy, I’m always mixing up with Italian when I try to speak it.) and I took a six month course of Chinese when in College, I really liked it, I wished I had gone into it in depth, but then I started working and let it go.
Speaking many languages doesn’t make you able to be a proper translator, it’s really hard. This is why the first code is to always translate into your mother tongue, making sure you master all its intricacies. I document myself a lot. So every time I have to translate something new, I do an intensive research to make sure I’m giving a top notch translation.


The first code to be great translator is to translate into your mother tongue - Janine Dieudji Click To Tweet

What can a translator do to improve them self?

Keep yourself updated through a lot of reading and practice.

Clet and Janine in Studio, Florence, by Ilaria Vangi

You also assist artists to achieve and develop their work and you connect them with other professionals. Share with us your highlights.

Well, I easily make contact with people. I’m very sociable and it helps me to create new connections every time I travel, and I travel a lot. Once I’m back, I sit and start brainstorming about how I can put two and two together. Like I previously said, sharing ideas and thoughts with others is very enriching, this is how you understand someone’s needs and how you can contribute to make it happen.

This is how I connected Clet with the French film festival, France Odeon I work with for example. He told me that he wanted to do something new with his art, like a cartoon. On the other side, Francesco Martinotti, the festival’s director told me he wanted to make an animated jingle to screen before every movie during the festival, something artistic. So I naturally connected them and a great collaboration was born.

The process was almost the same when I brought together Anna Gargarian, founder of HAYP Pop Up Gallery in Yerevan, Armenia and Noumeda Carbone, French-Italian artist, or when I put together Clay with the Black History Month Florence project. And right now I’m currently doing a collaboration with the artist Barthélémy Toguo for the upcoming auction at Piasa “Contemporary Art from Africa and the Diaspora: Origins and Trajectories” on April 20.

Fun question! Janine if you were to be a city which city would you be and why?

I would definitely say Johannesburg. I’ve never been there, but it has always fascinated me, and I recently had a dream where I was there. The subculture and creativity in Joburg amazes me and attracts me.
I read a lot about and follow some creative South Africans on Instagram, like the Mukheli’s brothers, the talented Zanele Muholi I had the chance to meet in Florence, or one of my favourite designer Laduma that I met first in London then Florence. I find them very inspiring and cutting edge in their vision of creativity on the continent. I would definitely like to travel there very soon, to experience a swenkas” competition and connect with the creative community.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.