Hana Omilani, the founder of Lasmara, is an Eritrean who grew up in Frankfurt before moving to the UK to study international relations at the University of Warwick.
After graduation, she secured a job at the Bloomberg office in London before obtaining her Masters in business psychology and moving back to Frankfurt to work for a finance firm. It wasn’t until she returned to London to study art business at Christie’s that she realised that her career should be in the arts. The long-term master plan was the African art consultancy she wanted to launch.
But it wasn’t until she started working at Haunch of Venison, the renowned contemporary art gallery that was owned by Christie’s, that she felt really ready to commit to this new career choice.
‘I wanted to focus on the whole of African art.’
She had married a Nigerian and Africa became an even bigger part of the picture, but she soon hit a roadblock. Less than a year after it started, Haunch of Venison shut down.
It was 2013 and that was the year she decided to focus on Lasmara, a word she coined by merging Lagos and Asmara (the capital of Eritrea). ‘I wanted to focus on the whole of African art, rather than on just one area. I wanted to represent East and West, and it was important for me to learn a lot about African art.’
‘Every time I went to Lagos, I made sure I visited artist studios and I also got to know what was happening in the Francophone world, and in Sudan, South Sudan, and I just felt that there could be a real market around African art. Plus, with social media, it was easier to introduce artists to other artists.’
She started working with galleries, connecting artists to residencies and various projects. Earlier this year, she was handpicked to become the art director at Alára, the high luxury concept store in Lagos’ Victoria Island. Six months into her engagement she left to focus on her art projects. The platform she chose to disseminate a lot of her ideas around African art was Instagram. Her page, which she curates every day, has become a bit of a best kept secret for those who seek to understand how the avant-garde draws from ancient African traditions.
Hana has become a new kind of artistic and journalistic champion.
The Lasmara page is a special world with its own imaginations and inspirations, which means that Hana has become a new kind of artistic and journalistic champion. The core business of Lasmara, however, is art consultancy, and she’s been very clever in the way she’s been able to channel individual aesthetics by uploading images from all over Africa and the diaspora.
‘On my Instagram page, I could just put an image out, and hashtag it, but I prefer to write a little bit, just to let people know what it’s about. I find that African art is an area where people still need to be educated, in order to fully appreciate it. I don’t believe that people need to be experts, or whatever, it’s just about liking the art, or not.’
Next on her agenda is the African Art Awards.
Ever evolving and ever ascending, Hana has big plans for Lasmara. Next on her agenda is the African Art Awards, a one-day event that she hopes to launch next year as a way to celebrate the diversity of African art expressions.
‘No-one is really recognising African art right now,’she says. ‘You have the literature prizes, you have the festivals for performing arts, but no one has yet created a distinguished prize that would also value the work that the collectors have been putting into assembling these pieces. I see different categories, best photographer, best mixed media, best curator, and so on. Ultimately, I think that is a way we could celebrate the whole of African art.’
Big plans for another Africa-focused creative venture, but in order to enable to public to bask in the glow of this collective African brilliance, Hana says the challenge is to raise the sponsorship that will allow all of this to happen. To her standards. To that end, she is currently busy assembling a team that will share her vision, while remaining committed to great curation and great execution.
Check out more at lasmara.com