L.A. style icon Sika on the power of fashion, art, community

On this morning, it was surprisingly easy. Sika Dwimfo, better known as Sika, is sitting in her 30-year-old shop on Degnan Avenue. He is surrounded by African masks, Ghanaian fans, handmade jewelry, belt beads and burning incense. Large works of art from different parts of the world adorn each wall. This is a place with as much history, color and contrast as what Sika has right now. On any given day, finding the right look can take up to two hours – sometimes he’ll go through 10 changes before doing it. feel the right. But again, today is not one of those days. Sika wakes up with a vision, which becomes more complete with each piece he picks up from his massive collection.

Sika Dwimfo, master jeweler, GodFather of Leimert Park, community activist for Image magazine.

Sika has perfected the art of the ensemble as a whole, including his sunglasses, hat, and jewelry.

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

A quick recap in order: First, the shorts. Purple and gold in Africa. Then there’s the tee shot, a Lakers game that could have made anyone aware of Sika’s infamous loyalty, the Clippers that could wow anyone. (This is a Kobe dedication, so it trumps all of that, he explains.) The kufi hat, purchased from Taj Mahal Imports on Crenshaw, features a contrasting color scheme and print between the pants. thighs and shirt. Shoes: buttercream ocher smooth leather shoes from Morocco. Glasses? Always Lennon-esque sunglasses. (This particular pair was purchased in Chinatown for a few dollars.) Long gold necklaces, with pendants in the shape of an African mask, and a bicycle he handcrafted are rarely taken off. .

Sika has perfected the art of the uniform in general. His wonderful combination of textures, colors and materials functions as a style guide for everyone he meets – both those who already know him and passers-by in the community. His everyday outfit is very appropriate, but the energy changes depending on his mood. He is known to leave the house and go back to change because the vibe is off.

For the 81-year-old artisan, master jeweler, business owner and “Godfather of Leimert Park”, dress is the ultimate expression of self. Sika said: “I like to dress up, I like to look good. “Now that I’m older, I find that has enhanced me. I had to put on something that filled me with energy.”

Sika was born in New Orleans and raised in Chicago. His mother was a seamstress who made her son tailor-made clothes, which reinforced his love for custom pieces and individuality in clothing from an early age. He has matured as an artist in a time and place that blends jazz, art, and poetry, and Sika is at the center of it all. He owned an art gallery in Chicago in his late 20s, befriending the likes of Haki R. Madhubuti and Gwendolyn Brooks. It was Madhubuti and Brooks, Sika said, who put together $700 for him to secure the space in the first place.

Sika Dwimfo, master jeweler, GodFather of Leimert Park, community activist for Image magazine.

Since 1992, Sika’s has been a colorful headquarters on Degnan Avenue – and with its founder at its center, it has become a cultural landmark.

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

But winter is harsh. And at the time, one of his play sisters was dating Fred Hampton and frequented California to be with him while he was here. (There’s an iconic photo of young Sika, the little halo around her head, chatting with Hampton at one of his jewelry shows.) Sika will hear all about this place – sun, energy.

He was looking for a home that expressed his inherent freedom. And he constantly hears that LA is the kind of city where people will walk around without a shirt on. Sika, always the free spirit, thought, “I like that.” He came to LA in 1971, at the age of 31. It was his first time on a plane.

“I had special clothes that my mother used to make for me, but when I moved here, I had nothing but Dr. Scholl’s sandals, shorts and T-shirts,” he said. He was staying in a five-bedroom mansion in West Adams Historic District with roommates; His rent is $140 a month. “I came here and that’s it,” Sika said. There’s no way back.

Since 1992, Sika’s has been a colorful mainstay on Degnan Avenue. One could spend hours sifting through shelves of dashikis, beaded necklaces, Ghanaian baskets, and Malian towels. It started out as a jewelry store, with lots of jewelry – all made by Sika – that could fill the walls. But now it’s got a little bit of everything, and with Sika at its center, it’s become a cultural landmark.

On a sleepy Tuesday afternoon, three people from the neighborhood arrived within 30 minutes just to say hello. Andrea Daughtry, who runs the local nonprofit For the Fem in You, comes in to pick out a pair of earrings and chat with Sika. “To me, he was like a grandpa I never had,” Daughtry said. “When I started coming to Leimert, he was the only one who noticed me from Day One. He does this for a lot of people. We admire him for his wisdom, guidance and history – he is the epitome of Black history for Leimert. “

Sika Dwimfo, master jeweler, GodFather of Leimert Park, community activist for Image magazine.

Milan Dwimfo said: “He’s just a different type of person.

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

When it comes to his looks, the community expects nothing less than a daily performance. “We know he doesn’t want to play with you,” Daughtry said of Sika’s style. “He is bringing out vibrant colors. He likes to stand out. He will have a hat, a pair of shoes to match. His jewelry will be worn, and you will see those sunglasses. That’s what he looks like.”

Sika speaks softly and observantly. A December Capricorn, his presence is commanding, but not in an obvious or obnoxious way. His energy speaks first, followed by a witty remark that will surprise you, as when he joked with his daughter Milan Dwimfo that “she is a jerk” for pointing out the wrinkles on his t-shirt. He’s the kind of guy that when he talks, people listen attentively. Something important is about to be said.

Dwimfo, who now runs Sika’s with her own jewelry company, Queen Midas Gold, says her father has always been unique – in the way he dresses and moves around the world. “He was just a different kind of person,” she said. “When I was little, my friends always wanted to come to my house because our house is different. I’ve been to Crescent Heights [Boulevard Elementary School], and all the kids will have bags of Kool-Aid and Capri Suns. We are not allowed to have that. But my dad is so cute – he’ll make me these little avocado sandwiches, or a little homemade salad with edible flowers, and always make me a smoothie or fresh juice to keep me fresh. bring to school. He would pick me up in his Volkswagen van with Africa on it.”

You see pictures of Sika in his youth and it is clear that he has always had a strong sense of self. There is an image taken of him in 1977 at Festac, the legendary African arts and culture festival in Nigeria, in a muscular T-shirt, layered with jewels and a woven beanie, with the Canon camera in hand. It is dynamic and outstanding. Sika, then 37 years old, glowed.

“When I was young and well dressed, my friends used to say to me, ‘Dude, you look good in your clothes. You have something, something different. ‘ Now that I’m older, I feel like if I had listened to them, I could have become a model. I feel like a model [now]. “

Sika Dwimfo, master jeweler, GodFather of Leimert Park, community activist for Image magazine.

“That’s my love,” Sika said of the jewelry. “There’s something energetic about it, and I just don’t feel right if I don’t have it.”

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

Indeed, Sika has modeled Union and Mastercard campaigns with Dwimfo. With age, he’s also become more comfortable with prints and colors instead of just sticking to neutrals like in his youth.

For Sika, style has become a path to achieving his most ideal self. It went hand in hand with his spiritual practice, which he perfected all his life. Sika practices a versatile spirit that includes humility. Giving is one of its other pillars – he’s organizing his wardrobe in preparation to gift some of his items to people he knows will appreciate them. He’s a longtime cyclist and is showing signs of getting back into his bike (Sika used to cycle up to 150 miles at a time and still nods to this lifestyle with a cycling hat that he usually team). He prays, for such things as peace, prosperity, and abundance – for others rather than for himself. He’s been mostly vegetal for decades and has done up to 50 days of juice fasting. Dwimfo says he has changed people’s lives by showing them the possibilities of a more vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Sika said: “I live a very simple life. “I just try and get it right as much as I can.”

Sika derives a certain amount of energy from finding harmony through clothing. Let’s mix his prints. When Sika mixes prints in a way that’s just right, he says it feels almost like being able to “run down a flight of stairs.” If someone else might not be nuanced or brave enough to stitch two contrasting prints together, Sika finds a way. (It’s always, always He also likes cultural pieces that contrast with streetwear. He’s currently obsessed with the Converse Chuck 70s – 9 pairs and counting – that he got from the Neighborhood Skate Store.

“It was a combination,” says Dwimfo of her father’s knack for combining designs and styles. “It’s a grid of African things – just unique prints the way he does it. The way he connects it all”.

The same goes for his jewelry. “That’s my love,” Sika said. “There’s something energetic about it, and I just don’t feel right if I don’t have it. I’ll go back upstairs, and if I can’t find it, oh, I’m almost having a seizure. Sika used jewelry as his medium while he was still in Chicago and became known for his unique wire pieces. (In the ’60s, after a concert by Nina Simone, he went backstage to give her a pair of earrings that he had made. “We became very good friends,” he say.)

Sika Dwimfo, master jeweler, GodFather of Leimert Park, community activist for Image magazine.

On any given day, finding the right look can take up to two hours Sika. His community expected nothing less from the man they’ve dubbed the Godfather of Leimert Park.

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

Sika understands something important about personal style that only really stylish people understand: It’s the culmination of all your identity and experience, expressed in a way that can refer to all of you. all the places you’ve been but push you to be the person you want to be. It radiates from within.

“When I wake up in the morning, that’s how I feel about what I want to wear — what I feel comfortable wearing that day,” he says. “Whatever I have to put on, it has to be something that fits. And give me some energy. “

https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/image/story/2022-08-11/los-angeles-style-icon-master-jeweler-sika-dwimfo-talks-art-of-mixed-print-fashion L.A. style icon Sika on the power of fashion, art, community

Russell Falcon

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