“Community” and “Legacy” are two steering forces behind the life of 27-year-old digital entrepreneur and GUAP Magazine co-founder, Ibrahim Kamara. The platform which in 2015 started off as a cross between digital and print through augmented reality has evolved over the years into a multi-faceted company with an online magazine, events, creative studios, and an award-nominated in-house creative agency.
Like most of us, Ibrahim was inspired by his mother and Father. Growing up in South London, he was exposed to the importance of amalgamation through his parents. Both of whom arrived in England in the late eighties and early nineties. To make ends meet, both worked in a factory and lived in a one-bedroom house. “Together they started a money transfer business together which enabled people from Sierra Leone to send money back home” he says. Through the business, they were able to cater to the South London Sierra Leone community which would continue to grow as years passed by. The importance of building something for the sake of your community and responding to an obvious need were there to be seen for Ibrahim. The seed had been sown. GUAP, which has been a hub for emerging creatives since its inception in 2015 has placed Ibrahim in a position to continue giving back to his community through the Black Perspectives initiative. Black Perspectives is part of Instagram's ongoing commitment to championing and supporting the careers of young Black creators on the platform and beyond. Ibrahim along with the three other creators will also work with the teams at Meta to help inform product and policy developments that support creator well-being and equity on Instagram. The aim is to empower and champion emerging creators from the worlds of fashion, activism, entertainment, and media. Ibrahim’s role in the programme will see him take on a mentoring role with five aspiring creators across 6-weeks where they will be required to deliver an editorial, video and images in response to the themes of “legacy” and “community”. Both of which were chosen by Ibrahim in honour of his late father.
Ibrahim was clearly moved by the actions of his parents during his childhood, and especially his father, who as well as owning the money transfer business had an internet café which became a central hub for the community in Peckham. An area in South London that in the past has been known for having a strong Afro-Caribbean presence. “My Dad was a leader in his community and his shop was a central hub for the community” he reflects. “Young people that didn’t have stuff to do, he would let them use his internet café so that they’re off the streets.”
Despite flourishing as an academic in school, Ibrahim was also inspired by the art of clashing and storytelling as a grime MC known as Icon. His adoration for music and grime in particular was strengthened by the role models around him, who helped to steer towards a path of making music and gave him a positive avenue to focus his creative skill set on.
“When I was making music, it was just something that I liked doing. When I find something, I like doing, I go hard at it. Like, I become a nerd. I had my cousin who was really good. There were people that used to spit that I liked how they spat, and I thought ‘I can be like them one day.”
The same mindset Ibrahim had as a young teenager, in seeking to replicate his role models, is a dynamic he is looking to recreate through his role in the Black Perspective. During the recent launch of the initiative on Instagram, Ibrahim spoke of his pride in being Black and why being able to give back is of such importance to him.
“I’ve never seen being Black as a problem. For me, that’s a superpower. There’s been a very huge shift in people understanding the power of our work and our cultural influence. Knowing how to pitch or knowing how to present their ideas and knowing how to utilise the money. All that kind of stuff. It isn’t knowledge that readily available, so I kind of wanted to create an initiative that gives some creative chance to do what we do on a day-to-day basis and share up the knowledge.”
As mentioned earlier, GUAP, which in 2015 started off as the world’s first video magazine, has evolved over the years into a multi-faceted entity. The success of GUAP doesn’t come as a shock to Ibrahim. It was in the plan. Both him and his business partner Jide Adetunji saw it coming. What has caught him off guard is the speed at which GUAP has reached such lofty heights. “The timing has surprised me, but I don’t’ think the success has surprised me because I feel we had this in our plans. It is just about when it would happen.”
The wide range of characters, skill sets and talent that comes from the Black community has forever been a thing. It has always existed. This is nothing new. Yet, it has taken years of suffering, hard work, resolve from trailblazers before us, to get to a point where the work produced is afforded its just dues. It would also be folly to ignore the importance of social media, which has given people a voice and platform of their own. The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world and led to people living within stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces. Whilst this period unearthed a range of creatives that were able to utilise their spare time and talents in a way that wasn’t previously possible, it also birthed a social awakening across the world through the tragic death of the late George Floyd. Since his passing, Ibrahim has noticed a shift in the way platforms seek to be seen as progressive and offer diversity in representation.
“I feel like COVID was the first time everyone had to stop, so you couldn’t ignore what was happening. With COVID everything was on pause, so we were all watching the same videos and watching the same content, so it was hard to just brush things off. I think there was a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) where no one wants to be left out in like supporting a cause, and it created a spiral. A good spiral, though.”Whilst Ibrahim is excited by the prospect of sharing the vast knowledge that he has acquired with the budding creatives he is primed to work with, he is also someone that sees the programme as an opportunity to learn from the successful candidates. “I thrive off young, creative, new energy” he says excitedly. Almost as if he’s already envisaging the vibe created when work begins with cohort.
Yet, Ibrahim is clear that despite enjoying his journey as an entrepreneur seeking to provide a platform for creatives, it isn’t an easy, seamless voyage. With it will come bumps and bruises along the way. All a learning curve towards the path of success. “I hope they get the reality of the business side to this creative world. That they get a model to follow when they go out and get a brief sent to them. And the confidence that they can actually turn a brief into a campaign and get paid for it.”
The other key theme of the programme alongside community will be legacy. An ode to those that have left an imprint on the world which will live on forever. Whilst still being very young himself, Ibrahim is someone that has accomplished so much yet finds himself contemplating what his impact on the world will look like. “I think over the last couple of months, people I’ve known have passed away. Even though they’re gone their legacy will remain” he says. The recent passing of Jamal Edwards left the community in shock and devastation. However, it was also a reminder of how important it is to continue to support and uplift those around you. To show love and guidance to people because the overall impact on the community supersedes any personal accolades one could achieve. The impact of their work and the person they were means that they’re not gone at all. They live on through those they touched and inspired. Ibrahim’s selflessness and determination to positively impact his community means that he has already cemented himself as an inspiration to those seeking to follow his footsteps and leave behind a legacy that will forever be remembered.