Eat & Meet with… Leslie Bentil aka Kromanteng - Rapper, Entrepreneur, Multi-Continentalist, Ghanaian Premium Sneaker Activist
How would I describe Kromanteng?
Kromanteng got that relaxed vibe of a person, traveling life following the own passions. US born to Ghanaian parents, living in Berlin at the moment, while running a business in Accra, his passions surely lead to a lot of traveling. Besides his number one passion being his music, he got a second one which is GUTTA SOLES, more on that below. Even though I felt he lives life guided by his heart, he also has his brain switched on and cares a lot about the things around him. I think it is quite rare to find people like Kromanteng who seemingly successfully manage to balance multiple passions, conscience, economic survival and personal happiness.
Place: Fluxbau,Pfuelstr. 5, Kreuzberg
What project would Kromanteng push if he would be major of Berlin/Accra or could at least ask the mayor for a major favor?
Berlin: He would push to build a more human and integrative way to deal with imigration
Accra: He would try to solve the major trash and waste issues of the city
The Lunch (Alle Links at the end)
Kromanteng was a “Eat & Meet” recommendation I got from Shai. We meet at the Fluxbau for their “Mittagstisch”, which was another recommendation I got a couple of weeks back. Shai had helped Kromanteng to put up a crowdfunding campaign for GUTTA SOLES (https://www.startnext.de/gutta-soles). GUTTA SOLES is about stylish sneakers, hand made from mostly recycled materials in Ghana. Besides the incredibly correct ethical background of these soles, they also look quite awesome. They feel like Africa to me (not as I would be able to judge though…), while being at least as stylish as any western mass market sneakers produced in some sweat shop in China.
Besides being the guy behind GUTTA SOLES, Kromanteng is mostly passionate about his music and generally a person full of productive creativity. He definitely needed a lot of this productive creativity, besides some strong vision and great people skills to get GUTTA SOLES of the ground. We talked quite a bit about the challenges and the required vision of doing such a product between Africa and Europe/USA and I have to say I got a fresh new perspective onto Africa.
He is doing a lot of things different to how they are often done and at least to me it feels right how he does it. When upcycling of used materials in Ghana is sort of a common survival art, for us here it is a sustainability statement and should be pitched as such. He also does not try to produce and sell as cheap as possible, but tries to make his Soles a premium product meeting the Zeitgeist here in Germany. I totally agree to Kromanteng when he talks about how important ownership in the product is. His crew in Accra hand produces each shoe individually as a little piece of art. Creatively they own this shoe and to be able to sell such a self made piece of art, for a fair amount of money, to people who wear them with pride, is something you can not value in money. Regardless if it is internationally or locally, to truly empower the underprivileged, money or tools are not enough, it is only going to work if they are able to find ways to be respected by society. I got the impression that GUTTA SOLES is a small but efficient effort to create more respect for Africa and the guys who make this shoe.
Of course we did not only talk about GUTTA SOLES, but also about some other things, from the difficulties of immigrants to the marginal importance of money to be happy. One thing I would like still add is his perspective onto how unfortunate the anonymity is here in Berlin. Even though Accra is a huge city, people connect in the local community. They greet and talk with each other, besides the social warms, this is also a very powerful thing to prevent crime, abuse and other domestic issues. People know and care about their neighbors, I think this is something we need to re-claim also here. There is nothing wrong about saying hello with a smiling face to strangers, just try it!
Sticky note to myself I wrote down after this lunch: How come that Africa is not part of the west in our conception? Geographically it is exactly as western as Europe… As Kromanteng is a rapper, I also stole a rap verse describing him from Mos Def of Black Star’s song Definition: “From the first to the last of it, delivery is passionate The whole and not the half of it, forecast and aftermath of it”