By Scott Jenkins
Since its discovery in Ethiopia centuries ago, coffee has always had a way of bringing people together — and that is what the owner of a new Lincoln cafe is hoping will happen at her shop, by keeping alive the African tradition of coffee and the community it provides.
Luv From Africa Cafe, located on the first floor of the Midwestern African Museum of Art (MAMA), introduces a unique collection of coffee beans, imported from the original home of artisan coffee — Africa.
The coffee shop resembles the surrounding art exhibits by combining a modern aesthetic with traditional African patterns. The white walls and inviting interior was a vision of its owner, Motunrayo “Joy” Adeniran, who leases the space from the museum.
“I wanted to build a place that would empower others to something,” she said, gazing over the tables and chairs she assembled herself just a few months ago.
The new cafe works well with MAMA, which opened in October 2016 and houses 100 authentic pieces of African art. MAMA’s collection displays donated paintings, carvings and other items from all over Africa, chronicling multiple centuries and creating a space unlike anything previously existing in Lincoln.
African soap operas playing on a TV in the corner of the cafe create a feeling of being far away from downtown Lincoln.
That is the just the feeling Adeniran hoped to create for her customers, she said.
Adeniran spent time working in cafes in Chicago and Washington, D.C., after coming to the United States from Nigeria over two decades ago.
She has enjoyed the challenge of creating a buzz around her very different cafe. She prides herself on the imported coffee she brews from a growing number of African countries and is excited to share the authentic African food she prepares herself.
“Africans love to eat and Americans love to eat,” Adeniran said, laughing, “and sharing those simple things can help people see that while we come from different places, we aren’t that different.”
The coffee shop also fits in well with the museum’s mission to provide resources to help immigrants and refugees in the community, said museum director Seth Mock.
“In Africa, it’s more inter-actional, more communal and more conversational,” Mock said, “and if we are able to create a space that embodies that community in Lincoln, it’s a win.”
Luv From Africa is working to introduce a weekly, spoken word open-mike night at the museum to provide a platform to anyone who has something to share. The coffee shop has a neighboring space reserved for community art to help refugees express their own stories.
“No matter what you have to share, if you believe it can inspire just one person, you should come,” Adeniran said.
Adeniran also hopes to establish an Afro Night, where the community can celebrate African culture, food and music, especially Afrobeat, which remains the most popular genre in much of Africa.
The event that Adeniran is most excited to introduce though, made possible by the new partnership between MAMA and Luv from Africa, is a series of discussion nights aimed toward connecting the local community with their African neighbors. Adeniran sees the open forums as a way of connecting the community by sharing differing points of view on the local, national and international issues everyone is a part of.
“Americans and Africans share many of the same worries,” Adeniran said. “Whether it is love, finances, or the economy, sharing opinions will help build a stronger community between different social groups.”
And now that she has the imported beans and the cafe, Adeniran can expose Lincoln to her refreshing approach to Africa’s greatest exports — coffee and conversation.
Luv From Africa Cafe, 1935 Q St., is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m to 7 p.m.