First, he's introduced as Philip Simmons' grandson. Next, as Ade or Dr. O. Then, every now and again, also as an anthropologist.
In Charleston, Ade Ofunniyin's identity is tied to his grandfather's legacy. At this interview, he even wore one of Philip's pocketed work shirts to match his blue Dickies.
Along with that legacy, Ade also got his looks, charm, work ethic, spirit and his sense of ancestry from his grandfather. He left Charleston for a decade or two, got his Ph. D, but still hadn’t quite started his life’s work.
Dr. O is an adjunct professor of anthropology and African American studies at the College of Charleston. He's writing a book on artisans framed around his grandfather's work as a blacksmith. He also plans to write a children's book based on Little Phil—a character a friend painted. In the 90s, he was a force in starting the MOJA Festival, and he continues to curate shows annually. He fishes and spends time exploring spiritual endeavors.
While much of the attention is given to Philip Simmons as a Charlestonian and artist, not as much is paid to his shop. This is Ade's most recent endeavor in securing his grandfather's legacy. Some of the tools and objects in the shop have been there for over 200 years, because it was first a plantation shop before it moved into the city of Charleston.
When Ade is asked why he's made his grandfather's work his life's work as well, he exclaims, "I didn't! He did!" Continues, "I am absolutely convinced that when I was a child, my grandfather planted a seed inside of me, and when he said to me, at 27, 'It's time for you to come home,' those words were like an incantation, and instantly my spirit responded to that call."
And Ade marched on home.
Words by: Elizabeth Bowers
Photography by: Gately Williams