Written a couple of years ago by Arts, Style & Culture Writer Etienne Ebilah and myself but never published, it’s a little late to pose the question but some of the issues tackled in this article are still prevalent today.
Right now it seems that everyone loves African prints and it has put African fashion on the global fashion map! Fashion has been infiltrated with the influence of the beautiful, colourful, playfulness of African prints. Mainstream fashion has adopted the tribal influence, which has been all over the catwalks in recent seasons. And there has also been an explosion of African bred and African heritage designers that have been making fashion waves internationally and locally.
The question is:
Is it too late to take back ownership of African Fashion, or is this a question that should have been posed many years ago?
And what exactly is the definition of African fashion? Are we too tied to the idea of African fabrics defining African fashion as limiting or as expansive as that can be, or is African Fashion about individual African designers and their unique interpretation of fashion, culture and heritage, irrespective of what ‘material’ they choose to express their creativity through?
Yinka Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist who lives and works in London, but the impact of his work is far reaching across cultural and creative disciplines, fashion and art inclusive. He is best known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization, and since 1994 the vibrant Dutch wax ‘African fabrics’ have provided the perfect backdrop for his work. Although he has been known to purchase the fabrics from London’s Brixton market, he states:
“But actually, the fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think. They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own. And it’s the fallacy of that signification that I like. It’s the way I view culture — it’s an artificial construct.”
His first public art commission was his ‘Nelson’s ship in a bottle’, majestically displayed on the Fourth Plinth in
Trafalgar Square London in 2010.
Nelsons Ship In A Bottle Credit – wwwyinkashonibarembecom