Fashion Cities Africa Exhibition
Too Many Siblings by Sarah Waiswa
As an Africa-inspired brand, there's nothing we love more than being immersed in the diversity, creativity and vibrancy of Africa. So we were excited to hear about Fashion Cities Africa, the first major UK exhibition dedicated solely to contemporary African fashion, which launches this month in Brighton.
Africa is home to a huge variety of fashion designers, trends and movements, many of which receive little recognition outside the continent. Fashion Cities Africa shines a spotlight on the fashion scenes of four cities at the compass points of Africa: Casablanca in Morocco, Lagos in Nigeria, Nairobi in Kenya and Johannesburg in South Africa.
The researchers and curators behind the exhibition including Africa fashion specialists Hannah Azieb Pool & Helen Jennings, travelled to each city last summer to explore their diverse practices of dress, fashion and styling and to identify the key players.
In an op-ed for British national newspaper The Guardian in 2012, Hannah Azieb Pool admonished Western fashion designers for their so-called African-inspired clothes. “Dear Fashion,” she wrote, “Africa is a continent, not a country. Can you imagine anyone describing a fashion trend as ‘European-inspired?’ Of course not. It’s meaningless.”
By focusing on the fashion-scapes of four cities from different African regions, Fashion Cities Africa reveals the diversity that exists across the continent and captures the depth and breadth of real African fashion.
What you can expect
Across three large galleries, the exhibition includes diverse apparel from couture to street style, with images, film, sound and even elements of a tailor’s workshop for a multi-sensory fashion experience. The exhibition will focus on the style choices of individual ‘fashion agents’ from each city; from designers and stylists to photographers and bloggers.
Highlights include controversial high-fashion outfits worn by one of Kenya’s hottest bands, Sauti Sol, brand new commissions by Nairobi-based brother and sister street style duo, 2Many Siblings, which bring together mainstream, vintage and Kenyan items and apparel by Maki Oh, the internationally acclaimed Lagos-based label worn by Michelle Obama.
We spoke to the co-curator Helen Mears to find out a little bit more about what we might expect at the exhibition:
What will be the visitor experience and takeaways of the exhibition?
It’s a vanity for us to try and make any kind of statement about the fashion scenes in these huge and incredibly diverse cities. I just want people to be wow-ed, as we have been, by the incredible creative energy and talent in each city and to see Africa’s designers as the major players in international fashion that they are. Many of the designers featured will be visiting Brighton Museum over the course of the exhibition so I hope there will be lots of opportunities for visitors to meet and engage with those at the coal face of fashion in these cities…
What are your hopes for it's legacy?
Well – we hope that the exhibition will go on to another museum venue in Europe so that more people can see it! I also hope that we can acquire some of the pieces displayed for our permanent collections so we can start to create a record of the changes happening in fashion on the African continent (much of our historic collection dates to the period pre-1950). Most importantly I hope that the exhibition will introduce the work of the featured designers and makers to a new audience as well as to bring a new, more diverse, audience to Brighton Museum.
The exhibition runs from April 30th 2016 - January 8th 2017 at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery - we can't think of a better reason to plan a day trip to the sea side! If you're interested in attending you can find more details on the Brighton Museum website. Prepare to be inspired!