Fashion constitutes its own particular system of rules and functions as a trendsetter for social change. An innovative generation of African fashion designers has made it their goal to rethink “African” fashion and to establish new design hubs throughout the African continent. This goes beyond aesthetic concerns to also, and more importantly, focus on cultural and political involvement with a decidedly decolonialised self-image. Generation Now is in the process of breaking up and subverting the hegemony of the Western fashion system. African culture should no longer serve solely as a source of inspiration for Western fashion designers.
The theme of hair is closely connected with that of fashion. Like fashion, hair – and with it “African” bodies – was a key arena in the exercise of colonial power. It was also disciplined, regulated and subjected to Western ideals of beauty. Traditional African hairstyles, some almost forgotten as a result of that history, are now enjoying a resurgence in popularity and becoming more widely available. They are also being self-confidently used in a creative play with hair to express ideas of identity, with hair increasingly thought of as an artistic medium.
The multi-stage project started in November 2018 at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) with an overarching, one-week workshop on global fashion, museum and collection policy, and decolonial discourse. In March and April 2019, the first results were presented on site in Dakar and Kampala. Artist and curator Ken Aicha Sy (Dakar, Senegal) from Wakh’Art, the cooperation partner there, presented the work Baadaye (Swahili for future) – a photographic and videographic survey of Afro-futuristic visions for the African continent. Fashion designer Adama Paris (Dakar, Senegal), founder of the Dakar Fashion Week and Black Fashion Week, is currently developing the installation Shameless Afro Hair.
The project venue in Kampala included the showing of Connecting Afro Futures at the Goethe-Zentrum Kampala (Ugandan German Cultural Society) as well as a presentation by fashion designer Lamula Anderson (London, UK; Kampala, Uganda) at the Ugandan Arts Trust, a centre for the production and study of contemporary Ugandan art.
In August 2019 the results of the project venues and collaborations will presented in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin. In the exhibition Lamula Anderson creates a connection with her mixed media installation The Perfect Stereotype stretching from historical women’s dresses with bustles to stereotypical colour combinations in fashion and the afro. In her work Barkcloth Connecting Afro Futures Using the Signs of the Now, fashion designer José Hendo (London, UK; Kamala, Uganda) uses the traditional Ugandan material of barkcloth to address questions of sustainability in contemporary fashion.
Bull Doff (Dakar, Senegal) are developing a multimedia work based on their current collection 54Punk. In her installation Adama Paris questions beauty ideals and norms for hair and fashion in the African context. The artist Meschac Gaba (Cotonou, Benin) shows spectacular wig sculptures designed after Berlin architectural icons. At the opening at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, his works will be presented during a performance in the exhibition space.
The exhibition is augmented with other works by Diana Ejaita (illustrator, Berlin, Germany), Darlyne Komukama (artist, Kampala, Uganda) and Ken Aicha Sy, among others, as well as an exploration of hair and fashion in an African context such as fashion and music videos, photographs and illustrations. An accompanying programme with artistic interventions, performances, workshops and panel discussions rounds off the project.
Curators: Claudia Banz, Cornelia Lund, Beatrace Angut Oola
Artists: Lamula Anderson (fashion designer, London, UK; Kampala, Uganda); Meschac Gaba (artist, Cotonou, Benin); Adama Paris (fashion designer, Dakar, Senegal)
Supported by the TURN Fund of the Federal Cultural Foundation Project Partners: Goethe-Zentrum Kampala (UGCS); Ugandan Arts Trust, Kampala; Wakh’Art, Dakar; fluctuating images, Berlin; Fashion Africa Now, Hamburg
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