Then, going back to the exhibition in 2017 that resulted in the publication of Creating African Fashion Histories, there have been more that have followed. An exhibition at the Central Museum in the Netherlands, Voices of Fashion, featured acknowledged voices from African and diaspora creatives, from around the world. Africa Fashion is the latest exhibition, having just opened at the V&A Museum, from around the 1950s-1960s to now; putting the creative power and agency of African fashion on a global stage.
And next year there will be two important exhibitions featuring fashion from Africa and the Diaspora in New York. So that’s the third factor of change I have seen. Firstly, it was the awareness through social movements, secondly it is the digital revolution, and thirdly, it is what’s actually being shown in museums.
I think the pushback is being articulated through fashion by Africans in terms of reclaiming, occupying, rewriting, and taking back power, voice and visibility. And more so, it’s no longer just about us, but it’s by us. I think there has been a shift in agency in terms of who’s telling the stories and where acknowledgments are overdue. The refusal of being appropriated and spoken for, has allowed new spaces for African creatives to be heard.
What is the African Fashion Research Institute?
In 2019, I co-founded the African Fashion Research Institute with Lesiba Mabitsela, who is a creative practitioner based in Johannesburg. Our aim is to host, promote, make visible, and reclaim stories around contemporary African fashion and the way in which contemporary fashion practices draw in and make visible alternative fashion archives.