Africa Through our Eyes
Rise Africa just started a discussion in their Talk Africa series about cultural appropriation of African fashion .. particularly African wax print fabrics. Here are some of my responses:
“I think to answer these questions, we must first ask what makes cloth like ankara ‘Africa’ as it’s history can be traced back to Indonesia. There is a great deal of speculation about the history of African wax prints. I was also going to share the link that Nrb posted; that is a well researched piece that is worth reading. Also research into the works of Yinka Shonibare; many people think that his work ‘glorifies’ African fabric but it is much deeper than that – he explores the effects of European colonisation/post-colonisation in contexts as it pertains to Africa…it’s really interesting stuff. I guess my point is….we must understand the history of these things so that we can stand up proud and tell the world why this is ours, why they need to give us credit and why they need to respect its lineage and our heritage. I personally think it’s great that our fabrics that were once considered ‘local’ and ‘traditional’ and ‘archaic are now being accepted around the world. What I hate is the fact that western media still refers to it as ‘tribal’! They call Japanese kimonos ‘kimonos’ and indian saris ‘saris’ but anything related to Africa is ‘tribal’ or just lumped in one as ‘African’…Africa is not a country!”
Follow the discussion and join in here:
“A picture of a pipe isn’t necessarily a pipe, an image of “African fabric” isn’t necessarily authentically [and wholly] African”.
These above words are quoted by Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian-British contemporary artist known for his amazing artwork using African print fabrics in his scrutiny of colonialism and post-colonialism. What is commonly known as “African fabric” goes by a multitude of names: Dutch wax print, Real English Wax, Veritable Java Print, Guaranteed Dutch Java, Veritable Dutch Hollandais. I grew up calling them ankara and although they’ve always been a huge symbol of my Nigerian and African identity, I had no idea of the complex and culturally diverse history behind the very familiar fabrics until I discovered Yinka Shonibare and his art.
I know I personally felt shocked upon learning that the “African” fabrics I grew up loving and admiring were not really “African” in their origins (or is it?). This…
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