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Contemporary African Fashion

Edited by Suzanne Gott and Kristyne Loughran. Foreword by Joanne B. Eicher

Publication Year: 2010

African fashion is as diverse and dynamic as the continent and the people who live there. While experts have long recognized the importance of clothing as a marker of ethnic identity, life stages, political affiliation, and social class, they have only just begun to discover African fashion. Contemporary African Fashion puts Africa at the intersection of world cultures and globalized identities, displaying the powerful creative force and impact of newly emerging styles. Richly illustrated with color photographs, this book showcases haute couture for the African continent. The visual impact of fashion created and worn today in Africa comes to life here, beautifully and brilliantly.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: African Expressive Cultures


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. ix-xii

Fashions globally focus on the here and now, embracing and emphasizing change. African fashions have existed across the continent much longer than often imagined, and the complexity of the continent itself—geographically, culturally, historically—means that readers of this volume will quickly learn that fashion...

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pp. xiii-xvii

Contemporary African Fashion is the result of mutual interests and concerns generated by the many conversations and ideas we have shared over the past fifteen years with each other and with our mentors, colleagues, and friends. This project builds upon the work and inspiration of Roy Sieber and Joanne Eicher...

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pp. 1-8

African fashion is as diverse and dynamic as the continent itself. African fashion takes many forms, including haute couture fashions by African designers, stylish creations of local seamstresses or tailors, and fashionable imported secondhand clothing. Awareness of fashion trends is certainly a phenomenon of the city...

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Part One. Fashion within the African Continent

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pp. 9-85

The following chapters present a broad spectrum of different fashions in urban and rural Africa. Here, authors examine the economic and creative relationships between seamstresses, tailors, market vendors, and specialized dress shops and their clients...

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1. The Ghanaian Kaba: Fashion That Sustains Culture

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pp. 11-27

Women in southern Ghana’s Ashanti Region, especially those living in the cosmopolitan capital of Kumasi, take great pride in their fashionable dress and sense of style. At the center of women’s fashion world is the kaba, a three-piece wrapped and sewn ensemble which developed through the creative fusion of indigenous...

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2. The Visual City: Tailors, Creativity, and Urban Life in Dakar, Senegal

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pp. 29-37

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is a city where visual traffic is dense, abundant, and dynamic. Both residents and visitors alike admit that it is virtually impossible to venture through downtown streets without encountering a kaleidoscope of visual forms. The facades of commercial and residential buildings are plastered with...

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3. Secondhand Clothing and Fashion in Africa

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pp. 39-51

Secondhand clothing from the West is a popular imported commodity in many countries in Africa. The consequences of this trade are manifold and controversial. When Western observers view Africa’s secondhand clothing markets as dumping grounds for the West’s charitable clothing donations, they only see the...

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4. Fashion, Not Weather: A Rural Primer of Style

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pp. 53-65

In the rural area of Kabompo District in North-Western Province, Zambia, the catchword is “fashion, not weather.” I first heard this phrase when I commented on what I considered the unsuitability of a young woman’s dress who, in a stifling hot day, wore a lined, long-sleeved chitengi suit consisting of several layers. My...

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5. Contemporary Wedding Fashions in Lagos, Nigeria

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pp. 67-85

The move of Kleinfeld Bridal, “the largest designer wedding-dress outlet in the US,” from Brooklyn to a larger building in Manhattan was front-page news in the May 26, 2005, edition of the New York Times. The idea of bridal stores, like Kleinfeld Bridal, selling gowns as well as a range of wedding-related accessories and services...

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Part Two . African Fashion Designers

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pp. 87-153

The chapters in this section present some of the continent’s leading and most creative designers such as Chris Seydou, Lamine Kouyaté, Ben Nonterah, Ziemek Pater and Carlo Gibson of Strangelove Fashion, Kandioura Coulibaly, Oumou Sy, Nanou...

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6. African Fashion: Design, Identity, and History

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pp. 89-103

Clothing styles move swiftly, traveling between individuals and along media networks, traversing cultural and chronological divides. Innovations may emerge from the pages of fashion magazines or from tailors’ shops, from movie screens or museum galleries, from ordinary consumers’ creative combinations of garments...

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7. Using the Past to Sculpt the Costume of the Future: An Interview with Kandioura Coulibaly

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pp. 105-121

Kandioura Coulibaly is an exceptional artist who makes jewelry and costumes for Malian cinema, and theater, as well as for festivals and exhibitions in Mali and internationally. He is a founder of the Groupe Bogolan Kasobane, a pioneer collective of six contemporary artists who have been working together for thirty...

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8. Intersecting Creativities: Oumou Sy’s Costumes in the Dakar Landscape

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pp. 123-137

It might not look like “African” dress to you (Figure 8.1). You may be expecting to see a richly embroidered Senegalese boubou, not a heap of gift wrap and a garbage pile of compact discs on a smiling model. But if you look closely you will see that this costume is indeed inspired by the aesthetic values of the boubou, the...

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9. From Cemetery to Runway: Dress and Identity in Highland Madagascar

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pp. 139-153

Fashion in highland Madagascar is intimately linked with the dead. Identity is based not only on one’s ancestry and lineage but also on the continual interaction with, help from, and manipulation of one’s ancestors. One of the most powerful, and thus dangerous, points of interaction with the dead is through burial...

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Part Three. African Fashion in the Diaspora

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pp. 155-219

Another important dimension of contemporary African fashion involves the movement of individuals, ideas, and needs between Africa, Europe, and North America. In this section, authors analyze the construction of identities in different...

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10. La Sape Exposed! High Fashion among Lower-Class Congolese Youth: From Colonial Modernity to Global Cosmopolitanism

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pp. 157-173

In a 1989 interview published in the French magazine Afrique Élite, Congolese dandy Djo Balard candidly expounded his view that fashion matters: “If you are well dressed, all doors are open to you. . . . Africans who live here [in Europe] pay attention to what they wear. If they don’t have anything to wear, they prefer not...

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11. Have Cloth—Will Travel

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pp. 175-189

African women living in Europe today negotiate myriad relationships between their personal tastes and identities, their attachment and loyalty to fashions from “home,” as well as their enthusiasm and desire for European fashions and their curiosity about global fashions. This chapter is based on a conversation with...

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12. Dressing Somali (Some Assembly Required)

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pp. 191-203

Parking outside of the Somali malls in Minneapolis–St. Paul is always a challenge. By the afternoon clusters of men are talking outside on the sidewalks as customers and the people who run the shops—mostly women and their teenage sons and daughters—filter in and out of the building. The men are wearing clothes that...

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13. Translating African Textiles into U.S. Fashion Design: Brenda Winstead and Damali Afrikan Wear

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pp. 205-219

Designer Brenda Winstead sells her beautiful Damali Afrikan Wear through studio, trunk, and art shows. She advertises to her nationwide clientele through photograph postcard invitations. Having received these charming invitations over a period of ten years, I was curious. How, in this age of the giant discount retailer...

Further Readings

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pp. 221-226

List of Contributing Authors

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pp. 227-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001405
E-ISBN-10: 0253001404
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253222565

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 71 color illus.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: African Expressive Cultures