Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is all that's African curio?

Browsing through a blog this morning I stumbled upon pictures of a fashion spread, supposedly from TIME Magazine, called "Out of Africa". I'm sure by now you know what the look and feel of it is; it's a no-brainer. Africa theme + fashion spread= Curio!
Big, round, wooden earings. Hats made of straw, fastened with a piece of scarf-like cloth. Necklaces resembling a Zulu kraal. Bold print blazers and peacock print skirts. And at the model's feet? Is it not always sandals? It is all just exhausting.
In 2009, this is how Africa is still represented in the world of fashion; as some sort of archaic, non-evolving organism. It makes me want to puke!
Don't get me wrong, the garments look amazing, I just can't help seeing beyond the theme given to the spread though and the Grace Jones clone they used as a model... oh, wow! What can I say?
As an art form it is amazing how fashion has, after all these years, only managed to explore Africa from a very shallow perspective choosing to only see it as a place that can only inspire tribal couture. Where do they think most of the world's gold comes from? Have they not been to Johannesburg and seen how not-so-dull and wooden the colours on the streets are?
Besides, are they not getting tired of exploring the continent from one perspective. If I think of all the "Out of Africa" like fashion spreads I have seen, I could swear that all were inspired by one African tribe. South Africa alone happens to have 11 that I know of (and you thought I'm counting English people as an African tribe. No, it's just Afrikaners- they exist nowhere else in the world- and the Khoisan) and all differ from the other quite vastly, let alone the history that will teach one about the existance of such civilisations as Mapungubwe. Thanks to Stoned Cherrie and their collection shown at Sanlam SA Fashion Week earlier this year Mapungubwe was finally explored by fashion. South African designers could do well to explore our rich heritage and stop regurgitating the same old same old, year in year out. The Westerners should learn something from us, it's the only way we can escape being pigeonholed.

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