What an AWESOME event this turned out to be! As part of their Friday Lates, on 24th June 2011, the V&A presented ‘Afropolitans’. An event which would explore African photography, fashion, style and identity aiming to reflect how African people who live across the continent, and also further, now view themselves and most importantly their cultural heritage. They presented this evening as one that will…
“…look back to image-makers who captured the excitement, optimism and sense of freedom of post-independence African nations from the 1960s, and forward to a new generation of ‘Afropolitans’ – global tastemakers whose sensibilities are rooted in their African identities.”
From the moment I walked up Cromwell Street there was a buzz in the air. The V&A is an awesome museum so the walk up to it always astounds me by its sheer awesomeness (excuse the very American colloquialism). As I entered I am given the guide for the evening which highlights just how indepth the evening will be. I am more than impressed. There would be:
MUSIC such as South African Jo’burg house music star Spoek Mathombo performing;
INSTALLATIONS such as the Salon in the main entrance by Moroccan photographer and designer Hassan Hajjaj;
WORKSHOPS such as the screen-printing scarf textile workshop by textile designer Emamoke Ukeleghe, and various SCREENINGS such as Chris Saunders PHARA PHARA films and photographs. (Chris is known for his memorable photographs of the South African style icon Smarteez group.
The two events in our opinion not to missed were the panel discussion and the well expected fashion show.
FASHION SHOW – the event of the night! This event was held in the glorious awe-inspiring Raphael Gallery – housing the wonderful work of one of the greatest renaissance artists. MsAfropolitan founder Minna Salami was assisted by fashion extraordinaire (as we like to call him) Ola Shobowale to present a fashion show showcasing outfits by top African fashion designers such as Jewel by Lisa, Eki Orleans, Duro Olowu, Tiffany Amber and more. The colours alone were amazing, the shine the glitz, this show was top class!
The atmosphere was absolutely electric! The crowd was expectant and the show was performed with professionalism. Ola and his team including new fashion stylist Sharna-Marie Francis, presented a very good show and the music – Kora instrumental by Jally Kebba Susso made the event all encompassing.
Jewel by Lisa
Beatrice k Newman
Senga K designs
All images – copyright AfricaFashionGuide (AFG)
Creative Director: Ola Shobowale
Head Stylist: Sharna-Marie Francis
Assistant Stylist: Lisa Chinwire
Assistant: Alma Jackson-Davis
Lead Make-Up Artist: Misha Terrett using Misha Terrett Cosmetics
Make-Up Artist: Karen Salandy
Hair Stylist: Signature by Design
The panel consisted of (from L-R) Yemi – a Nigerian with a background in Law who now works notably within music with a focus on contemporary African music, Hannah Pool – an Eritraen who was adopted and moved to the UK at a young age and amongst other accreditations is the author of ‘ My Fathers’ Daughter’; Lulu – a Kenyan who moved to New York for studies and amongst other things is known for being a textile designer, Minna Salami – Blogger of MsAfropolitan who was born in and grew up in Nigeria and has always maintained her African roots though she is half Finnish also; and Tolu who was the host for the night.
Tolu raised the initial question of what is an Afropolitan what is its meaning various responses came back from the panel and it created a lot of dialogue. Lulu says the term Afropolitan for her helps to form identities as you experience new places and people. She sees it as a term which “provides opportunity not poor Africa or bad Africa..it adds cosmopolitan which speaks of sophistication and exposure of knowledge. It gives a positive opportunity to show those sides of Africa and show those things that have always been there….Afropolitan is just another lens to examine identity”.
Hannah though admits she shies away from labels does find this term quite empowering. ‘It is not just about being in the west but being African – I know many Africans who are cosmopolitans.” She made an interesting point that “In the UK I look foreign and sound local but in Eritrea I look local and sound foreign. That’s what Afropolitan is – combining and being a positive term. It celebrates and empowers and is not just one-sided.”
Minna see the term “Afropolitan as a label – I see it as a subculture in terms of those that have been past like Hiphop, Punk…it is not one that is disconnected from Africa, but it is about an awareness in Africa – politically, culturally and it doesn’t exclude people. You don’t have to be an African to be an Afropolitan…it is a subculture with an element of awareness…with every subculture some people with exploit that and create a brand. For me it’s about healthy awareness”
Yemi sees it as the “new Pan-African label. With the digital age the gap has been reached between what was called the ‘Dark Continent’ to the rest of the world. If this is the new branding of 21st Century Africa then it is not a bad thing.”
The discussion was well executed and gave a lot of food for thought. It created dialogue coming from and with the audience and it also highlighted various factors in regards to the exodus that many Africans took moving from their home country to a foreign land (mostly in Europe, UK and the Americas) to the issue of race such as those who are bi-racial and the concept of being African and also European but classing yourself as an Afropolitan too, and also the idea of the new sub-culture and its relation to a NEW Africa that appears to be emerging.
The turn out was excellent and from the response I got from attendees it was much appreciated and enjoyed too. Much kudos to Minna and team.
Author – Jacqueline Shaw – AfricaFashionGuide Founder/Director