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Connecting Afro Futures. Fashion x Hair x Design

Start Date 24 August 2019
End Date 01 December 2019
Venue Decorative Arts Museum (Kunstgewerbemuseum)
Location Berlin, Germany
Curator Claudia Banz, Cornelia Lund and Beatrace Angut Oola 

With “Connecting Afro Futures. Fashion x Hair x Design “, the Kunstgewerbemuseum is dedicating an exhibition to the complex and versatile world of fashion design and hair styling of African origin for the first time. It opens up to decolonial fashion discourses, and at the same time takes a stand in the current discussion about the orientation of museums and their collections.

Reclaiming the narrative

Fashion is a control system of its own kind and is considered a pacemaker of social change. An innovative generation of African-born designers is redefining contemporary African fashion and hair styling beyond the (neo)colonial paradigms and norms of beauty. It is in the process of breaking the still existing hegemony of Western fashion and establishing new design hubs throughout Africa.

The dynamic engagement of the actors in the various creative fields and the rapid spread in the social media create new design practices, identities and visual codes that create and transport a new image of Africa. It is not just about aesthetic aspects, but rather a cultural and political commitment with a decidedly decolonial self-image.

Contemporary visions

Several fashion designers from the two fashion hubs Dakar in West Africa and Kampala in East Africa as well as an artist from Benin were invited to play in the rooms of the Museum of Decorative Arts. The invited designers and artists received a carte blanche to transform their visions of African fashion and hair into an installation. The kick-off of the project took place in November 2018 with a one-week workshop in Berlin. After two project stations in Dakar and Kampala, the project returns to the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin.

  • With her mixed media installation “The Perfect Stereotype”, fashion designer Lamula Anderson of Lamula Nassuna (London, UK / Kampala, Uganda) connects the dots between historical women’s dresses with bustles to stereotypical colour associations in fashion and the afro.
  • Fashion Label Bull Doff (Dakar, Senegal) have developed a work based on its current collection 54Punk, which combines traditional craftsmanship and punk rock aesthetik.
  • The artist Meschac Gaba (Cotonou, Benin) will show his braided wig sculptures, inspired by Berlin’s famous architecture.
  • In her work “Barkcloth Connecting Afro Futures using Signs of the Now”, fashion designer José Hendo (London UK / Kampala, Uganda) uses the traditional Ugandan material of barkcloth to address questions of sustainability in contemporary fashion.
  • Multimedia artist Njola Impressions (Kampala, Uganda) works with recycled industrial waste. Her work is a community-oriented practice, with the people, for the people, not just for galleries and catwalks, but also for the streets.
  • Adama Paris (Dakar, Senegal), fashion designer and founder of Dakar Fashion Week and Black Fashion Week, questions beauty ideals and norms for hair and fashion in the African context with her installation “Shameless Afro Hair”.
  • Artist and curator Ken Aïcha Sy (Dakar, Senegal) from Wakh’Art, will present the work “Baadaye” (Swahili for future) – a photographic and videographic survey of Afro-futuristic visions for the African continent.
  • Fashion Label Tondo Clothing (Kampala/Uganda) will present their mission and unique style in Berlin. They call it VOUAFF: visions of urban African future fashion. VOUAFF focuses on bridging the gap between ancient traditional African fashion and current fashion trends on the urban scene.

The installations will be complemented with works by illustrator Diana Ejaita (Italy/Nigeria – Berlin/Germany) among others, as well as an exploration of hair and fashion in an African context comprising of fashion and music videos, photographs and illustrations. An accompanying programme with artist’s interventions, performances, workshops and panel discussions will run throughout the exhibition.

Be sure to look out for the exhibition’s magalog – a fashion magazine and exhibition catalog combined. It was edited by the exhibition curators: Claudia Banz, Cornelia Lund and Beatrace Angut Oola and is published with the Kerber Verlag for the start of the exhibition. You can get the magalog in the SMB-Webshop here or in the bookshop Walther König.

Supported by the Fonds TURN of the Federal Cultural Foundation.

Project Partners:Goethe-Zentrum Kampala (UGCS); 32° East / Ugandan Arts Trust, Kampala; Wakh’Art, Dakar; fluctuating images, Berlin; Fashion Africa Now, Hamburg.