This is something done by everyone, and even Africans are not exempt from this facet of stereotyping.
I believe that Africa and it’s identity cannot, and should not, be reduced to a kind of print fabric. You hear the words often uttered with cavalier disregard, as if ethnic authenticity and a connection to the truth of Africa is best verified and engaged through the use of beads and patterns of African landscapes and animals. Much like the rest of the world, we as a continent have so much more that defines us, and in those archaic motifs continuously perpetuated, there is the potential to cultivate innovative genius.
I couple of days I ranted to my friend and to the twittersphere at large, about the recently revealed national costume our Miss South Africa is set to wear at the Miss World 2014 pageant. I was entirely irked. Looking at it through subjective and objective perspectives, anyone can deduce it’s lack of simple design aesthetic and style. It was a burnt orange and earth tone brown floor-length dress teamed with a rather flamboyant purple-feathered headpiece the likes of which would only be spotted in media personality Jennifer Su’s collection. I love the fact that the Miss South Africa has a brand initiative that supports local designers. However, I’m not inclined to like something purely for social development if the core of what it stands for is not truly a unique and beautiful truth. The dress is said to have been made by the Cape Town Fashion Design College. I just want to say: For a place dedicated entirely to the principles of fashion design, you sure dropped the ball on this. I wholeheartedly claim that I can design something that is as sophisticated and stylish, as it is patriotic. It is something that would have emphasized a progressive image of South Africa, instead of the costume she is set to wear that is quintessentially the way the world sees Africa in its entirety.
This may have been the straw that broke this camels back and her silent seething, but after writing a postgraduate thesis on the perpetuation of stereotypes around the Africa motif, I feel it prudent to write this post.
When it comes to fashion, South Africa is a cornucopia of raw inspiration and talent – Maxhosa by Laduma is proof of that. However, for other South African designers to go to Fashion Weeks and either design glamorous red carpet looks straight off the North American and European circuit, or repeat the same apparel design cut from ‘African prints’ is disheartening and annoying for a global fashion lover such as myself.
I’ll be in Europe at the start of 2015 and attending the numerous acclaimed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks there. I hope that through my attendance I can represent numerous inspired contemporary African designs and brands, as a way of helping in the redevelopment of a new kind of image for the face of Africa and its many unique fashion industry’s from country-to-country. I am committed to networking with bloggers, designers, media, celebrities, brand associates etc. as a way of being a potential ambassador and tool that many in Africa and across the world, can utilize toward fostering a continued global fashion industry rapport.