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Influence of Fashion in African Art, Part 1

Posted in Design  |  November 22, 2014

Influence of Fashion in African Art, Part 1
Fashion is art. Art is fashion. There is an obvious overlap between art and fashion. Since many years, fashion tracked and echoed trends in art. And African art is no exception. Today, African artists express their creativity in many ways. Using fashion design to reinvent the popular cultural references, they invite us to imagine an Africa free of its opposition to Europe.

For instance, African fabrics or batik are not only used in fashion. They are also widely used by several contemporary African artists. With that in mind, we decided to explore African art influenced by fashion. So, we have identified a few artists whose work has been inspired by fashion and looked a little closer.

Serge Mouangue

Serge Mouangue is a Cameroonian designer living in Tokyo who saw an analogy between African and Japanese traditions to create a new fashion concept: Japanese kimonos made out of traditional African fabrics. With what he calls African Kimono, Mouangue explores what the combination of rituals and cultural aesthetics can tell us about ourselves. In front of 300 people, he presented a performance around the Japanese tea ceremony. It was described as a moment which puts anybody in perfect harmony with others. This performance featured people wearing African kimono and taking the tea surrounded by a kora player and a masked woman acting as a spirit.

african kimono

Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare is a British/Nigerian artist living in London and working on the exploration of cultural identity and relationship between Africa and Europe. He questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions in a world that is now more global. Shonibare uses Victorian clothes made with African fabrics as a system of cultural signs and ethnic stereotypes. He dresses children, commonplaces figures, or headless mannequins cast in various poses like running, flying, dancing, and firing shots. He also recreates famous paintings like The Last Supper, stories from British literature like The Picture of Dorian Gray, or performance from opera like Un ballo in maschera.

girl ballerina

Ghada Amer

Ghada Amer is an Egyptian/American who lives and works as a multimedia artist in New York City. Her work deals with issues of gender, identity and sexuality. Particularly, she addresses the representation of female nudes in art history as ideal objects rather than women with a sexuality and eroticism of their own. Amer uses sewing and embroidery techniques to explore women contemporary issues. She considers that these techniques are still integrated to a feminine universe.[1] She was inspired by how Egyptian veils were superimposed on Western styles in fashion magazines. Today, Amer continues to question the role of stereotypes and the various ways they can be interpreted. 

barbie loves ken

Iké Udé

Iké Udé is a Nigerian/American photographer who lives and works in New York City. His work focuses on urban culture with subjects ranging from fashion to celebrity, and humor to identity. He uses photography to explore issues of representation and identity. Udé pushes the limits of the art of portraiture with his self-portrait series Sartorial Anarchy. In this series, he dresses up in varied costumes designed to transcend time and place. He uses apparel as indices of culture instead of fashion by combining clothes of different cultures.

sartorial anarchy

Joel Andrianomearisoa

Joel Andrianomearisoa is a Malagasy photographer who lives and works between Antananarivo and Paris. Initially trained in architecture, he pursued a career as fashion designer before shifting his interest to visual arts. He consequently works with various media from video to installation with an influence from fashion. Andrianomearisoa creates bridges between fine art and fashion, maximizing the possibilities of textiles. The variety of fabrics in his artworks gives them an architectural density that recalls stone. Those fabrics may echo the lamba – the ubiquitous garment of Madagascar. The way one wears the lamba, its material and its number of stripes indicate social position, age and origin.[2]

joel andrianomearisoa

 

[1] Biography of Ghada Amer, Brooklyn Museum, NY.

[2] In Alchemy, Virginie Andriamirado describes the works of Joel Andrianomearisoa for the exhibition Flow presented by the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY.