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CNN’s Africa Avant Garde Explores The Art Of African Textiles | Citizen NewsNG

ByCitizen NewsNG

Mar 14, 2024



In the latest episode of Africa Avant Garde, CNN dives into the distinct fabrics woven into the histories of Nigeria and Kenya to discover the designers pushing the fashion of fabric forward.

Gladys Wanjiku Macharia, founder of Siafu Home states: “There’s a lot of cliches when it comes to referencing African textiles”. She explains, “I think when you look at the landscape of Kenya, it’s very reminiscent to the movement between Savannah Tropical and just trying to embody all those beautiful nuances that come out of our country.”

Macharia speaks about how the history of trade has influenced Kenyan style, “Our history stems back to the trade routes and seculars bringing in different textiles that were used for trade. And that was really the first movement towards Kenyans being able to buy fabrics that came into Kenya through trade.”

She adds, “It’s a culmination of pulling inspiration from different paths and different textile environments in order for us to engineer something that’s new and different.”

A challenge facing Macharia was finding Kenyan-made textiles. So, she decided to design her own, “One of our biggest challenges when designing products locally is finding unique textiles that stand out and that are made in Kenya. So Siafu was really an opportunity, a gap in the market where I started to create and design textiles that would allow each brand to have a unique story to its collection.”

Looking ahead, Macharia discusses her hopes for Siafu, “What I hope to do through Siafu is to […] be able to show a positive story, and also for people to be inspired to take up old traditional artisanry work because we live in a world where things will soon be forgotten. And I hope to keep this alive.”

In Nigeria, creative director and founder of Bisbod Aso-oke Oluwaseun Oduyale speaks about how culture and fashion intersect, “It’s our culture. […]I think the major thing that is really just identity. Because in a world that screams for us to be uniformed in everything, this helps us remember who we are.”

Aso-oke is a handwoven fabric originating in south-west Nigeria and is worn for special occasions. Oduyale explains, “Aso-oke is really according to tribes and that’s why it’s so traditional. But that’s the beauty of aso-oke. Different tribes have their expressions.”

Premium aso-oke provider Bisbod Aso-oke has been operating for more than 25 years. Oduyale says, “For us at Bisbod we see ourselves as custodians of the culture and one of our missions is to uphold and restore that tradition and culture using aso-oke as a tool.”

“The rest of the world, they’ve seen everything, but they’ve not seen our aso-oke,” adds Ugochukwu Monye, creative director of Ugo Monye. “Everything made from Africa, let me even speak about Nigeria – is supposed to be regarded as premium because everything is made by sweat and blood, it’s not machine.”

Brand and commercial director of Dye Lab, Ozzy Etomi talks to CNN about the recent history of African fashion, “if you look at the early thousands and you look at when African fashion started being on the map and there was a lot of leaning on ankara as what represented African fashion, and you saw that influence Western fashion. And I think that the difference with what you see now is that people are going back to sort of like what is local to them.”

Etomi adds, “A lot of brands that we follow that we really admire, and you see how they are using what is traditional to them to create really beautiful pieces. And I think that what is beautiful about that is people are no longer leaning on the west to dictate what is African. Africans are dictating what is African.”

Finally, Oduyale concludes, “The importance of these fabrics, they sort of remind us of who we are, remind us of our colour, remind us of the flavour we bring, it remind us of our joy, remind us of our intrinsic differences that actually make the world a more colourful place.”

Africa Avant Garde airs on CNN International on Saturday 2nd March 2024 at 12:20 WAT

Sunday 3rd March 2024 at 03:30 WAT, 06:30 WAT and 19:30 WAT
Monday 4th March 2024 at 05:00 WAT


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