African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style introduces audiences to the dynamic traditions of African dress featuring colorful, boldly patterned printed cloth. The exhibition, opening to the public at Mint Museum Randolph October 7 following two days of Mint member previews, highlights the interplay between regional preferences and cosmopolitanism that has long flourished on the continent, while highlighting the expansiveness of 21st-century African-print fashion.
The exhibition will be open to Mint members on Friday, October 5 from 11 AM-6 PM and Saturday October 6 from 1-6 PM, and will open to the public on Sunday, October 7 from 1-5 PM. Two fashion designers with work featured in the exhibition, Titi Ademola and Alexis Temomanin, will be in Charlotte from Thursday through Sunday and are available for media interviews. Sunday’s event includes a public talk with both designers from 2-3 PM, free after museum admission. Public opening day also includes a drumming performance and a light reception with cash bar. Ademola, a Ghanian/Nigerian designer, is founder of the KIKI label, while Temomanin is the British-Ivorian founder of menswear brand Dent de Man.
African-Print Fashion Now!, organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA, expands the Mint’s presentations of contemporary fashion into a broader cultural arena, and continues the Mint’s emphasis on presenting exhibitions that represent diverse voices and backgrounds. “This exhibition aligns with our mission to explore the meaning of fashion in a global 21st-century context,” said Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion at the Mint. “From the bold, dynamic cloth, to the inventive, sculptural silhouettes, the textiles and fashions in this exhibition have inspired and infiltrated Western fashion, art, music, and popular culture.”
“The Mint is honored to be one of three venues for this important exhibition, and very pleased to collaborate with the Fowler Museum, UCLA, for the first time,” said Dr. Todd Herman, PhD, President & CEO of the Mint. “Additionally, we are deeply grateful to Charlotte’s own Michael Gallis for his role in bringing this exhibition to our community.”
The works featured throughout the exhibition demonstrate the vital role that African-print has played in the expression of beauty, fashion, and heritage, while creating transcultural connections across Africa and into the larger world.
The exhibition is complemented by an interactive design studio created by the Mint’s Learning & Engagement team, offering visitors of all ages opportunities to design their own prints, experience African-print fabrics, and go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibition.
Four sections weaving multiple themes
The exhibition is organized into four sections: “It All Starts with Cloth,” “Portraits in Print,” “Regional Styles, Fashion Preferences,” and “New Directions.” Collectively, the installation includes dozens of tailored fashions, nearly 100 archival and contemporary cloths, approximately 20 black-and-white studio portrait photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, a series of runway videos, and several works by contemporary visual artists. Ensembles on view draw from the Fowler’s collections, private loans, and the extensive archives of the Dutch textile manufacturing company Vlisco.
Several themes weave their way throughout the exhibition, mimicking the cyclical nature of fashion trends and the ripple effects of politics and technology on the formation of identity. One theme is consumer agency, both in determining designs and patterns through purchasing power and by commissioning unique ensembles from seamstresses and tailors. Another theme is the theatrical power of fashion, and its ability to express individualism or collective solidarity, whether in a family portrait or Women’s Day Marches in communities across the continent. Finally, a link between imaging and fashion surfaces in each section of the exhibition. From formal portraiture to visual arts to ubiquitous African fashion calendars to street style photos shared by cell-phone, it is clear that representations of fashion have always been a nuanced form of communication.
Fashion subtly communicates about place, heritage, and belonging through such means as appropriation, pastiche, and revival. Throughout the exhibition, African-print fashions are considered to be creative responses to key historical moments and empowering projections about Africa’s future.
About the Exhibition
“It All Starts with Cloth” addresses the history of African-print textiles, originally inspired by batik or wax-resist cloth from Indonesia. A dense grid of more than 60 cloths manufactured in Europe, Africa, and Asia evokes the vibrating colors and designs stocked in open-air markets and cloth shops across the African continent. A visual timeline of production across these regions outlines the history of the cloth trade in West and Central Africa from the 1800s to the present. Archival photographs and dramatic film footage of the Vlisco factory in operation transport audiences to the production of cloth in the Netherlands.
“Portraits in Print” leaves behind the brightly colored world of African-print fashion and enters an intimate black-and-white space of memory. A gallery introduces four photographers from Africa’s “golden age” of black-and-white photography in the 1960s and 1970s: Francis K. Honny (Ghana, 1914–1998); Jacques Toussele (Cameroon, 1935–2017); Omar Ly (Senegal, 1943–2016); and Mory Bamba (b. Mali, 1949). Their photography studios in newly independent West African countries provided a platform for an ascending middle class to see themselves and be seen by one another. The portraits are indicative of a historical moment when local African-print ensemble styles gained new significance as expressions of national and Pan-African pride and identity.
“Regional Styles, Fashion Preferences” takes an in-depth look at localized contemporary African-print fashion whereby stylish dress is a feature of daily life. Ensembles on view from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal reflect an array of styles, all of them customized and individually made to order. This section presents a case study from Kumasi, Ghana to illustrate the interactive commissioning process between seamstresses or tailors and their fashion-conscious clientele. The bold patterns of the cloth engineered with subtle and striking variations in style reveal the ingenuity and flair of regional designers.
“New Directions” bridges regional cultures with transnational art and fashion networks, beginning with African-print styles on global runways in Paris, New York, Dakar, and other cities. Designers in this section include Titi Ademola (b. London, based in Ghana), Ituen Bassey (b. Nigeria), Afua Dabanka (b. Germany, based in Ghana), Lisa Folawiyo (b. Nigeria), Adama Amanda Ndiaye (b. Democratic Republic of the Congo, based in Senegal), Alexis Temomanin (b. Côte d’Ivoire), Gilles Touré (b. Côte d’Ivoire), and Patricia Waota (b. Côte d’Ivoire). Ensembles on view feature full-length gowns and men’s blazers, metallic wax print, and architectural pleating and boning—all of which harmoniously marry the drape of the fabric with the strategic construction of print patterns for stunning results.
Juxtaposed with these glamorous designs are contemporary works by photographers and other visual artists who incorporate print-cloth imagery to convey evocative messages about heritage, hybridity, displacement, and aspiration.
Members of the media and invited special guests are invited to preview the exhibition from 5:30-7 PM on Thursday October 4 at Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road in Charlotte. Light refreshments, wine, and beer will be served. RSVP to Leigh.Dyer@mintmuseum.org.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated volume generously funded by the R. L. Shep Endowment Fund at the Fowler Museum. The publication includes essays authored by exhibition co-curators Suzanne Gott, Kristyne S. Loughran, Betsy D. Quick, and Leslie W. Rabine with additional essays contributed by Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Boatema Boateng, M. Amah Edoh, Helen Elands, Anne Grosfilley, Karen Tranberg-Hansen, Helen Jennings, Sandra Klopper, Stephan F. Miescher, Hansi Momodu-Gordon, John Picton, Elisha P. Renne, Victoria L. Rovine, Ken Aïcha Sy, and Nina Sylvanus. It is on sale for $40 in both locations of the Mint Museum stores.
African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA in association with Vlisco Netherlands B.V. It is guest curated by Suzanne Gott with Kristyne S. Loughran, Betsy D. Quick, and Leslie W. Rabine. In Charlotte, Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion, is the project curator. Major funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts with the additional support of R. L. Shep, DutchCulture, and Pasadena Art Alliance.
The exhibition is presented in Charlotte by PNC Financial Services with generous additional support from the Mint Museum Auxiliary, Wells Fargo Private Bank, and Moore & Van Allen.
ABOUT THE FOWLER MUSEUM
The Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures with an emphasis on works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas—past and present. The Fowler enhances understanding of world cultures through dynamic exhibitions, publications, and public programs, informed by interdisciplinary approaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented. Also featured is the work of international contemporary artists presented within the complex frameworks of politics, culture, and social action.
|Lekan Jeyifo and Walé Oyéjidé, Johannesburg 2081 A.D., Africa 2081 A.D. series, 2014; Digital print. Courtesy Ikiré Jones.