Fashion items from 25 of the 54 countries that make up Africa will be displayed in this upcoming exhibition at the V&A, due to open this weekend.
More than 170 years after the V&A’s inception, its galleries will finally showcase an exhibition dedicated to African fashion designers who haven’t received the mainstream attention they deserve.
Designers who’ve worked with Beyoncé and architect David Adjaye will feature, alongside other industry shakers.
The V&A’s history has previously come under scrutiny, due to links British colonialism in Africa – with many of its prized objects having been secured off the back of this past. The Maqdala treasures, for example, were taken from Ethiopia in 1868.
The V&A now aims to include more work by African and African Diaspora designers, and this exhibition is one way of doing so.
In a statement released by the V&A, it states that this new exhibition ‘forms part of a broader and ongoing V&A commitment to grow the museum’s permanent collection of work by African and African Diaspora designers, working collaboratively to tell new layered stories about the richness and diversity of African creativity, cultures, and histories, using fashion as a catalyst.’
The exhibition – which has been two years in the making – retraces clothing from the liberation years of the 1950s and 1960s, when 24 African nations freed themselves from colonial rule, up to modern day designers.
On display are more than 250 objects, including 70 that are new acquisitions for the museum and there are clothes featured by 40 contemporary designers.
Christine Checinska, a curator at the V&A, said: ‘We really see fashion as a catalyst with which to tell deeper, richer, expanded stories about the myriad histories and cultures across the continent.
‘And so we hope that our visitors will come away feeling inspired, and perhaps some assumptions might be challenged as well.
‘So it’s a space where you can think about African fashions, you can experience the buzz of the African fashion scene, and you can come away inspired, we hope, to find out more.’
Christine adds: ‘It was really important and actually vital to have this exhibition right now, because we see it’s the African creatives that are shifting the landscape of global fashion.
‘That’s how important their impact is right now. So they demand to be seen. They demand to be heard.
‘And we see their impact spilling out across global fashions.’
Africa Fashion is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum from July 2.
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