African Heritage In Contemporary African Fashion
The interconnection between traditional African heritage and its re-interpretation into contemporary fashion in defining African fashion as we know it today has been established. This on-going interplay between contemporary fashion in Africa and historic cultural reference points expressed through native textiles have contributed significantly to shaping the African fashion narrative till date.
Key to the preservation of these historical cultural reference points are the artisans. They are the unsung heroes working behind the scenes, weaving into relevance ancient cultures, conserving traditional knowledge.
Each culture, region, or sometimes, even families have traditional craft knowledge passed down throughout the ages. In parts of Eastern Nigeria, it is Akwete, a unique handwoven textile made out of sisal-hemp, raffia and spun cotton. In Ghana, it is Kente, a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips. In Kenya, it is the beadwork of the Maasai women, and the list goes on.
Speaking to the Akwete weavers in Abia State, Nigeria, they recall learning the craft from their mothers and aunties, as young as the age of 10 and express their intention to pass the skill to their own children, not at the forefront, the consciousness to preserve the craft, but aware of the reality of what it affords them, an income to take care of their needs, and for their children the opportunity to sponsor themselves to university with income they can make from weaving Akwete.
It is this reality that provides the greatest opportunity. In that, artisanship provides income and employment for hundreds of thousands of people, with the potential to improve their welfare and status while simultaneously preserving traditional craft.