Power of African fashion celebrated in landmark exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum

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Kofi Ansah 'Indigo' Couture 1997.
Garments: Kofi Ansah 'Indigo' Couture. Accessories: Katie Torda Dagadu at 'Suntrade'. Models: Emmanuel Narh 'Taller' Gaduga & Linda Tsirakasu Location: La Trade Fair, Accra - Ghana. Assistant: Naana Orleans-Amissah. Photographer: Eric Don-Arthur.

Kofi Ansah 'Indigo' Couture 1997.

 

There’s a distinct buzz around the Africa Fashion exhibition at London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum.

The event, which opened in July and stretches across two floors, is a fascinating mixture of fashion from the mid-20th Century to the present day, told through photography, film, magazines and mannequins.

It features the work of 45 designers from more than 20 countries, and has more than 250 objects on display, 70 of which are new acquisitions. Starting with the period when many African nations were declaring independence, the exhibition examines the role fashion played in the continent’s cultural renaissance.

More than 50 mannequins have been dressed in exquisite outfits showcasing Africa’s creative spirit. It is colourful and fun, but there is a purpose.

“I think for us fashion is a kind of catalyst through which we can give people a glimpse into the myriad histories and cultures on the continent,” said Christine Checinska, the lead curator. “That’s also what we hope people will take away — just the sheer thrill and relish of the potential of African creativity.”

“There’s a real sense of collective power, and a sense of pan-Africanism in spite of difference,” she added.

The exhibition features the work of some of the most important names in the development of African fashion, including Folashade “Shade” Thomas-Fahm, who is often described as Nigeria’s first modern designer.

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