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African Influences in European Fashion Design

Elizabeth Kutesko

Source: Fashion Photography Archive 2015

Article

Since the late nineteenth century, European fashion design has been lured by the exotic “otherness” of Africa as a source of creative inspiration and exotic raw materials, such as ivory and tropical woods, for use in luxury consumer goods. The more recent stylistic appropriation, since the 1970s, of African motifs, patterns, and color combinations has became increasingly prominent in European fashion and needs to be understood as part of the industry’s continual cross-cultural pursuit of innovati

Chloé

Morna Laing

Source: Fashion Photography Archive 2015

Designer Biography

Yoruba in Nigeria and Diaspora

Rowland Abiodun

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Yoruba people number well over thirty million from about sixteen ancient kingdoms. They spread all over southwestern Nigeria and extend well into the neighboring countries of Benin and Togo. The Yoruba have been urbanized since the first millennium c.e. and are well known for their fine artistic achievements, especially the naturalistic life-size bronze heads and terra-cotta sculptures of Ile-Ife. In addition to being among the most accomplished carvers in wood and ivory in Africa, the Yoruba

Benin

Joseph C.E. Adande

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Republic of Benin is bounded in the south by the Atlantic Ocean, in the north by Niger and Burkina Faso, in the east by Nigeria, and in the west by Togo. Thus, it naturally shares both history and culture with the peoples of these neighboring countries. In Benin, clothing, regardless of definition, is as complex and varied as its numerous linguistic groups. In the Benin Republic, Vodun adepts and masquerade performers dress primarily to please their gods and offer them the appropriate manifes

Togo

Agbenyega Adedze

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Although dress in Togo is similar to that of its neighbors in West Africa, it has distinctive features that make it unique in the region. It is quite common for citizens of neighboring countries like Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ghana to identify a Togolese national by his or her clothes even though similar styles of dress might be present in these countries. Like most regions of the world, environment affects clothing choices, especially evident in practices distinguishing the north and the south of

Colonialism to Independence

Heather Marie Akou

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

A colony, also referred to as an overseas possession (a term used by imperial powers in the nineteenth century) or non-self-governing territory (a term used by the United Nations), is essentially a region governed by an external authority. From 1874 to 1957, for example, the present-day nation of Ghana was known as the Gold Coast, a colony ruled by the British Empire. On the African continent, colonies were established through settlement, commercial enterprises, treaties, or sometimes invasion. T

Somalia

Heather Marie Akou

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa. The northern coast is less than one hundred miles from the Arabian Peninsula and shares a great deal of history and dress with that region. In the cities, houses are built with thick walls to keep out the heat; in the deserts, nomadic people live in shelters constructed of branches covered with leather or plastic, and distinct differences in dress exist. Nomadic dress has typically been more practical and flexible, consisting of leather, cotton wrappers,

Burqini

Heather Marie Akou

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Global Perspectives 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The burqini is a full-body swimsuit that combines the terms burqa and bikini. Aheda Zanetti, an Australian designer of Lebanese descent, created the burqini in 2006 as an alternative form of dress for Muslim women serving as lifeguards in Australia. Within months it became available to the general public worldwide. Buyers have included both Muslims and non-Muslims, who wear it for reasons ranging from modesty, to protection from UV light, to enhanced athletic performance. Similar full-body swimsu

Lower Niger Delta Peoples and Diaspora

Martha G. Anderson and E. J. Alagoa

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The inhabitants of the Niger Delta speak dozens of languages and represent nine different language groups. Populations range in size from the Ijo, a diverse group of about two million who live in communities spread throughout the Delta, to the Defaka, who number only about two hundred and occupy a single village. Larger groups include the Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, Ikwerre, Ekpeye, Ogoni, and Obolo (or Andoni). Most Delta groups have maintained their own languages and distinct identities, but they

Headdresses and Hairdos

Mary Jo Arnoldi

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Headwear has been an important feature of everyday wear and ceremonial display in Africa from ancient times to the present day. Hats and hairstyles can mark or celebrate changes in the life cycle, denote a person’s status in the community, signal membership in a religious or initiation society, designate key participants at rituals and festivals, or identify political and religious leaders and occupational specialists. Hats designed for daily wear provide pragmatic solutions to the problem of phy

Mali

Mary Jo Arnoldi

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Mali, in West Africa, is landlocked and borders seven countries. Although Mali has experienced rapid urbanization since the mid-twentieth century, the majority of Malians still live in rural communities. There are over fourteen ethnic groups in Mali. The basic everyday dress of cotton tunics, knee-length trousers, and caps for men, and wrappers and shawls for women remained popular in rural communities in south-central Mali well into the mid-twentieth century. Ethnic variations do exist but are m

Body Modification and Body Art

Lisa Aronson

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The U.S. anthropologist Enid Schildkrout characterizes the body as a “site where culture is inscribed (and) a place where the individual is defined and inserted into the cultural landscape.” Cultures throughout the African continent use the transformed body as means for expressing identities, norms, values, and aesthetic principles through a wide range of body art media, including everything from scarification, tattooing, painting, and oiling the skin to styling the hair and reshaping designated

West Africa

Lisa Aronson

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

West African markets are well known for their tightly packed displays of textiles in rich arrays of colors and patterns, and tailors on their sewing machines can be heard everywhere sewing visually striking garments that seldom go unnoticed when worn in public. So vital and richly varied are textiles in West Africa that even prominent contemporary artists such as El Anatsui from Ghana and Nigeria and Yinka Shonibare from Nigeria are inspired by them as powerful mediums for discourse on historical

Morocco

Cynthia J. Becker

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Morocco has long been a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa, and dress reflects the richness of its history as well as its geographic and cultural diversity. Forty to sixty percent of the Moroccan population is Berber, and many Berbers have retained their indigenous language. After the Phoenicians and then the Romans settled in Morocco and encountered the Berbers, Arabs moved into Morocco in the seventh century, founding the city of Fes and gradually converting the

Tsonga Dress and Fashion

Rayda Becker

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

All Tsonga in South Africa originate from Mozambique. A small group, they have a complex history involving various migrations and names; Tsonga now primarily denotes a language. In the early 1900s Tsonga women wore skirts made of imported cotton, and beaded jewelry. Later the skirts became shorter and fuller and are now made of wool. The main changes over the last century involve the upper body, the beaded necklaces worn in the 1930s giving way to blouses and T-shirts, worn with the minceka, two

Malawi

Barbara W. Blackmun

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Landlocked Malawi is situated in southeast Africa. It has a large lake, a varied topography and climate, and a diverse population. Dress traditions reflect the country’s checkered history, involving foreign influence through migration, trade, and invasion. Nguni warriors from Natal conquered lakeside farming communities in the 1850s, and Arab and Yao slave traders later devastated the land, which became a British protectorate in 1890. Previously, the Maravi and Yao peoples were renowned ironworke

Okpella

Jean M. Borgatti

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Okpella dress as known from the twentieth century includes both everyday wear and dress associated with ritual and festive events, notably clothing associated with men’s and women’s title taking. For men, this includes garments donned during age-group ceremonies, the preliminary event for all subsequent title taking, as well as the apron and feathered crown worn during the Oghalo ceremony, the completion of which admits them into the body of titled elders who, in the past, formed the ruling counc

Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo

Elisabeth L. Cameron

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Before France and Belgium divided the area in the late nineteenth century, the Republic of Congo (capital Brazzaville) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (capital Kinshasa) were a continuous area that shared cultural traits, including fashion and body art. When the Portuguese arrived at the mouth of the Congo River in the late fifteenth century, they were amazed by the high quality of the raffia cloths produced in the Congo area. The Portuguese introduced European cloth and fashions, and two of

Kuba Dress and Textiles

Elisabeth L. Cameron

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Dress in the ter Kuba kingdom (Democratic Republic of Congo), whether daily wear or ceremonial, marks both rank and prosperity. Men’s and women’s festive dress is an ensemble of skirt, hat, and other beaded and decorated accessories. Rank is indicated through the use of specific items such as eagle or owl feathers, the wearing of certain skirt styles, and restriction of some metals. The density and rarity of added materials demonstrates the resources a family or clan can control and thus their af

Tunisia

Meriem Chida

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Libya and Algeria. The earliest inhabitants, called the Imazighen, spoke Berber languages and predated the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Vandals, the Byzantines, and the Arabs. Until the early seventh century, Imazighen women wore a draped dress like the Greek chiton and the Roman toga, fastened with silver fibulae, with a woolen or leather sash wrapped around the waist. In the seventh century, Arabs brought Islam to Tunisia and influenced local d

Masquerade, Theater, Dance Costumes

Herbert M. Cole

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

African masquerades, perhaps the continent’s premier art form, play grandly with illusion, ambivalence, and paradox. Masks and masquerades are both more, and less, than what they appear to be. Their illusionist play can be comic and lighthearted, or deeply serious, but always it is creative and imaginative, art and artifice. Never is it ordinary, and usually it is deeply meaningful and sometimes powerfully instrumental. Masquerades both create and help organize values and knowledge, and they are

Igbo in Nigeria and Diaspora

Herbert M. Cole

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

One of the largest populations of West African peoples at over twenty million, the Igbo have a history of dress and personal decoration lasting over one thousand years. The archaeological sites of Igbo Ukwu, dating from the ninth and tenth centuries c.e., begin this record in the heart of Igbo country, twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) east of the Niger River and about one hundred miles (one hundred sixty-one kilometers) north of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the documentation is largely blank

The Kingdom of Benin

Kathy Curnow

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Kingdom of Benin, a historically important traditional state, is located in southern Nigeria just north of the Niger River Delta. For centuries, its Edo people have looked to Benin City as their cultural center. The seat of a hereditary kingship, it is also a university town and state capital. The oba, its semidivine monarch, still exerts considerable influence even though the modern nation has usurped most of his political privileges. About two hundred chiefs assist him and form the aristocr

South Africa Overview

Patricia Davison

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

South Africa offers a rich field for exploring the symbolic language of dress in the varied contexts of everyday life. It is a country of many cultural layers, with eleven official languages and a relatively recent history of racial segregation and imposed ethnically based “homelands.” After 1994, however, when South Africa became a multiparty democracy, the new nation aspired to be united in its diversity, even though the inequalities of the past remained embedded in many social institutions and

The Nigerian Fashion Scene

LaRay Denzer

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Since the advent of daily newspapers in the late 1920s, the print media have been an important source of information on fashion and style, especially the Daily Times of Nigeria (founded 1926) and the West African Pilot (founded 1937). Both newspapers regularly featured women’s columns, often including photographs of contemporary European fashion, sometimes with pattern instructions for various styles. This was particularly useful for local dressmakers and tailors who sewed to order as well as for

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