Art Diary

Africa Fashion

1 July 2022

This collection of more than 250 works at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2 July–16 April 2023) celebrates the ingenuity of contemporary African creatives. Beginning with the gaining of independence from the colonial powers in the late 1950s, the exhibition reveals how the sense of liberation that followed paved the way for innovators across the fields of fashion, music and visual arts. This is seen in the section titled ‘African Cultural Renaissance’, which illustrates this period of innovation with a display of works by the members of the Mbari Club – the group of African creatives founded in Nigeria in 1961 – alongside artwork for the seminal album Beasts of No Nation (1989) by Fela Kuti. Additional highlights include the ‘The Vanguard’ display, featuring works by many of the first mid 20th-century African designers to gain international recognition, such as Shade Thomas-Fahm’s reinterpretation of the traditional wrapped Nigerian ìró. Finally, the exhibition turns to the present day, exploring how contemporary artists are continuing to reimagine traditional garments; the section ‘Co-Creation’ includes a display of bespoke wedding outfits created by the celebrated late designer Kofi Ansah. Find out more on the V&A’s website. 

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Chasing Evil collection 2020, IAMISIGO. Courtesy IAMISIGO.

Chasing Evil collection 2020, IAMISIGO. Photo: Maganga Mwagogo; courtesy IAMISIGO

Freedom in my hand I Bring, A.G. Leventis & Co, Manchester (c. 1960). Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Holding hands in Lagos, Nigeria (2019). Courtesy Lagos Fashion Week; photo: Stephen Tayo

Holding hands in Lagos, Nigeria, 2019. Photo: Stephen Tayo; © courtesy Lagos Fashion Week

Shade Thomas Fahm in the late 1960s at Simpson Street factory, Lagos.

Shade Thomas Fahm in the late 1960s at Simpson Street factory, Lagos.