The Victoria & Albert Museum is globally renowned for its blockbuster fashion exhibitions, having taken a deep dive into subjects as varied as handbags, kimonos and underwear, and hosting retrospectives on the likes of Christian Dior, Frida Kahlo, Balenciaga and Mary Quant. Today it announces that its next major show will be a celebration of African fashion.
Opening June 2022, Africa Fashion will be “celebrating the irresistible creativity, ingenuity and unstoppable global impact of contemporary African fashions as dynamic and varied as the continent itself.” Curated by Dr Christine Checinska, curator of African diaspora fashion, over 250 objects sourced from the personal archives of contemporary African creatives will sit alongside the V&A’s in-house collection of textiles and photographs – many of which will be on display for the first time ever.
Focusing on the first generation of African designers to gain global attention – from Shade Thomas-Fahm and Chris Seydou to Kofi Ansah and Alphadi – the exhibition will “trace their rise and impact, their creative process and inspirations, brought to life by real stories from those who loved and wore their distinctive designs.” Much like the Mary Quant exhibition, the V&A is issuing a call-out for the general public to submit their garments and personal testimonies to bring the show to life. Items the museum is looking for include:
• 1980s experimental garments in bògòlanfini by Chris Seydou.
• Twentieth century kente, bògòlanfini, khanga and commemorative cloths from the independence and liberation years that connect to personal stories.
• Family portraits and home movies from the independence and liberation years showing African and African diasporic fashion trends of the day.
• Made-to-order garments, including aso ebi, co-created by local tailors, dressmakers and their clients, worn at festivals or to mark significant personal milestones, from 2010 onwards.
• Copies of Drum Magazine from 1950-1970.
“Help us tell this visually compelling story of unbounded creativity, agency and self-fashioning,” Checinska says. “Check attics, trunks, family photo albums and home movies for the chance to feature in our exhibition.”