photo (c):Fabiola Jean-Louis
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, Georgia, Erika Gayla Massaquoi, Ph.D. has been recruited to contribute to the special exhibit on African fashion and art. Although you probably don’t recognize her name, the Seattle-born designer, curator and entrepreneur is well known across the country for her expertise in contemporary art, having curatorial projects in museums from coast to coast. She has also been an educator, teaching classes at NYU, The New School for and Yale University, and serving as Assistant Dean at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Other than museum exhibits, she is also busy running The Oula Company that sources textiles from all over the world to create highly influential global design, stimulate economic development and encourage cultural exchange.
In her latest work, Massaquoi has teamed up with Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., Director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and art historian, curator, and writer. Together, they produced the museum’s latest exhibition called “AFRICAN FORECAST: Fashioning Contemporary Life” which is an exploration of fashion through “an ever-changing global marketplace and the unique ways that the black women throughout the African Diaspora construct their lives.” In the exhibit, you will observe how fashion influences their daily lives and how it shapes cultural perspectives, allowing you to look beyond the textiles and understand their complex cultural and social perspectives. In addition to garments, the exhibit also includes photographs, videos, paintings, and sculptures.
While many international designers are lauded in NYFW and other shows across the fashion capitals of the world, it’s clear there is a disproportionate representation of culture in both men’s and women’s wear, with only a select few having global reach. Last year, the New York Times revealed the lack of ethnic diversity in American fashion. With there actually being more high profile African American designers back in the 1970s compared to the present. Additionally, in 2015, only a mere 12 out of the 470 African-American members sat on the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Diversity continues to be an issue in this country’s fashion industry, which is why exhibits such as AFRICAN FORECAST carries more weight than others, with the displays not only demonstrating new approaches to dressing, but also social relationships and activism. Lifestyle publication, The Scene spotlights more women of color that redefine standards of fashion and beauty, in the hope that the world realizes that African fashion is not just about style. Rather, it’s a cultural movement and tells us stories of people, history, and change that should be revered and celebrated.
AFRICAN FORECAST opened on September 15th and will run through December 3rd.