Monday, August 20, 2012

Afrocentrism Gets Tainted Pretty

Johannesburg is choked with traffic (thanks to exhaust emissions, choke is indeed the operative word), the city is a dodgy area (by any Sandtonian’s standard anyway) and it’s a tad grimy. But boy is it inspirational. My city is bustling with creative potential, because it is the historic meeting point of culture and the streets as we’ve come to know them.  Fashion in the city of Johannesburg is phenomenal; the fusion between tradition and city-fuelled tenacity is mind-blowing.

We saw the Afrocentric touch ‘toyi-toyi’ onto the fashion scene last year with much aplomb, dominating the runway for Donna Karan, Gucci, Tom Ford and Jewely by Lisa most notably, but as Africans, we don’t always look trendy when we go full on tribal. Let’s just say that the village laughter can still be heard for the petite lady in her kaftan and desert boots, pretending to ‘blend in’.

Now keep in mind that Afrocentrism in fashion goes beyond tribal and animal prints. In Johannesburg, it has become a trend which delves into “Sophiatown Flavour”, bringing traditional elements like earthy colours and crafted textures into contemporary pieces.

Necklace from Lulu Belle
Some people call it a blatant abuse of what should be cherished heritage but I think that Tainted Afrocentrism is nothing short of genius. And the people seem to agree. Trend aficionados all over the country have decided to take tribal to the streets, and used the village vibe to accentuate the Sophiatown Flavour that I’ve been stalking, bringing the Afrocentric trend to an environment of modernity.

Afrocentrism has become a very symbolic trend, where an electric blue turban screams Tainted Afrocentrism, and nude brogues scream contemporary Sophiatown. And why shouldn’t Afrocentrism evolve to a city feel? Africa’s interpretation of fashion trends has been boxed in for far too long as being ‘just safari’ and ‘just rural’, and I’m devouring this new wave of Afrocentric street style.

Gumboots are not a colonial style imposition in this city anymore; they are a symbol of appreciation of the men on whose backs this city was built.

A brogue is not a mere A/W trend either; it’s a hereditary piece, linking us to the city through the fashion of our parents and grandparents.

Afrocentricism to me transcends the common perception of multi-coloured prints and brightly beaded adornments. In the same way that our politics and societies have evolved, so has our influence on fashion and our interpretation of it.

But let’s not get carried off on that political bombshell, the best thing about the Afrocentric trend is the freedom of expression. Tainted Afrocentrism has got to be one of the most fun trends to interpret, particularly because of its tongue-in-cheek nature; it’s the one trend that always makes me smile.

Remember when your parents told you how you never respected your heritage or culture? Ah, if they could only see us now...

The Inspirations:

Dolly Rathebe in a paisley headscarf and THAT Drum covershot

Miriam Makeba headgear and the Mama Afrika smile

Sophiatown- the jewellery, the jazz, the knee-length dresses, and the scene that made headlines

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