”Not African Enough?” Global Dynamics and Local Contestations over Dress Practice and Fashion Design in Zambia
Keywords:African Dress, Print Fashion, Designers and Tailors, Secondhand Clothing
AbstractAfrica has been placed on the global fashion map by print and electronic media, movies like the Black Panther, and international and local fashion weeks that are attracting attention to its creative talents. Embedded in histories of regional and international trade, colonialism, and globalization, fashion in Africa today is diverse and multidirectional, responding to and interacting with transglobal inspirations. Even then, how to tell this history is a matter of fraught debate that continues to invoke worn-out dichotomies such as African/Western and traditional/modern. Issues about cultural appropriation and authenticity continue to arise. Two recent examples serve as illustration: The book, Not African Enough? (2017), featuring clothes in minimalistic styles created by Kenyan designers intent on stepping beyond the confines of what the world, and Africans, are told it means to dress African, and the description of garments made from print fabrics that are worn widely across most of the continent as ”not African” due to the origin of their manufacturing process in Europe in the mid- to late 1800s. Views like these prevent us from identifying the inventive autonomy in today’s outpouring of dress and fashion creations as African. Because the meanings of dress always are context dependent, the usages of both of these dress styles play out together rather than in opposition to one another. Such processes unfold across Africa, including in countries like Zambia, the focus of this article. Examining the changing place of African print fabric in fashion design and everyday dress practice involving imported secondhand clothing, I explore how changing historical connections, political and economic forces along with global interconnections are shaping how women dress in Zambia.
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