Abstracts Africa e Mediterraneo n. 85, 2016

Giovanna Parodi Da Passano, Agency, Interaction, Identity: Dressing in Africa

Thanks to the latest studies from different areas of expertise, it is widely understood that dress practices are performative worlds in Africa, crossed by a great artistic vitality and dynamism, and in some ways policies regarding the body and clothing are always related to tests of strength among people.

Adwoa Owusuaa Bobie, Unconventional Entrepreneurs: The Youth in the Ghanaian Fashion Industry

The paper presents a research conducted among 9 young Ghanaian fashion entrepreneurs, addressing their motivation to engage in this activity and their approach to fashion. The author highlights how the main drive of these young designers is the desire to make business and have their own activity: pushed by their love for fashion, they research the latest trends on Internet and re-elaborate them in their own, distinctively local way.

Anne Grosfilley, When Fashion Saves Textile: The Engagement of African Creators

Western fashion creators play with the African trend but they do not use genuine pieces of material made on the black continent: a big difference with the approach of the African pioneers in fashion designing who, since the 90s, have been returning to the local hand-made textiles to highlight the work of weavers and dyers. They paved the way to an “Africanized Africa”, suggesting durable and attractive garments to the new generations to compete with western ready-to-wear collections.

Sofia Vilarinho, Second-Hand Clothing: The Cutting Edge of the New Fashion in Maputo

This paper analyzes the circulation of second-hand clothing (the world of Mozambican fashion and specifically street fashion) in the city of Maputo, and it explains how Western “leftovers” are used as raw material to explore emergent designers’ creativity and to shape the personal style of new generations.

Marina Castagneto, African Fashion in Europe Speaks Another Language: The Case of Kanga

This work is dedicated to kanga, a peculiar and colorful garment that is the traditional dress amongst Swahili women and East-Coast African women. Yet, this printed wrap cloth is not just a garment but it constitutes a complex communicative sign, as it contains a printed inscription, by which a woman can send a message to the whole community or to a specific member of it. Once in the western world, kangas lose their communicative potentiality because they are detached from the context.

Stefania Ragusa, Experiences of African Fashion Publishing (Every Pie Has its Own Cherry)

African fashion is a strongly growing sector and circulation of fashion and lifestyle magazines is growing in the continent, but the big publishing companies ignore the market. In the meantime, in Africa many new successful publishing projects are gaining an increasing number of readers, carried out by little groups or single African women come back from abroad, like for example the women’s magazine « Glitz ».

Stephanie Birch, Anne Namatsi Lutomia, Con(Texts): Re-Examining the Social Life of Kanga Cloth

The paper targets the social life of kanga, the traditional textile used by women of the Swahili Coast of Africa. Kanga cloth is a place of communication for women, a place of resistance against the patriarchal society, where they can discuss conflict and be heard, bypassing the socially imposed rules of decency. Whereas the kanga has traditionally been used as a strategy for culturally and politically subversive commentary, the recent industrial production of generic tissue is de-politicizing the acts of wearing, gifting, or displaying the kanga.

Laura Soriano, Samuel Silveira Martins, Panos Tingidos, a New West African Brand: Adding Cultural Value to the Textile Industry of Guinea Bissau

Dyeing fabrics through Batik is a traditional cultural activity that has been carried out for centuries in Guinea Bissau, and that is closely linked to the Soninké ethnic group. Despite a decline of the activity at the beginning of the 90s and the consequent emigration of the Soninkés, the tradition of fabric dyeing remained a core element of cultural identity and the main source of income for the Soninkés. With this in mind, in 2013 the “Tchossan Soninké” project was launched with the goal of revitalizing the local industry and thus enabling those who had emigrated to return. This led to the creation of a new brand: Panos Tingidos, a brand that combines social and ethical responsibility.

Simone Cipriani, Innovation in African Textiles: a Move Away from Ethnic Characterisations

Weaving is often a tradition linked only to men. Women, because of the physical posture of the body in old weaving systems, could not access it. But, in the 80s, Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso introduced new weaving tools that “liberated” women, by allowing them to weave and to have a stake in an income generating activity previously reserved only to men. As a commercial product, African fabric is beautiful and has always been used in fashion collections, but there has been no investment in product development over the decades, though there is plenty of creative thinking and doing in Africa. Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), a flagship program of the International Trade Centre, works on these three points to reduce global poverty by involving micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world with international and regional trade.

Shina Alimi, Michael Olusegun Fajuyigbe, A Thematic and Contextual Analysis of Boko Haram in Selected Editorial Cartoons

In Nigeria cartoons are utilized by newspapers to convey information about the sociopolitical reality, as in the case of The Nation which offers a sharp representation of Boko Haram activities. Since 2015, the effort of Nigerian State in fighting Boko Haram insurgence has yielded positive results, and the role of the press in fighting Boko Haram has been and remain significant.

Rosario Giordano, “De la Terreur Salutaire”. Languages and Forms of the Violence in Leopold II’s Congo (1900-1908)

Reports known as Congo atrocities revealed the brutality of the red rubber system in Congo during Leopold II’s reign. This article examines the role played by some Congolese communities, who experimented with a number of effective communication strategies, and the contest of violence which forced some Europeans to justify the practices of brutality and make justifiably extreme measures.

Mustafa Rajab Younis, The City of Tripoli: Architectural and Urban Development Promoted by Balbo During his Governatorate in Libya (1934-1940)

This paper analyses the case of the city of Tripoli, which under Italo Balbo’s government experiences an intense construction activity and architectural modernization. The most relevant innovation was the construction of a new residential and commercial area. The aim of the project was propagandistic, in order to make Tripoli competitive with the other colonial capitals of African coast.

Mary Angela Schroth, Dual Identity in Mahdi Ehsaei’s “Afro Iran” Pictures at “WSP Photography”, Rome

Mahdi Ehsaei is a young Iranian photographer who lives in Germany. In her exhibition, “Afro Iran”, on show at “WSP Photography” in Rome, she displays pictures which depict the everyday life of the Afro-descendant minority in the Iranian Hormozgan region. With this project, Ehsaei aims to unveil an unknown and non-stereotypical aspect of Iran, by disorienting the viewer with pictures from the Persian Gulf that look like they were shot in an undefined African Country.

Mary Angela Schroth, A Farewell to Ousmane Sow (1935 – 2016)

Ousmane Sow, one of the most prominent African artists of the century, died on the 1st December 2016. He was born in Dakar but trained as a physiotherapist in Paris. There he gained extensive knowledge of the human body. In 1988 he carved his famous monumental sculptures featuring the Nubian wrestlers, a huge innovation in African art. His work, focused on heroism, memory, community and history, saw him receive numerous awards and become a point of reference in the world of international sculpture.