The Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) has opened its first African Fashion exhibition, an attempt by the V&A to address its colonial past.
The landmark exhibition “African Fashion” features sketches, photographs, films, objects, and designs dating back to the African liberation years, many of which are nearly a century old.
That’s because the Museum’s history is closely linked to colonialism. As it was founded in 1852, many of its collections were established as Queen Victoria simultaneously expanded the British Empire throughout Africa.
Due to its colonial roots and racism, African art and culture were frequently misrepresented in the museum. This is also part of a long-running prejudice against the African Diaspora demonstrated by fine arts museums and galleries worldwide.
Their colonial roots can also be seen in its Asian collections, which feature exhibits that date back to the India Museum, established by the East India Company in 1801.
The exhibition has different sections: African Cultural Renaissance, Afrotopia, Cutting-Edge, The Vanguard, Mixology, and more.
Many of these sections explore themes such as gender, race, sexual identity, fashion politics, fashion sustainability, and African liberation.
The idea that African fashion is also political is a recurring theme in many of these, using symbolism and historical context to explain the concept.
Many of the garments presented in the exhibition are collected from the caches of famous African designers from the past century.
The exhibition is live until Sunday, 16, April 2023, and will hopefully pave the way for more future African art and fashion exhibitions.
The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design. According to its website, it houses a permanent collection of over 2.8 million objects, archives, and books that span more than 5,000 years of human creativity.
Many of the UK’s national collections and resources for studying architecture, furniture, fashion, photography, Asian art, and design are held in the V&A.
It originally began as a Museum of Manufactures in 1852, and fast forward to the present day, it has constantly evolving state-of-the-art galleries.
Lead curator Christine Checinksa outright called the exhibition a part of the V&A’s “ongoing commitment to the foreground work by African heritage creatives.”
Elizabeth Murray, the project’s curator, stated that she wanted to provide a glimpse into the glamour and politics of the fashion scene in Africa in a message sent to the press agency AFP.
The exhibition celebrates the African fashion scene in the present day, with the creativity of the designers, stylists, and photographers.