The first-ever Africa Fashion exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum is a testament to the resurgence of African design and cultural influence. Africa has been knocking at the door of mainstream fashion for decades.

The history of the African Cultural Renaissance. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The history of the African Cultural Renaissance. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

The wave of African Cultural Renaissance that first swept across the continent in the late 1950s, fuelled by colonial independence, was eroded in the late 20th Century when the continent embraced Western values and lifestyle. However, African pride is on the rise once again and natives are feverishly embracing local designs with as much enthusiasm as previous generations did more than six decades ago.

President Kwame Nkrumah and his cabinet wore the traditional kente cloth when Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African country to declare independence on 6 March 1957. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
President Kwame Nkrumah and his cabinet wore the traditional kente cloth when Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African country to declare independence on 6 March 1957. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey from the 1950s by showcasing, fashion designs, photography, and video reels from 25 of Africa’s 54 countries. It was carefully curated by the Goldsmiths’ College alum, Dr Christine Checinska, who is the Senior Curator African and diaspora textiles and fashion at the V&A.

The V&A Africa Fashion exhibition is the brainchild of Dr Christine Checinska. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The V&A Africa Fashion exhibition is the brainchild of Dr Christine Checinska. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

The exhibition will run from 2 July 2022 until 16 April 2023 and is generously sponsored by GRoW @ Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative founded by Annenberg Foundation Vice President and Director Gregory Annenberg Weingarten.

Head over to London's V&A museum before 16 April 2023. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Head over to London’s V&A museum before 16 April 2023. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

Here are ONGOLO’s top 10 picks from the exhibition:

#1 Kofi Ansah – The enfant terrible

The Kofi Ansah designs worn by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE and his wife Lady Ashley Shaw-Scott Adjaye at their 2014 wedding were featured in Vogue magazine. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The Kofi Ansah designs worn by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE and his wife Lady Ashley Shaw-Scott Adjaye at their 2014 wedding were featured in Vogue magazine. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

The Ghanian fashion designer remains highly influential in African fashion circles even though he passed away in 2014 at the age of 62. He studied fashion design at Chelsea School of Art between 1973 – 1977 and set up his label in London and Accra. He was the Founder and served as president of the Federation of African Designers.

Kofi Ansah Kente and synthetic lace dress (1996). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Kofi Ansah Kente and synthetic lace dress (1996). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The Kofi Ansah blue tie-dyed robe for men was part of the cross-cultural Blue Zone collection which was influenced by the Japanese kimono, West African robes and the judge's robe. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The Kofi Ansah blue tie-dyed robe for men was part of the cross-cultural Blue Zone collection which was influenced by the Japanese kimono, West African robes and the judge’s robe (1996). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#2 Imane Ayissi

Imane Ayissi silk and linen Cameroonian raffia (cape) and silk trousers from the Mbeuk Idourrou collection (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Imane Ayissi silk and linen Cameroonian raffia (cape) and silk trousers from the Mbeuk Idourrou collection (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

The 52-year-old Cameroonian haute couture fashion designer is the son of a former champion boxer and the first Miss Cameroon. He moved to Paris and worked as a model for high fashion brands such as Dior and then established himself as a designer in 2004. His accolades include becoming the first black African designer to showcase at Paris Haute Couture and he has dressed many celebrities including Zendaya.

Imane Ayissi silk and linen Cameroonian raffia (cape) and silk trousers from the Mbeuk Idourrou collection (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Imane Ayissi silk, hemp Cameroonian bark cloth flowers from the Akouma collection, Spring/ Summer 2020. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#3 Alphadi – The magician of the desert

Why is the designer Alphadi called the Magician of the Desert? ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Why is the designer Alphadi called the Magician of the Desert? ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

Born in Timbuktu, Mali, in 1955 and raised in Niger, Alphadi’s designs were heavily influenced by his Tuareg nomadic upbringing. He initially moved to Paris to study tourism but switched to study at Atelier Chardon Savard after a stint working backstage at Paris Fashion Week. He worked with some of fashion’s biggest names, including Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent.

On the left, a Kuba cloth (bustier) and woven raffia (skirt) from 1993. On the left, a cotton and brass dress (1988). Both by Alphadi. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
On the left, a Kuba cloth (bustier) and woven raffia (skirt) from 1993. On the left, a cotton and brass dress (1988). Both by Alphadi. ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#4 Christie Brown

Aisha Ayensu founded the Ghanaian luxury ready-to wear brand in 2008 and has since designed stage costumes for famous people including Beyonce.

On the left, a cotton-print and organza dress from the Christie Brown She is King collection (2019). On the right, a Christie Brown top, skirt and bonnet made from cotton-print and velvet (2018). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
On the left, a cotton-print and organza dress from the Christie Brown She is King collection (2019). On the right, a Christie Brown top, skirt and bonnet made from cotton-print and velvet (2018). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#5 Maison ARTC

Founded by Moroccan-based designer, Artsi Ifrach, specialises in making handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces made of vintage fabrics; using volume; and creating drama in his designs.

Artsi Ifrach dress made from organza, cotton embroidery, sequins, plastic fish bones and satin ribbon (2022). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Artsi Ifrach dress made from organza, cotton embroidery, sequins, plastic fish bones and satin ribbon (2022). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#6 Maxhosa Africa

Founded by South African Laduma Ngxokolo to incorporate traditional Xhosa design in knitwear, Maxhosa Africa is quickly establishing itself as the Missoni of Africa.

Maxhosa Africa knitted wool dress from the `Apropriyeyshin collection’ (2017). Knitted wool and silk shawl jacket and shorts from the Camagu collection (2015). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
Maxhosa Africa knitted wool dress from the `Apropriyeyshin collection’ (2017). Knitted wool and silk shawl jacket and shorts from the Camagu collection (2015). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#7 Nao Serati

The South African designer Neo Serati Mofammere founded the label in 2014 and creates unisex clothing and targets young consumers.

(Front left) Neo Serati woven lurex jacket, trousers, shirt, tie, hat (2020). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
(Front left) Neo Serati woven lurex jacket, trousers, shirt, tie, hat (2020). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#8 Lafalaise Dion

The Cote d’Ivoire jewellery designer is known as the Queen of Cowrie for incorporating cowrie shells, which are used across Africa to make jewellery and hair ornaments. Beyonce wore a Lafalaise Dion cowrie shell face mask in her Spirit music video.

The Lafalaise Dion 'Amazon' made from cowrie shells, beads and nylon (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The Lafalaise Dion ‘Amazon’ made from cowrie shells, beads and nylon (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#9 Adèle Dejak

The Nigerian-born designer makes hand-made, chunky, luxury pieces that are proudly African. Dejak studied law in the UK before embarking on a creative career after studying Typographic Design at the London College of Communication and then starting her accessories brand when she moved to Kenya.

The Adèle Dejak 'Faridah' necklace made from recycled glass (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
The Adèle Dejak ‘Faridah’ necklace made from recycled glass (2019). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba

#10 James Barnor and Studio X23

The Ghanaian photographer captured the beauty and style of blacks in Ghana and the African diaspora from the 1950s. He also served as a contributor for DRUM, Africa’s first black lifestyle magazine.

James Barnor photo: Sick-Hagemeyer shop assistant with bottles (1971). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
James Barnor photo: Sick-Hagemeyer shop assistant with bottles (1971). ONGOLO. Photo credit: Muloongo Muchelemba
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Bankelele

Will aim for the V&A on my next visit. 

Last time, got round to the Bank of England Museum and Tate Modern in London as well as the Fitzwilliam Museum of the University of Cambridge.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bankelele

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