Imane Ayissi, France (couture house) <br/>
Imane Ayissi (designer)<br/>
<em>Look 16, trousers and cape</em>, from the <em>Mbeuk Idourrou</em> collection, autumn–winter 2019, Paris, France<br/>
Courtesy Victoria and Albert Musuem, London<br/>
Photo © Fabrice Malard, courtesy of Imane Ayissi
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Imane Ayissi, France (couture house) 
Imane Ayissi (designer)
Media Release • 4 Mar 24

Africa Fashion: showstopping exhibition of fashion from the V&A featuring 50+ designers from more than 20 countries in Africa

Africa Fashion – the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of fashion from the African continent ever mounted in Australia – presents a dynamic survey of historical and contemporary designs from some of the most influential fashion designers in the region.

Coming to Melbourne from the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London and on display from 31 May 2024, the Australian premiere of Africa Fashion features nearly 200 works, including couture, bespoke and ready-to-wear fashions, and body adornments, from over 50 designers from more than 20 countries and regions on the African continent.

With works drawn from the collection of the V&A, NGV Collection as well as the personal archives of designers represented in the show, the exhibition features outstanding designs from some of the icons of twentieth century African fashion scene, including Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou and Kofi Ansah. The exhibition will also profile contemporary designers working today, with meticulously crafted designs by Imane Ayissi, IAMISIGO, Moshions, Thebe Magugu and Sindiso Khumalo.

Through a visually arresting selection of garments, displayed alongside an array of accessories, textiles, film and photography, the exhibition celebrates the creativity, innovation and indelible global impact of African fashions from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. The exhibition reveals a thriving and dynamic fashion culture that is as diverse and varied as the continent itself.

Foregrounding African voices and experiences, Africa Fashion also features personal insights from the designers, together with sketches, editorial spreads and catwalk footage that combined offer fascinating insight into the creativity powering the industry.

For the Melbourne exhibition, the NGV invites members from Australia’s African diaspora to be a part of the presentation by submitting personal photographs collected through a public call out via NGV’s online platforms and local community networks. Many of these digitised fashion stories and images will find expression in the exhibition, or across the NGV’s website and social media platforms.

Africa Fashion curator Dr Christine Checinska, Senior Curator African and African Diaspora: Textiles and Fashion at the V&A, said: ‘We hope Africa Fashion will inspire future generations of creative young people to engage with the arts through fashion and textiles. We are excited to share the exhibition with audiences in Melbourne.

‘The African fashion scene is as diverse as the continent itself – there is a sense of abundance rather than lack, an unbounded creativity, and an exercising of agency that for me is really engaging. We look forward to sharing a glimpse of the glamour and politics of the scene with audiences in Melbourne.’

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: ‘Fashion has the unique ability to express so much about who we are as individuals, but also as communities. This exhibition – the most comprehensive ever staged on this subject in Australia – presents a rare opportunity to share the dynamism and diversity of African fashion design with the Australian public and introduce the talents of these extraordinary designers to a whole new audience.’

The exhibition is structured into two parts. Starting with the African independence movement and the liberation years, Africa Fashion illuminates the important role of fashion – alongside art, film, literature and music – in the cultural renaissance of the mid-twentieth century, when African nations began to reclaim their independence. The exhibition explores how these revolutionary ideas have shaped contemporary notions of African identity, politics and culture. Designers represented in this section include Alphadi and Näma Bennis, among others.

Complementing this, the section titled Cutting Edge presents contemporary couture, ready-to-wear, made-to-order and adornment, offering a close-up look at the new generation of ground-breaking designers, collectives, stylists and fashion photographers working in Africa today, including Maxhosa, Loza Maelombho, Christie Brown and Rich Mninsi. Unique to the NGV presentation will be new works from recent collections by Imane Ayissi, Lagos Space Programme, Orange Culture and Loza Maléombho.

The Global Africa section of the exhibition explores how the digital world has accelerated the expansion of the industry, irreversibly transforming fashions as we know them. From global fashion weeks to celebrity wearers, performers and the role of social media, Africa Fashion champions the diversity and ingenuity of the continent’s contemporary fashion scene. Highlight works here include the outfit worn by Tiwa Savage by Tongoro at the Africa Music Awards, an ODI – Onder Die Invloed outfit worn by Sho Madjozi and a newly commissioned series of photographs shot and styled by Ibrahim Kamara.

In the centre of the exhibition, the sections titled Capturing Change and Through the Photographers Lens focus on photographic portraiture and look at the connection between fashion and self-representation. Highlights from this section include the late-twentieth century studio photography from Sanlé Sory, Michel Papami Kameni and Rachidi Bissiriou and the contemporary work of Stephen Tayo, Sarah Waiswa, Gouled Ahmed, along with by Atong Atem, Lakin Ogunbanwo and Phumzile Khanyile drawn from the NGV Collection.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a rich public program, featuring local artists and designers, as well as co-presented programs and activities with local organisations, developed by the Africa Fashion Program Co-Curator, Dorcas Maphakela.

Africa Fashion will be on display from 31 May to 6 October 2024 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Admission fees apply. Further information and tickets are available via the NGV website: NGV.MELBOURNE

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