EXHIBITION AT THE SMITHSONIAN’S SHOWS THE BEAUTIFUL LOOK OF THE NIGERIAN BOURGEOISIE OF THE MID-1950S

In September 2014, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art launched an exhibition of the work of Nigerian photographer Solomon Osagie Alonge. Alonge (1911-1994) was the official photographer at the Royal Court of Benin, but he did not document only gatherings and rituals. He also ran a studio (opened in 1942) where he took pictures of up-and-coming Nigerians of the pre-and post-independence decades. Alonge’s portraits capture history …

THE BLACK SELFIE: LOZA MALÉOMBHO’S #ALIENEDITS

On March 6th, 2015 Tumblr and other social media hosted the first BlackOutDay to counter the notion that beauty is a whites-only affair. According to a statement published in the official page of the movement, on BlackOutDay black users “like and reblog selfies of each other and fill our dashboards with encouragement”. Since then, the day has been made seasonal, with the second event taking …

WINDRUSH STYLE 1948

Today the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) in London remembers the mooring at Tilbury Docks of the first Empire Windrush ship to the United Kingdom in 1948 with some great pictures of Caribbean immigrants in their best clothes and a post on Tumblr. The clothes captured in the shots encapsulate the hopes and expectations of thousands of imperial subjects who left the West Indies in search …

WHY RETRO-LOOKING PHOTOGRAPHY MATTERS FOR FASHION BLOGGING

This post contains theoretical annotations on photo-manipulation that I am collecting for a publication on retro-looking fashion photography. *** Digital photography is the main medium of dissemination of vernacular sartorialism and, by extension, of the afrosartorial aesthetic. Selfies are the currency of countless blogs that promote racial cool/beauty/pride (Pham 2015), while fashion blogging depends on digital photography to document emerging trends (Rocamora …

TOWNSHIP FASHION GOES GLOBAL: BOYS OF SOWETO FOR BEN SHERMAN

To promote its 2015 Autumn Winter collection, Ben Sherman released a fashion film shot in Johannesburg in collaboration with a team of African talents. These include South African American director Meja Shoba, the Congolese musician Pierre Kwenders, and the Johannesburg-based collective Boys of Soweto (BOS), featuring as protagonists and stylists. The two-minute film takes place on a sports field, where three …

WHITENESS IS (ALSO) IN THE DRESS: BACKRA BLUID BY STACEY TYRELL

Stacey Tyrell is a Canadian artist who uses photography to explore themes of race, identity, and heritage in the African diaspora. In her most recent work, “Backra Bluid”, she envisions the hybrid lineage of Afro-diasporans, creating a gallery of self-portraits in which she impersonates her white ancestors. The titles of the photographs report only the name and age of each subject, leaving the viewer to guess the history …

FASHION FILMS, KENYAN HERITAGE, AND PROMOTIONAL AUDIOVISUAL HYBRIDS

Recently, I have had the pleasure to get back in touch with some wonderful colleagues from my previous research project (conducted at the Centre for Digital Cultures of Leuphana University) on audiovisual paratexts. They invited me to contribute to their blog Watching the Trailer that investigates the viewing/consuming context of trailers (what place, what media, what else is occurring and what comes after), and …

JÉRÉMY BARNIAUD’S PHOTOGRAPHY: BLIPSTERS REAPPROPRIATING THE STREETS

Dynamic Africa, a platform that focuses on the popular culture and visual aesthetics of contemporary Africanness, has recently reblogged on its Tumblr account a photostory by Jérémy Barniaud on black male fashion. No garment openly invokes ‘traditional’ African items, but the creative syncretism that fuses past and present sartorial languages recalls the hipster aesthetics of acclaimed street style icons from the continents, like Loux …