This year the continent will celebrate Africa Day in the midst of a pandemic with the aim still to promote and support the creative industry through culture and social cohesion on the continent. Africa Day was created to increase appreciation, awareness and demand for African arts and culture as well as services, all in anticipation of inspiring intra-Africa trade and trade beyond the continents borders.
Although celebrations this year may take a different format, it is important to recognise some designers in a vibrant sector that have managed to put the essence and character of Africa onto the world stage and screens. In a sense, through fashion, these designers have been carving their interpretation of Africa’s character out of the shadows and placing it in the limelight to show its dominance, originality and social currency. These designers have not only shown the beauty of the African aesthetic but have illustrated the meaning of different African cultures, design and colours which speak to self-love and self-validation.
Fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa Africa, South Africa
If his work is not on world renowned runways, it’s on the biggest screens watched by citizens all over the world. In March 2021, some of the cast members on the movie set for ‘Coming to America 2’, wore showstopper MaXhosa Africa’s designs. Laduma “the Missoni of Africa” Ngxokolo, is the creative mind behind the brand which he started in 2010 after creating a college thesis collection inspired by a ceremonial rite of passage in the Xhosa tribal group. In 2020, he celebrated 10 years in business and has subsequently positioned himself uniquely as an African heritage luxury brand. MaXhosa is grounded in culture and Xhosa history, drawing inspiration from traditional Xhosa beadwork and apparel to produce its signature bold, colorful, geometric-patterned, luxuriously knitted textiles. The aim of the brand is to impart and instill black pride – for the world to see that in Africa there is and always has been luxury.
Fashion designer Amza Niyonzima of Masa Mara, Rwanda
Amza Niyonzima’s love for fashion and African culture started at a young age. As a young boy, he pedantically put his outfits together, and used his outfits as a form of expression to be a symbol of his culture, taste and his enthusiasm for life.
He has previously been invited for African Fashion Week in Amsterdam and Bennie Fashion Week in 2017. This year he has been selected to showcase his new Masa Mara expression of fashion at the forthcoming African Fashion International (AFI) and Pan-African network of creatives scheduled for May 25 in South Africa. His new collection captures and defines his ever-evolving nature, and represents a new direction for his brand aspirations. Masa Mara, which means “The Brave One”. The collection makes use of colours and African symbols of different cultures and tribes to redesign prints to tell a better and brighter African story from an African child’s eye.
Fashion designer Margaux Rusita of Margaux Wong, Burundi
Margaux Rusita is a Guyanese/Burundian designer based in Burundi. Her fashion forward organisation, Margaux Wong, is celebrated for its excellent skill of turning rare cow horn and brass into deluxe and wearable art. The creative director works with her team to manufacture different artisan jewelry, making use of traditional methods. Pieces created by the team at Margaux Wong ooze African richness and the organic pieces don a present-day design matured through tradition. Margaux Wong as an organisation was recently selected to be part of the talent invited to join the Designer Accelerator Programme from the Ethical Fashion Initiative, an organisation that bridges the gap between local artisans to the global market.
Through these designers, the world has seen the beauty of maintaining a true cultural narrative, while engaging with fashionable ideas for design and look. The Coronavirus pandemic may have shut down many industries, but it hasn’t slowed down Africa’s zeal to express itself in a way that exudes cultural pride. It is exhilarating to see the level of workmanship and innovation that African creatives are producing right now. May the new ways of celebrating Africa Month inspire us to rewrite a future for Africa without forgetting our past and continue to contribute to our continent’s creative future..