Recap: The Afroklectic x The:nublk x Tam+Sam Meetup at AACDD

September 26, 2013

On Saturday night was Tam+Sam, IAMTHENUBLACK and Afroklectic’s meet up at the African Afro-Caribbean Design Diaspora (AACDD) 2013 exhibition entitled ‘Moving On at Oxo Tower.

I don’t know how long it is going to take me to wipe away the ‘Kid just arrived in a candy store’ look every time I go to an Afro-based event. Days prior to the meet up, I was fortunate enough to meet Lulu Kitololo of Afri-Love and she kindly invited me to the Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom at the Southbank Centre. A tribute to Nelson Mandela’s life, work and the revolutionary political change he brought about in South Africa, leading writers, poets, musicians, performers and spoken word artists perform pieces in his honour and read twenty-seven extracts from his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom.If you told me to describe the event, I would be able to. I was left speechless and still am. It was just amazing.The exhibition/meet-up just topped everything that week. Four floors of diverse work by African and Afro-Caribbean artists and apparently there was more last year. To me, it was the Tateof Afro-art (slight exaggeration). I wonder when these events will seem normal to me, because in my head I am starting to think that Australia is a remote village with great weather. When really, we are just a really small population who are slowly catching onto the creative wave.Top floor at the boutique level run by Mosaic Events, there was an interesting conversation which I had with one of the stall owners. I got to this particular stall and saw Kente pillowcases. First thing I thought was ‘That’s can’t be real Kente?‘ So I touched and then I thought ‘What has this women done to this prestigious fabric? Does she realise how much this stuff costs?‘. Then I remembered a situation Sefakor and I encountered a few years ago. We just happened to walk into a quirky interiors store in Sydney and we stumbled across a piece of Kente. We were shocked, because it was just there. It seemed so random when you compared it to all the other items in the store. The owner started a conversation which he wished he never started.
It went something like this….Owner: Oh isn’t that gorgeous pieces of fabric
Sef & I: Yes it is. What is it used for?
Owner: I used it as a table runner or decoration at the end of my end (Horror engulfs our faces. He has no idea what this fabric is for or the importance of it)
Sef & I: Where did you get this from?
Owner: I can’t say
Sef & I: Do you know where it is from?
Owner: My friend who is African got it a few months ago on her trip to Africa.
Sef & I: Where is your friend from?
Owner: I cannot say
Sef & I: Why?
Owner: (Get all red faced) I just can’t. (Somehow he ends up something like South Africa.)
More horror engulfed our faces.So we kindly and firmly gave him a history lesson on what the fabric was used for and the significance of the fabric. We told him he should know the stories behind what he is selling because we have just caught him out and that’s unprofessional for a store owner. It must have been a good 15 minutes walk to the train station that day and we vented about the store owner the whole way there and on the train.Questions engulfed mind when I saw the pillowcases to the point that I think the questions I was asking in my head came through my facial expressions and a conversation started with Samantha White of Mefie. We started talking about the pillowcases and I found out that she’s Canadian and her partner is Ghanaian and that’s where her interest for Kente developed. After a lengthy conversation, I realised that as much as I love Kente and I own a few, the way I think of Kente is not like Samantha. I can’t match that. I know it’s a treasure piece of Ghanaian culture. A unique piece of hand woven fabric with the most amazing colour combinations, but the way Samantha talked about Kente, It would never occur to me to use it as a pillowcase. I would feel like I am devaluing it because it’s expensive, prestigious and it’s used for special occasions. It’s the fabric both my grandparents were buried in and the fabric I expect my whole family to wear the day I get married. Because I see Kente in this prestigious light cultural, it’s hard to think of it in any other form.

I turned the pillowcase over and realised it was a contrasting pattern. I thought ‘Wow! This is a well thought out pillowcase’. I wasn’t expecting that. Samantha choses the colours for the cases and works with the weavers and makers on the contrasting effect. Creating a new visual of Kente which I now admire. I must admit that her story about the pillowcases sells you. I told her that if she wasn’t there, I would have walked away disappointed that someone has just cut up Kente and made a pillowcase. Besides that, Samantha has bags handmade bags from Madagascar and leather bags made with wax print. Check out how she covers Africa with her Mefielabel.I wish I could go through all the great designs and artworks I saw, but that’s a long list. Abi WrightSena Kpodo, House of Arike and Afrique Authentique- Authentic Africa just to mention a few. Check out our instagram (@afroklectic), I have posted some of my favourite pieces with the artist’s name in the description.
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Special thanks goes to all the ladies who attended. It was a pleasure meeting you all, in particular Gabrielle Smith of IAMTHENUBLACK and Tamisha Harris of Tam+Sam who organised the meet-up.

4 comments

  • christiana addison

    I got so excited about this event only to find out its happening in london.

  • Samantha

    Hi Gillean- thanks so much for your post. I love your perspective on Kente and I know exactly what you mean about the prestige of the fabric. I think that the prestige of kente will never be lost through Mefie but just finding new ways to cherish it and ensuring that people understand what it is that they are buying and the time it takes to make this beautiful weave.

    I suppose as someone who has not grown up in Ghana I am not as emotionally attached to it but have respect for the craftsmanship and want to promote it for its prestige and beauty.

    I am now back in Ghana and will be meeting with the weavers next week for an interview on the craft and more about the artistry so I will be in touch to get your perspective on where we are going…

    Speak soon
    Samantha

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