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Post-Colonial Fabrics in Contemporary African Art

by Yayra Sumah

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“Dutch wax print was rejected as an aesthetic in Indonesia and in Europe but embraced by West Africans for symbolic, aesthetic and cultural use. Today it is deeply integrated in the wide range of sartorial expressions that define contemporary African cultural identity. The creative incorporation of fabrics which are linked to colonial trade into African material culture has allowed for the assertion of an Afro-modern cultural identity that stands in contrast to colonial notions of a primitive and unchanging ‘essential’ African.”

In this essay, Yayra Sumah reflects on the use of “post-colonial fabrics as a critical intervention on identity politics, as a grammar that informs the reading of post-modern African artworks, and considers the limits of its usefulness in the deconstruction and re-imagination of what it means to be ‘African’ in the 21st century.”

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