Friday, 16 May 2008

Fashionable Flair

This post marks the first of what I hope will culminate in a series that portrays the intriguing influences from our ancestors and how they have contributed, with or without our knowledge, to shape us “modern” folk.

It invariably grates me when certain members of society judge others as “backward”, "uncivilised" or “undeveloped” for prevailing in their traditional ways of life. Interestingly, Victorian (late 19th to early 20th century) women’s fashion, when Britain was a colonial power, incorporated bustles to their dresses in order to create the illusion of a large derriere, bears an undoubtedly striking resemblance to this boy's elaborate attire in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

Curious, isn’t it?

If my high-school-cum-crash-course-French is accurate, my source for the image on the left suggested that this boy and other youngsters had adorned themselves in body paint and transformed themselves into works of art that were reminiscent of Picasso or Paul Klee. Once again, I’d like to suggest the contrary - it is their work that is reminiscent of African art. It is well known that Picasso got his inspiration from African art forms, notably masks. I rest my case.

I'm trying to put up less garrulous posts. Not a bad start, huh.

Image 1: Boy in Omo Valley, from Le Figaro Magazine; Image 2: Victorian woman, from Living History


Mwangi said...

Consider garrulous added to my vocab, especially considering I do it so much ;)
At this stage of my life, I think we should be way past the "Africa gave this to the world so they shouldn't look down on us debate."
I think it's time for us to look past that, let the media do what they want to do, look inward fix ourselves, work in our communities, i.e. try to fix the substance rather than arguing about how the image is portrayed.
Let's use blogs like ours to revive Aime's work ignoring whether or not "Soul Food" portrays Africans as ignorant and instead working on fixing the Africans who are ignorant.

Sci-culturist said...

@ mwangi - it's a good word isn't it? :)

seriously though, i have realised that perhaps i was trying too hard to be concise and missed out on being clear as i have instigated a response i did not expect.

my main aim as i said is to show how our ancestors have influenced us. period. it is not my intention here to give others a reason to respect Africans, but simply to exhibit how the past influences the present - a subject that i am passionate about. hopefully in my further posts this will become explicit.

i think there were 3 things that i alluded to in this post: (1) the similarities between the 2 images struck me and for me, it was ironic because the victorians did look down upon the partially naked "natives" and set out to civilise them/us(2) hence the question what does it mean to be developed? (3) i was responding to the text that accompanied the image of the boy, which in my view, is flawed.--perhaps this is where you interprated this post to be about "Africa gave this to the world so they shouldn't look down on us.."?

having said that, seeing as you have brought it up, i do think that how the image is portrayed is important and whoever is doing that should be accountable. after all, images are a powerful means of communication. i dont believe that questioning this is mutually exclusive with looking inward to fix ourselves.

i suspect my rambling self is back....

Mwangi said...

True.....but given the 80/20 Analysis, I intuitively feel that we should probably spend about 80% working hard on the substance and 20% on the image.
I think on the blogosphere a lot of the time we tend-since it is a multimedia platform-to spend way too much time discussing image rather than using the platform to come up with concrete solutions to substance problems.
Clearly your post just provoked something I have been obsessed with over the past couple of days, I even have a post on it coming up. We should act more and talk less, we are already so intelligent and know most of the problems that face us, let's get to work fixing them rather than......I don't want to begin ranting so I will purge my garrulous nature and sign off (you know I had to force the word into a sentence somehow ;) )

Sci-culturist said...

@ mwangi - you raise some valid points regardless. i appreciate that our perceptions are down to our own, individual realities.

i agree with what you say re: words vs. actions. i look forward to your post - gawd, i cant keep up with you!! :) perhaps we can carry on the discussion there or on e-mail as i am starting to think we are slightly digressing here from the intention of this post...indeed we can both be rather garrulous ;)

this condensed 2-way convo makes me want to have a more elaborate discussion with you over a cuppa. let me know when you venture out from down under to the not-so-sunny climes of britannia, wont you!

Mwangi said...

My post on actions vs studying and thinking should be coming up in about 4 or 5 days ( I put it on a scheduler so it's already done). We shall resume the discussion then to avoid "contaminating" ;) this post.
Will do: I want to become a full time blogger over the coming months and travel to the UK to visit my extended fam so me thinks that is a definite possibility.