The ties of style and fashion have been well documented over the years carefully living out fashion narratives that did not fit the agenda of colonialism. This has made institutions search for African
Erica De Greef who is the co-founder of AFRI and her other
colleagues started a series of workshops exploring new patterns of fashion design from the 17th and 19th of January 2024. A workshop was held at Rhoo Hlatswayo Art Centre (RHAC) which was oriented on making new patterns of history and telling new narratives that celebrate the cohesive relationship of music and fashion.
It had been one of their longest ambitions to explore their concept of new patterns in the township of Daveyton, for it holds a rich history about fashion and Jazz that had not yet been told.
The first session of the workshop took a turn with a round of nostalgia connected to certain fashion items that were bought for the workshop. These items had a lot of shared stories that connected to their emotions toward fashion. It also highlighted what fashion is about, which is a medium of expression, self-esteem, and emotions. Sustainability and thrifting were also discussed as an identifying fashion element that has been renamed with the township of Daveyton, recollecting the history of the township’s infamous legends.
Certain pieces such as denim, leather, and formal jackets were also dated back as the symbol of power which people in the township would represent by wearing them. As the table discussion continued colonialism was also reviewed on its greater impact on fashion and style as well, as how people consumed things and communicated their wealth and social status in their locality.
Shortly after the table discussion was concluded Sfiso Mnisi and Angela Jansen held a dialogue which was about decolonizing style or fashion as well as the concept of subcultures from the perspective of their consumption. Jansen mentioned how fashion has been used as a medium of communicating social status which was also influenced by the superiority of Western culture during the days of colonisation. She said that when she was working on unlearning her prescribed curriculum around the history of fashion she felt the need to explore cultural dresses and learn more about what was not included in textbooks and curriculums offered by fashion institutions.
Sfiso Mnisi who is a senior lecturer at the Department of Communications and Media at the University of Johannesburg, talked about his study of the concept of consumption and how it affected the interpretation of style and fashion about subcultures he had studied. During his dialogue with Jansen, he said, “The things that people consume or the act of consumption itself is not random. It is not just randomly picked clothes because you might be picking them without being consciously aware of
your decision but some factors influence the decision to buy certain clothes or the decision to not buy certain clothes”.
The dialogue reflected upon how decolonizing fashion went as far as undoing the influence of Western fashion culture and bringing back the locality and uniqueness of classes, tribes, and other cultures. It also looked at the history of fashion and its impact on consumption which leads to where we are now by decolonizing fashion.
The last session of the day introduced the peak of the workshop which would focus on the fusion of Daveyton fashion history recreated in a fictional setting that gives perspective to fashion, style, and music of that era. This was done by connecting music specifically Jazz to the personality of people living in that era of Daveyton. The session was focused on the research aspect of bringing about the exact extract moment that would be recreated through the workshop. It included collective ideas about the type of style and clothes that were worn at that time as well as the tune and melodies of the music that must have been played.
The workshop proceeded with a general welcome to the second day of the workshop and reassessing the progress of the workshop. There was also a research recap which involved reflections and updates on each aspect of the conducted research and creative development. This also included the identification of new patterns needed to enhance the much anticipated moment. To put everything into action, they also used the help of technology through Green screen to transport present moments taken through the photoshoot back to the past, giving visuals to the untold stories of the township.
Some upcycling, photography, and model fittings were also done so that the preparation for the moment came to life. The music team also started with their rehearsals to live up to the memories of Jazz clubs in the township.
“We will have a few patrons and a Jazz band and because we have done the research they will all names and stories as well as a history that will be re-perfomed and filmed as if it happened. So we are staging that historical moment as if it happened,” explained De Greef.
On the final day of the workshop, final edits and garment preparations were done one last time before the final shootings. The location set-up for the event was also done before the historical event could take
place at Brima Cafe. When the much anticipated moment arrived the narrative of a day in the Jazz club to n 1963 was retold and captured as another turning point in Daveyton’s history. The event became a huge success and brought about new patterns of making history.
By Rhulani Fundzama