Arise, Africa

Sunday, October 07, 2012    

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Suzy Menkes, writing for the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times, alerted us in May that Africa was in the news "not for the sad and familiar reasons of conflict and suffering... but was entering the fashion arena, with the quality of its handwork, artistic creativity and its potential for economic growth bringing Africa literally in vogue".

Hers was not the only voice; the editor-in- chief of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani, presented in the May Uomo Vogue an all-Africa magazine with images of beauty and grace far removed from violence and poverty. "All the pictures are made in a glamorous way - there is nothing sad, trashy or poor," she said. "People may say that Vogue does not want to talk about sickness and poverty, but if we can give an uplifting image, it is helping people who would not have considered Africa at all."

Indeed, Nigerian top model-cum-contributing editor for Vogue Italia Yomi Abiola is as determined as her editor to change the perception of Africa and, indeed, designers and people of colour. "I really wish," she shared with SO during a recent trip to Jamaica, " that it wouldn't be about blackness at all. I don't even want to talk about that anymore. If you're talented, you're talented and you should receive the kudos for being talented."

Nollywood actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde is yet another voice out of Africa. Her dream is to have Hollywood knocking on Africa's doors. It's no pipe dream, when one considers that 1,093 films are produced in Nigeria each year compared with 555 in the USA, this according to a 2011 UNESCO survey.

Local style arbiter Karen Neita sees Africa as positioning itself as a force to be reckoned with. " I saw the Arise magazine insertion in the September issue of Vogue and subsequently saw the CNN feature - on Arise's journey to New York Fashionweek with five African designers. It made me sit up and take note. Truth be told, we all need to sit up and take note."

SO shares lessons from Arise magazine International Managing Director Penny McDonald as we perhaps consider our own fashion experience and fate.



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