Saturday, 5 June 2010


fisttap AfricaIsACountry
This is the work of Sergei Mouangue, a Cameroonian living in Tokyo, Japan who has used African java prints to make fusion style kimonos.

From the youtube page:
The name WAfrica is a combination of the word for Japanese spirit, "wa," and Africa.

"In 2007, I experimented with Japanese kimono by producing them with African fabrics," says Serge Mouangue, who has been working in Tokyo for the past three years as a conceptual car designer for Nissan Motor Company. "After showing them to Japanese audiences, many people felt the resulting garment existed beyond boundaries it was neither Japanese nor African, it was part of a heretofore unknown world, a 'third aesthetic'."

A Cameroonian, Mouangue has produced his kimono in collaboration with Odasho, a 150-year-old Kyoto-based kimono maker. "I want people to experience the birth of totally new cultural dimensions," Mouangue says. "West Africa and Japan have never truly met when it comes to their historical traditions, thus with the WAfrica kimono, I realized that there is the possibility of creating something complete original a third aesthetic that is more than a simple blending of two existing cultures."
The New York magazine Paper says: "By highlighting the histories and beauty of the two (cultures), Serge Mouangue creates something glorious and sublime."

My Two Cents: The work is beautiful no doubt, but I'm reminded of Dr Ivan van Sertima (see African Presence in Early Asia) and even more, I'm thinking of Yinka Shonibare and what he's doing with his art. The notion of one creating something 'new' is something I tend to avoid making claims to and co-signing on (although at times I do), but I think Shonibare makes the point, very clearly in his work that African textiles are borrowed, no kultcha is authentic - even that to which we fervently cling to as the real mccoy is borrowed or modified through intercultural encounter, be it violent or peaceful. Some of the java print patterns are sourced in Holland (I'm sure peops from the Big A have seen the name Vlisco on chitenges (the printed cloths) - it's a Dutch company). They are also printed and exported from the UK and on-the-cheap; Thailand and Malaysia then they are sold in the markets from Lusaka to Victoria to Accra to Bamako. So if we're talking about Asian and African textiles we're actually talking about global appropriations coming together to make something seemly authentic fuse with another globally appropriated kultcha. Africa and 'the Far East' have had many cultural exchanges at many historical periods, but perhaps not in a contemporary form such as this, so yes Serge Mouange brings summin' phresh to the game - maaad props to him. From the perspective of a cultural critic there is much to be said about how this work symbolizes the implicit and explicit intimate connections of people.

1 comment:

uglyblackjohn said...

I'd like to see textiles from Asia and Africa used to make traditional Native American garments, and NA and African textiles used to make kimonos, and then Asian silk and NA textiles used to make African garments.