The history of Nigerian art, culture and textiles become hidden in industrial trade wars between India and China: wars that have made it impossible for the Nigerian textile industry to grow and develop. Developing a local supply chain as well as supporting artists as cultural ambassadors for gorgeous textiles across the sectors and the world is the way we need to go. Flo Awolaja is doing just that…
Above: Nigerian Wax Prints: as you can see they’re rich and imaginative….need a home!
In Nigeria now, after thirty years of the same kind of warehouse capitalism that we have in Britain, importing cheap goods from China and India by containers which have prevented diversity in the economy, now there’s a renaissance of the Cotton Textile and Garment sector.
After a long period of mediocre, throwaway fabric which has resulted in the decimation of the garment industry (because fabric from China and India was often smuggled to ensure import tax wasn’t paid, often for years), so the government couldn’t build infrastructure. When you think about the war on terror, perhaps the real war is the actual trade war against post colonial countries being able to build normative relationships where trade boundaries between countries can be respected and they can build the badly needed infrastructure.
1985-1991 25% of all jobs in Nigeria in textiles, over that period the number of textile mills in Nigeria fell in that period from 175 to 25. (research by Brookings Institution) In 2004 there were just 10. Over the last five years, pressure from the Nigerian industry has resulted in Chinese investment pledge to build a state of the art industrial park
If you want to look at dress in Yoruba land here are some sources
and great Nigerian fashion designer Amaka Osakw Maki,
In the recent film, Black Panther, costume designer Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler and Walé Oyéjidé of Ikiré Jones created tribes, each with their own distinctive style. Ruth and Hannah were inspired by the wool collection of South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo’s Maxhosa range, the tailoring of Ghanaian-British designer Ozwald Boateng and the silhouettes and prints of US-based Nigerian couturier Duro Olowu, (quoted in The Atlantic) There were also nods to the dapper street style of Congolese sapeurs and the Afrofuturist originality of Afropunk festival-goers.
Above: Stills from Black Panther highlighting the gorgeous fabrics and clothes. The film grossed $700 million
Speaking to Flo Awolaja about her influences (she works in collage so I’ve researched some history, below):
opencity: What inspires you?
Flo Awolaja: What I see and feel, my heritage, my children, my parents work ethic and wanting to produce something for now.
opencity: What is it about your creative processes that differentiates you?
Flo Awolaja: I take a scholarly and reflective approach to art and work across media. Early training at home to draw to express and idea and graphic design has given me the confidence to work across media and disciplines.
opencity: What draws you to the different facets of your creative process?
Flo Awolaja: I think deeply: I’m convinced that through art and culture we’ll move forward.
opencity: Where do you find inspiration when creating these majestic works? I think you need to see them and almost want to touch them…
Flo Awolaja: I feel overawed by the tradition and history behind me and that I am impelled to communicate through art, collage, word and image, textiles, paint, graphic design, poetry. All of these are the strands that I continually weave, pick and unpick.
opencity: What effect has others appreciation of the beauty you bring had on you in your everyday life and when you are contemplating your next creative project?
Flo Awolaja: I feel grateful and inspired to reach more people with the next project…
opencity: How much time and effort does it take you to compose a written piece so that it continues to resonate in the reader…?
Flo Awolaja: I think in images, and sounds: so anything that touches memory and connections may result in different media to express it: all of the work I do seems to interweave and connect, so I will be making a collage and I will realise that I am growing a different project which could be poetry, which could be filmic…I’m planning to begin a doctorate which will look at the practice and transmission of art across cultures and history. Projects evolve over years.
Below, for those who are interested in collage, creativity and Nigerian cultural history and Flo, some interesting excerpts from research.
Rebecca Varley-Winter (Cambridge), ‘Collage love affairs: Mina Loy’s “Song to Joannes” and Marianne Moore’s “Marriage”’
Above: Mina Loy and Hannah Hoch in the 1920’s and 30’s, crossing poetry, image and painting.
Mechanism of collage
A ready-made reality, whose naïve destination has the air of having been fixed, once and for all (a canoe), finding itself in the presence of another and hardly less absurd reality (a vacuum cleaner), in a place where both of them must feel displaced (a forest), will, by this very fact, escape […] into a new absolute value, true and poetic: canoe and vacuum cleaner will make love. The mechanism of collage, […] is revealed by this very simple example. – Max Ernst /
The term collage, describing artworks created by cutting and pasting, comes from the French coller (to paste), but also has a double meaning: collage or ménage à colle was slang for an illicit relationship. Surrealist artist Max Ernst winks at this through his allegory of collage as an unlikely romance between a canoe and a vacuum cleaner, likening the meeting of incongruous objects to a love affair. /
Mina Loy’s ‘Songs to Joannes’ (1917) and Marianne Moore’s ‘Marriage’ (1923) both centre on relationships between men and women, and have been described as ‘collages’ due to the radical juxtapositions within them. Both poems place emphasis on material objects and the meeting of opposites, and arguably use collage-like techniques. However, Ernst conceives of collage as liberation, an artform akin to free love; Loy and Moore set this liberating potential against the strictures of established gender roles, both invoking and questioning the ideal transformative encounter that Ernst claims to find in the material act of cutting and pasting.