Africa Fashion aims to celebrate the “irresistible creativity, ingenuity and unstoppable global impact of contemporary African fashions”, displaying over 250 objects, and designs, photographs and films from 25 of the 54 countries.
The exhibit will feature a range of designers, such as Shade Thomas-Fahm, Kofi Ansah, and Chris Seydou, who have worked with Beyoncé and architect David Adjaye.
New acquisitions, highlighting fashion trends of the day from across the continent, feature alongside personal testimonies, photographs from 10 families who responded to the museum’s public call-out, and an Alphadi dress of cotton and brass gifted to the museum by the designer.
The exhibition also includes work by Cameroonian couturier Imane Ayissi, Rwandan fashion house Moshions, and Naïma Bennis.
Dr Christine Checinska, senior curator for Africa and African Diaspora: Textiles and Fashion, said: “Our guiding principle for Africa Fashion is the foregrounding of individual African voices and perspectives.
“The exhibition presents African fashions as a self-defining art form that reveals the richness and diversity of African histories and cultures. To showcase all fashions across such a vast region would be to attempt the impossible.
“Instead, Africa Fashion celebrates the vitality and innovation of a selection of fashion creatives, exploring the work of the vanguard in the twentieth century and the creatives at the heart of this eclectic and cosmopolitan scene today. We hope this exhibition will spark a renegotiation of the geography of fashion and become a game-changer for the field.”
The exhibition comes more than 170 years after the V&A was first founded.
The V&A’s collections, like many British museums, have come under renewed scrutiny following the removal of statues linked to colonialism during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
In a statement released by the V&A, it states that this new exhibition “forms part of a broader and ongoing V&A commitment to grow the museum’s permanent collection of work by African and African Diaspora designers, working collaboratively to tell new layered stories about the richness and diversity of African creativity, cultures, and histories, using fashion as a catalyst”.
The exhibition is accompanied by a wider public programme focused on Africa Fashion, including in-conversations and talks, learning events, music performances and free to attend live events.
Africa Fashion opens on Saturday 2 July 2022