View In A Room
Add to Favorites
Printmaking: Screenprinting on Soft (Yarn, Cotton, Fabric).
The African Shirt Series began to take shape on my third trip to Africa, in 2015. I noticed that everywhere I went, the standard clothing choice was secondhand clothing from America. Everyone from the small children to the elderly wore out fashion clothing, American high school shirts, or t-shirts adorned with icons of western pop culture. I would see men wearing worn purple tuxedo shirts to their day jobs and small girls wearing a Smurfette shirt from the 80s. I knew this was because Americans had a desire to “help” those in Africa.
When I was in Uganda, I noticed that while everyone was wearing American secondhand clothing, in the mornings the women tended to themselves in fabrics. It was their equivalent of sweatpants before they got ready for their day. When I took a closer look at these fabrics, they were beautiful- full of color, designs, and patterns. I started asking questions about them and I was informed that the fabrics were the traditional fabrics of east Africa.
It was a hard thing to reconcile. Why would they wear threadbare junk, when they could be wearing these beautiful fabrics?
After asking a lot of questions and doing some research, I discovered that the textile industry in Africa had been decimated. For most agrarian cultures, one of the primary ways to industrialize is to produce textiles and clothing. Africa had been robbed of this opportunity of development by American charity. Why produce clothing when it is being shipped on to the continent by the ton for free? And the small industry that was being producing those African fabrics had be taken over and industrialized by Chinese corporations.
So why do Africans wear our old clothes? Because the wealthy countries didn’t stop to see that just because our globalization allows us to be charitable on a mass scale, doesn’t mean it always good for those receiving it.
Because of this I wanted to create a series about clothing that masked the beautiful fabrics with a plaid shirt, which I see as standard archetypal piece of clothing from the west.
Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection