By Omiko Awa
AS the aphorism goes, as you are dressed, so you are addressed, the book African Fabrics and Arts for Corporate Africa: Our Identity, Unity and Economic Revival raises issues of cultural identification and calls captains of industry, opinion moulders and policy makers to look into making Africans dress African in all areas of life, including workplaces.
Written by Chinasa Ugoala, the book purses an advocacy to adopt the African fabrics beyond the frontiers of fancy and the glamour of fashion. She expounds how dress functions as a compelling political language, comparable in eloquence and potency to words of skilled orators or the writing of persuasive propagandists.
Hinging her views on that of Hildi Hendrickson, the author states that European fashions are designed to sweep away the culture and traditions of colonial Africans. She informs that Africa with its numerous designers, making waves in different aspect of fashion industry across the globe, has come of age to break free from the cycle of defeatist mentality and dependency on non-African for virtually everything.
Chinasa queries the authorities of those that determine what makes a corporate wear and asserts that European wears are some of the badges or emblems of continuous slavery.
The 134-page book maintains that each generation has the power to determine its fate and decide what the next generation would be, and if we must be free from modern slavery or imperialism, Africans must reclaim their cultural identity.
She asserts that culture reflects the inner consciousness of who we are, and how that identity is manifested through an outward expression of how we feel about who we are, which is translated and expressed through our dress, the use of our arts and other products manufactured locally.
Chinasa informs that Europeans line their cloths with nylon fabrics because of the intensity of the cold weather, which does not suit our climate, but rather subject us to discomforts. She infers that Europeans make their dresses without due considerations to Africans and their weather and calls for our leaders to note this and make our designers to come up with cloths that tell whom we are and suit our weather.
The author notes that countries such as New Zealand, China, USA, South Africa Republic and others, have manipulated the western fabric to suit their cultural agenda and urges Nigeria to emulate them.
Medically, Chinasa states that the tie commonly worn by men as part of European dress generates heat and disturbs blood circulation around the neck; a situation that is often not palatable to hypertensive patients. On the use of stocks, she notes that the footwear is worn by the westerns to keep warm and unfavorable to African climate because it makes the Africans to be susceptible to fungi infection such as Athlete’s foot.
Apart from the beauty and flexibility, the book exposes the meanings of the various patterns and colours used in African fabric as follows: Pink it says, is associated with tenderness, calmness, pleasantries and sweetness; Purle (ritual and healing purpose), Maroon (power to repel malevolent spirit), Black (spiritual maturity and potency), Gold (royalty, wealth, glory and spiritual purity). Unlike the colours the patterns are used to express philosophical ideas or mantras like Isana, which means ‘he whose house is on fire does not go to sleep’; Oni, ‘the stream may dry, the water course will remain’; Sekeseke, ‘he who has nobody to tie him up should never go mad’. The author notes that these are everyday lessons, which wearers of African fabric carry alone.
Highlighting the various economic benefits the author explains that adopting the African cloths, arts and decoys in all areas of our life will help revive and develop the textile industry, promote tourism, create job opportunities, alleviate poverty; reduce the dependency on oil and open up our mono-economy.
Published in 2008, Chinasa through the book calls on Africans, especially Nigerians to brand its fashion and art to form part of the universal trend that would bring out the African consciousness, revive African culture and raise socio-economic values.
The project is laudable, but Chinasa in her copious quote of the Bible narrows her readership. For she should have balanced this with quotes from other religious books, knowing that most things in this part of the world, even in academics, are structured to ward this divide.
Also, it should be pointed out that banks are not among the highest employers of labour as she makes us to believe in page 43, rather this sector is a major player in any country’s industrialisation as they make funds available, but in term of engaging labour they take the backseat.
Lastly, the prints displayed as Tiv cloths are not true, they are rather for the general use of the Igbo and their eastern neighbour, this also reflected on the names those prints are called. The Tiv traditional cloths are striped in nature and are made of cotton.
Despite this, it must be noted that Chinasa has created agenda for our leaders to discuss.