Symbolic Economies of the Logo: Contemporary Senegalese Streetwear in Historic Perspective
University of California, USA
In order to produce their own Senegalese version of urban street wear, young graffiti artists create logos and brands. In what appears simple imitation of U.S. mass-consumer lines, the artists create an original fashion within the Senegalese, fashion system. Through their hand-made logos they resignify the mass-market logos and brands of U.S. corporations like Nike and The Gap. They aim to create a liberating identity for their generation and to declare independence from neo-colonialism. The graffiti artist/designers transform the mode of production, the meaning and the purpose of the U.S. corporate logo. Because they had no models for producing logos on clothing, they re-invented the production process through a self-taught odyssey of trial and error. They produce within the cherished, inherited values of artisanal creativity and pride in the ingenuity to create fabulous things with a dire lack of material resources. The meaning of the logos, as pioneer graffiti artist Big Key says, “reflects daily life.” Artists require their logos to embody what they call a “concept,” to convey a complex, socially conscious message. As artists in a culture that values the “aesthetic,” they believe they have the responsibility to lead the younger generation to progressive action through their urban murals and their urban fashions.
Key Words: African fashion, Senegalese fashion, Dakar fashion, hip hop, graffiti art, street wear, logos and branding.