Ghanaian Fashion and the interplay between African and National notions of heritage
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, UK
The focus of this paper will be on the changing fashion systems in Ghana in the last ten years. It will look especially at the interplay of quintessential Ghanaian textiles, kente cloths, and perceived quintessential African clothes, so-called African wax prints with its proper transnational 19th and 20th century history beyond Africa, in the production and marketing of local fashion. It will examine how contemporary Ghanaian fashion designers, such as Adoley Addo (JIL), Confidence Haugen (Konfidence) and Christie Brown, have been using these textiles and how their creations are marketed by using notions of heritage interchangeable between ‘Ghanaian’ and ‘African’. This will be discussed against the backdrop of a changing use of kente and wax cloth in the 21st century. People continued to use kente for special occasions, but the new fashions in kente cloths have shown a complete blending of kente traditions routed in different ethnic groups. The use of African wax cloths, with designs developed specifically for the Ghanaian market, has dramatically declined as daily wear fabrics and has also moved to the sphere of special occasions cloths.
Following and expanding the work of Rabine, this paper will look at the ways that the Ghanaian fashion systems not only challenges the dichotomy between tradition and modernity, and between western forms and other forms of dress, but also how the whole notion of heritage and authenticity is used in ways that redefine colonial and neo-colonial meanings.