From Ghana to Niger and beyond, fashion in Africa is a performance art, a showcase for the work of traditional master artisans, and a spectator sport. Fashion is increasingly recognized as a significant component of the cultural, social, economic, and even political expression of contemporary life around the world.
The occupations and industries that support African fashion are typically grounded in the traditional knowledge, histories, artistry, and skills of local communities. As a community‐centered cultural heritage enterprise, fashion provides opportunities for people to identify and appreciate the handmade.
Crafts of African Fashion is an initiative promoting the continuity of heritage arts in Africa, exploring the important role cultural enterprises play in sustaining communities and connecting generations on the continent and throughout the diaspora.
At the 2018 Folklife Festival Marketplace, the National Museum of African Art, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we featured demonstrations, workshops, a short film series, and other activities. Visitors learned how textile and adornment artists—weavers, dyers, leather workers, designers—contribute their knowledge, values, skills, and local aesthetics to contemporary global fashion while sustaining time-honored traditions.