Fashion, the future in Tisch Commons: ASA hosts Annual Fashion Show
A daring and colorful display of Blackness and African culture, the African Students Association’s 2020 Fashion Show and cultural exposition reminded audience members to look to the past in order to grab on to the future, Friday, Feb. 28. Hosted by sophomores Nana Kusi and Yohanes Mulat, the African Students Association (ASA) brought us into the future with this year’s theme, “Sankofa: Into the Afroverse.”
The fashion show featured a total of six different walks: a parade of flags, three different walks showcasing traditional, current and future iterations of African culture and fashion, a jewelry walk showcasing jewelry by a local artist and one which featured work by local designer Adjo. The walks were accompanied by a variety of musical and dance performances from members of the Washington University and St. Louis communities.
“I met a lot of students that I’ve never seen before, primarily African students. And I have a better understanding of ASA and how their programming works,” sophomore Karinton Triplett, who walked in the show for the first time this year, said. “Last year I just thought it was a really beautiful culmination of just like, Black people…And they looked really confident and they made Black look really beautiful, and I was like, ‘I have to do that.’”
The first walk, the parade of flags, serves as a way to showcase the variety of culture stemming from the continent on Wash. U.’s campus. Every flag shown during this walk corresponded to an African country that is represented on campus.
The first performance of the night came from sophomore Sandra Dweh. Dweh performed a traditional dance native to her home, the Ivory Coast. The dance, Zaouli, is a traditional dance of the Guro people, which Dweh performed with skill and energy as she engaged with the crowd while completing the steps. Following her performance was the second walk of the evening featuring traditional garb from Somalia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Togo and Ghana. The models strutted down the makeshift aisle to the music of DJ Tay, adding little movements and stunts that kept the crowd’s energy up and would continue to do so as the night progressed.
The second performance of the evening came from Lamine, a St. Louis based group that performed on the traditional West African djembe drum, which was followed by the third walk, the jewelry walk. Local artist Patrice Hill had her jewelry showcased during this walk, and was also sold before, during intermission and after the fashion show. After Hill’s jewelry made its way down the runway, a performance of Gumboot dancing captivated the audience. The precursor to modern-day stepping, Gumboot dancing arose out of a history of oppressive apartheid laws. Stomping and clapping to the beat, the Gumboot dancers brought historical meaning and broader cultural importance to a dance style most of the audience only knew as part of step shows and other performances that so heavily influence the culture of Black Greek life.
Senior and current ASA President Chibueze Agwu has been through four fashion shows during his time at Wash. U. Of his time as a student here, Agwu stated that “ASA and the fashion show have kinda raised me…Looking at some of the freshmen…as they walked [for the first time], like I remember being in their shoes…I’m glad that I had ASA to shape me during these four years and shape me into the person I am today.”
Walk number four featured African styles of the present. From Accra, Timbuktu and Kinshasa, the models showcased garments that could be seen today at parties, proms or other events. This walk was the African continent as it is today showcased in Tisch Commons. Following the brief intermission, former ASA President Wash. U. alumna Wumi Adekunle, class of 2019, came to the front for a dance tutorial. This interactive moment allowed for the audience to have a new experience as Adekunle taught us how to shaku, which was followed by sophomore Milkise Yassin, who showed the audience the iskista. And then it was time to look to the future.
The future/Afroverse walk featured pieces representative of the direction that African fashion is headed. Bold and colorful garments with daring cuts and silhouettes appeared along the runway. This walk reiterated the idea of the evening—the future is coming and it looks good. It highlighted a narrative that is rarely told, one where Africa is “leading the forefront of art and design” as Mulat put it at the walk’s conclusion.
The final performance of the night came from Wash. U.’s very own modern West African afrobeats dance team, Kwenu. Dressed in red shirts and black pants, the women of Kwenu performed a rhythmic and high-energy set that amazed the audience, eliciting cheers and applause at every turn. This energy would carry the show through the end, with the final walk. The designer walk showcased the work of Adjo and Hill, with themes ranging from traditional attire to modern and futuristic wear. It was a true expression of where African culture and style has been and where it’s going.
ASA’s fashion show looked to the future in its innovative design while maintaining an appreciation for the past. The fashion show’s creative director, sophomore Naomi Horsford, brought her vision to light Friday evening. Her first time taking on a project like this, Horsford’s love of fashion design and creativity culminated in a beautiful display of Blackness and culture.