Note from BW of Brazil: I always love when November rolls around in Brazil. It’s the time of year when there are all sorts of events around the theme of black consciousness and identity. The problem is that you’ll always feel the need to be about five people because there is absolutely no way to be able to attend all or even some of the events as they are held all over the country. Of course, the annual Feira Preta (black expo) in São Paulo has been a favorite since the early part of 2000s and is now the largest black cultural event in Latin America, but now Belo Horizonte has the Somos Todos Black (‘we’re all black’) six-day festival and once again Salvador, Bahia, will be host to another edition of the Afro Fashion Day. Celebrating blackness in a country such as Brazil that has done so much to undermine and disconnect itself from its African influence shouldn’t be limited to one month. Speaking of the how Brazil has undermined blackness for centuries, we see aspects of how this has played out in the comments of those interviewed in the piece. After so long of being made to feel ashamed of one’s African ancestry and physical features, it’s clear why events such as Afro Fashion Day, Feira Preta, Somos Todos Black and many others are so important and beyond the month of November.
Concept of Afro Fashion Day 2018 affirms identity through colors
by Midi Noelle
Afro Fashion Day this year will happen on November 24, Saturday, at 7:00 pm, with free admission, at the Museu du Ritmo (Commerce)
“They said wearing red was a bad thing. Yellow? It was a very strong, bright color. When Ilê came out, it changed. Red symbolized our blood shed. Yellow? The gold and independence that we seek: success and victory. White, peace and tranquility. And preto (black): our color. Colors bring happiness, empowerment and ancestry,” says Dete Lima, 65, stylist and one of the founders of the bloco afro Ilê Aiyê, reminding that the use of colors was a difficulty for black women. It is precisely to re-affirm freedom that Afro Fashion Day, a Correio (website/newspaper) project that celebrates the month of Black Consciousness, chose as theme of this year Color and Identity. The parade will be open to the public and free, with prior registration via the link bit.ly/AfroFashionDay2018.
“Last year, the theme was ‘The Four Elements of Nature’ and we had a very specific earth tones chart. This year, we were also inspired by the representation of Virgil Abloh’s debut as the first black designer to put her signature on the men’s line of the French label Louis Vuitton and in her incredible fashion show, with monochrome in vibrant colors,” reveals Gabriela Cruz, editor of special projects of Correio and curator of Afro Fashion Day. The elaboration of the concept was also dialogued with the 48 brands that accepted the fashion challenge together with fashion producer Fagner Bispo, who directs the parade that will be guided by eight colors: red, blue, yellow, orange, green, bright pink, purple and white. For the journalist, more than a fashion project, Afro Fashion Day is an action focused on highlighting the struggles of the população negra (black population) in its most varied forms.
Goya Lopes, 64, a Bahian textile designer who studied in Florence, Italy, in the 1970s, says that here and there the problem bothered her, and she says she is happy with the progress. “The change is visible. Today, the fear of what the other would say made room for an aesthetic of self-assertion, pride and resistance. And the creators have a strong symbolic content and a conscious creativity,” she points out. Dete also recalls the gestation of Curuzu’s project, in Salvador’s Liberdade neighborhood, so that the aesthetics of the black population remained lofty: “For us it was difficult. But not at the same time. Because we left a house where Mãe Hilda (see note one) always re-enforce us that we are negros e bonitos (black and beautiful). That we could go anywhere without being afraid. And Ilê strengthened us much more, bringing the strong colors we had not worn before.”
Fashion designer and Bahian researcher Carol Barreto, the first Brazilian to parade at Black Fashion Week in Paris and a participant in the AFD since the first year, recognizes the importance of the theme. “Our history was almost erased for the construction of this territory called Brazil. Colors as afro-references are necessary. It’s a change of mind, not just an exchange of clothes. Today, coming over to be black is a position of choice rather than self-indulgence,” says the native of Santo Amaro, Bahia.
Barreto points out that talking about colors is to talk about the global connection of the black population, but also about that of the Brazilians themselves. “In Brazil, we have had a fragmented exclusion. The impetus to erase in itself the elements reminiscent of blackness and African culture was built on the head of blacks. Part of this behavior of eliminating these marks is composed of denial,” explains the stylist.
Considering that appearance is one of the elements of identity, the AFD values the Bahian brands that are produced by black people or that show the culture of that part of the population. Goya, who was one of the pioneers in the discussion of the silencing of the aspects of identity, considers that wearing colors refers to the adaptations of the African diaspora in Bahia, thus contributing to the notion of identity and self-expression in society. For her, colors are important elements. “It’s the boldness in the combinations, in the ornaments, in the textures. It presents itself in religiosity, where there is harmony with the colors of nature that enchant and transmit the Axé (ashé), or in the forms of architecture, art, paintings and decorative designs.”
For Lindinalva Barbosa, 56, an educator and teacher in languages, and a militant of the movimento negro (black movement) and the black women’s movement since the 1980s, the use of strong colors is something that has traversed the families of her generation. “This thing of using the strongest colors, even though I was black with lighter skin, always impacted me. My family has always had darker and lighter-skinned women and it was recommended to use lighter colors to avoid calling attention.”
The researcher who, despite all the family orientations has always liked colors, to know more about African culture began to adhere even more to color. “It was not easy to find African fabrics. One of the first Africans who started selling in Bahia, if I’m not mistaken, in the 90’s, was Lola da Ewa, selling with her bag,” she recalls. She concludes by highlighting the fundamental role of Olodum, in addition to Ilê, in deconstructing the stigmas attributed to the colors, by highlighting the colors of pan-Africanism in the symbol and garments.
Afro Fashion Day is held by Correio with institutional support from the city of Salvador and support from Salvador Shopping, Sebrae, Vizzano and Museu du Ritmo. Afro Fashion Day this year will happen on November 24, Saturday, at 7:00 pm, with free admission, at the Museu du Ritmo (Commerce)
Source: Correio 24 Horas
- Hilda Dias dos Santos, Mãe Hilda Jitolú, (January 6, 1923 – September 19, 2009) was Iyálorixá (priestess, mother of the terreiro) of candomblé.
Good article, I wish more people would celebrate their heritage often.