Note from BW of Brazil: Well, as we can see, the tide continues to rise as Afro-Brazilians from across the nation continue to push for the representation that they feel is severely lacking in society. We’ve seen these actions in a variety of manners. In Bahia, we’ve seen websites that sell 100% black-owned products promoted by black models and Afro Fashion Day putting black culture, fashion and beauty on full display. In Belo Horizonte, we saw the recent Encrespa Geral expo that has spread to several parts of Brazil and beyond in promotion of Afro-oriented products and identity and the release of an independent newspaper. In Porto Alegre, as well as other regions of the country, we’ve seen the expression of the Afro-Brazilian experience in black theater pieces. In Rio last May, we saw the N’Zinga fashion line made “by black women, for black women”, which is a perfect lead in to today’s story that features a similar clothing line being created in São Paulo. The above stories are but a few of the ways that the Afro-Brazilian population is finding to express itself. And as this identity and representation movement continues, we are sure to see many more spring up.
The colors of the queen-mothers of Africa
By Ana Ferraz
A family of designers banking on the self-esteem of their black customers
There was a time in antiquity when a line of warrior queens of the Kingdom of Kush exercised great political and social power. They fought for their territory in the Nile Valley (a region corresponding to Ethiopia today), their children and their culture. Greeks and Romans named these black sovereigns Candaces, rainhas-mãe (queen-mothers).
The strength of these women inspires to this day many others, some of them descendants torn from their land and thrown on other continents during slavery. The impetus of these ancestral warriors inspired a small paulistana (São Paulo) confection, whose artisanal production transcends commercial character to become a cause.
Candaces was born in a family composed of mother Ana Neves and three daughters, all involved in the creation and execution of ethnic clothes made with African fabrics and with a special purpose, to boost customers’ self-esteem. It all started by chance in 2013, says her daughter Sandra.
To help her mother, who with no job would make purses out of milk cartons and tire puffs to sell, she bought some pairs of Afro-themed earrings to be marketed at a fashion show in Jundiaí, São Paulo. It turns out that the colorful clothes of the saleswomen caught more attention than the products on sale. It was then that the seed of the project to create the brand itself was planted.
In the beginning, as Ana sewed only for the family, the practice was to customize ready-made clothes. By the creative hands of the family, a skirt turned into a dress or overalls. A dress turned into shorts, and so on. Everything beautifully colored, always in Afro theme, with ethnic prints. “Daniela, my older sister, colored the pieces. In the second or third participation in fairs we decided to manufacture them”, says Sandra.
It is here that the controversial question of cultural appropriation comes in. For Daniela, this occurs when the same clothes worn by a white woman is despised on the black woman’s body. “Some time ago, when a black woman wore a turban, this accessory was not seen as something beautiful, aesthetic, but associated with practices like macumba, black magic. It was not thought to be a dress of a king, a queen, of the culture of a people. “The queen-worthy fabrics come from Ghana, Senegal, and Angola. They are pieces of high quality cotton, with colors resistant to washing. The national biotype determined the adjustments. “We sought to adapt the model to the Brazilian style. The female parts are shorter and wider at the hip. Men’s shirts are bigger, because Africans are longer,” explains Sandra. The beauty of the prints, the variety of models and the joy of the strong colors attract the female audience as a whole, including white women.
Until recently, many blacks were ashamed of their own culture, says Sandra. This scenario has been changing and the appearance of several brands of Afro clothing shows the progress of this process of self-affirmation. “The whole history of suffering of blacks justifies the use of these instruments for the elevation of self-esteem.”
Many women are still intimidated by a turban, they feel insecure, they don’t want to look in the mirror. For those who are in the process of transition from ceasing to straighten their hair and taking on the afro hair, the turban becomes an important tool. “There is a customer who cried with emotion when wearing it, telling us that she had never imagined this accessory. On our Facebook page, there are many testimonials of thanks.”
The production of Candaces is totally homemade and should continue this way. “We find ourselves in what we do and the idea is not to grow too big to lose the essence of our craftwork. We don’t want to industrialize,” says Sandra. Everything happens in the atelier located in the east zone, full of African references and colorful fabric samples. Daughter and mother create the molds.
“She had never done any clothing until she made her first piece,” says Sandra in respect to the matriarch, a militant for favela urbanization, youth and adult education, and president of the Associação dos Afro Empreendedores (Afro-Entrepreneurs Association). From the scissors sprout pants, overalls, skirt, dress, cropped and blouses. Men’s shirts and tops. The fabrics are unique, the prints are not repeated and the numbering goes from PP to XG.
From the bags where the pieces are ready for sale, Sandra displays some models named after Candace’s friends. There is the Adriana Moreira dress, in reference to the singer from São Paulo, and Preta Rara, created for the rapper from Santos. Some prints also have names and Miriam Makeba, the singer and South African activist, is one of the most sought after.
Source: Carta Capital