Bates College freshman Nicole Kanu, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants and a native of Little Rock, Ark., arrived on the Bates campus after winter break with nine examples of contemporary Nigerian garb.

Kanu wanted to put on a fashion show, and hoped she could find a few additional outfits from other African countries to round out the event.

She had no idea she’d end up with close to 70 traditional and contemporary fashion pieces representing 10 African nations.

“I originally thought it was going to be small,” said Kanu, 19. “But now my whole room looks like I journeyed through Africa myself.”

On Friday, Kanu and fellow members of the Africana Club will host the Inside Africa Fashion Show at the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

As word spread about the show, Kanu found herself with fashions borrowed from international students studying at Bates, the college’s African studies professors and Bates employees who are African immigrants.

Kanu hopes the show will not only expose students and community members to the diverse fashion scene of the continent, but also educate people about Africa.

“A lot of times, people look at Africa as one place,” Kanu said. “But it’s a continent made up of many countries. I thought this fashion show would help people to see what the differences are. One of the small differences is the way we dress.”

The show will feature contemporary and some traditional fashions from Kenya, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Benin, Eritrea, Togo, Somalia, Ghana and Nigeria.

Kanu has visited Nigeria twice, and noted that different regions of the country and different tribes each have their own distinct looks.

“The fashion scene in Nigeria is global,” Kanu said. “If you go into any type of market, there are lots and lots of fashion magazines printed. There are always traditional clothes, but the trends change. There’s a large fashion industry in Nigeria, and Ghana is the same way.”

On the other side of the continent, clothing from the neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea share a similar look, Kanu said, with Eritrean fashions further influenced by Asian and Indian styles.

“In Kenya, one thing they’re known for is their kanga cloth made from pure cotton,” Kanu said. The brightly colored, rectangular fabric is printed with vibrant designs, and can be worn as a wrap-around dress or a shawl. However, its colors and patterns work well with more structured garments.

In Somalia, fashion is dictated by the dominant Islamic faith.

“In the fashion show, I’ll point out that the way Somalians wear their Muslim fashions is different than other Muslim people,” Kanu said. “Generally speaking, the basic Muslim wear is all black, but the Somalians have a mix of colors and patterns. Even the ways the head scarves are put together are slightly different.”

Rounding out the evening will be a series of performances, including a Congolese dance, an Azonto mime dance from Ghana, and a rendition of the South African national anthem sung by the Gospelaires choir.

Unlike traditional runway shows, Inside Africa will have a plot based on a student backpacking across Africa, visiting different nations and observing the fashions popular in each country.

At the end of the show, the backpacker will demonstrate how to mix and match African and American garments for a unique look. It’s a style sure to have broad appeal in our interconnected world.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamil



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