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Dior released a short story on their design process at Maison Lemariè; short clips of white jacket workers carefully snipping feather pieces and creating delicate floral arrangements. This artwork was then processed through PVC and embossed onto panelled jackets. 

Excuse me for my shortness but all I could think of was, “ this looks like Uli art!”

We’ve all had instances in fashion where -as Africans or blacks- we sort of cock our heads to the left or right and squint or widen our eyes (depending on preference) at the stark resemblance of European style to our own older traditions. From subtle adaptations to a full blown Stella McCartney it seems fashion just can’t let go of black culture. 

Now the Dior embroidery was very beautiful and when done on transparent material, it struck a unique nerve on ones creative spine. But the design definitely echoed the traditional Nigerian art form of drawing specific shapes and arrangements on the skin and other materials.

Uli art is an art form native to Igbo women and is performed ceremoniously on the body or houses and carvings for both spiritual and cosmetic releases. There are various different symbols and designs that form the natural art that is Uli and some have even gone to create textile pieces in honour of the ancient tradition. 

Of course one could argue that to compare a specific West African ritual to creative expression is reaching, but it begs the question,” who gets to use my culture?” 

How many ‘inspiration’ cards do contemporary designers get? How many homages can one person pay? Can’t The Machine churn out fresh ideas that in themselves form an entirely unique culture or trend?

Stella McCartney’s Spring/Summer ‘18 show was God’s message to us: everything you need is right where you are. The mere fact that a British designer showcased West African prints for a major fashion brand reminded me that I need to get cooking. Better start using my talents before I lose them, or worse they’re stolen and sold for hundreds more. There’s no point in attacking a designer for appropriating a piece of a culture without presenting the full picture. Quite frankly we gave up our own trendiness to pay for return tickets to Paris, London, New York. We threw away what was ours to get what’s theirs.

We desire a seat at their table so we drop our belongings and crane our necks to belong. Little do we know that the big wigs in all the ‘fashion capitals’ (all conveniently Western) are sneaking into our houses and stealing all our fruit. But is it stealing if we don’t claim it? If we leave our front doors open while we strive to be present in white spaces. 

The best remedy for blatant appropriation, or feeling like you lack appreciation, is to simply turn around, face your front, mind your own business, and butter your own agege bread. Stop wanting to belong or needing to be noticed. We need to notice and celebrate ourselves, recognise the strength in F.U.B.U.

Look at how 2018 has delivered Nigerian ‘litness!’ From Skepta awarded Chieftaincy in his village to P. Diddy reposting Falz’s, ‘This is Nigeria.’
 And not to mention almost every POC rooting for Nigeria in this Years World Cup competition; everybody wants a piece of the heart of Africa, we better own us before we lose out on our slice.