African print takes centre stage at Hackney’s “Black History Season”

Credit: Yasmin Sabur/Flickr

Credit: Yasmin Sabur/Flickr

With vibrant colours, bold patterns and gorgeous details, African fabric is certainly a feast for the eyes. Now showing at Hackney Museum, “African Threads – Hackney Style” looks at the influence these beautiful textiles have had on the London borough.

Featuring photographs, costumes and art, the exhibition explores the ties between Hackney and Africa through the medium of fashion. The show is a key part of Hackney’s annual Black History Season, a two-month long celebration of black culture in the area.

The highlight of the show was the work of British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, who graduated from Goldsmiths as part of the Young British Artists generation. Visitors to the exhibition were “star struck” when Shonibare himself appeared at the opening, but those who missed him can still attend a talk by the artist about his work tomorrow, November 5.

Shonibare’s work examines the tangled relationship between Africa and Europe and the role that this plays in shaping cultural identity.

Going back 400 years, “African Threads” looks back to textile trades between 17th Century Hackney merchants and West African cloth makers. Through this historical lens, viewers can discover how textiles were produced in different regions, as well as the significance of each design.

Councillor Jonathon McShane, cabinet member for Health, Social Care and Culture, said that the festival “is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the part that African and Caribbean communities have played in shaping Hackney as we know it today.”

As well as exploring the history and tradition of African cloth, the “African Threads” exhibition examines its current role in influencing style and identity in and around Hackney, using the  stories of local people as well as contemporary African fashion.

Hackney’s Black History Season runs for two months over October and November, although you can catch the exhibition until 23 January. Also featured are workshops, interactive sessions and book readings, all of which are free to attend.

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