Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Last month, I made a dress that I called "Daughter of the Diaspora". I name the majority of the pieces that I make, usually based on the inspiration(s) that lead me to create a specific design. Yes, part of it was that in preparing for February sales (Valentine's Day and Black History Month), I created a new saleable look. I mean, I am an aspiring businesswoman and entrepreneur. I have to prep for and try to anticipate what customers may be looking for at different times of the year. But for me, this dress goes deeper than that. Let me just start off by saying that I have two projects for salsa costumes that I started (and have not finished yet lol) almost two years ago that use another wax print design translated to stretch fabric. It is still in the to be finished bin. I'll get there, lol.
I went into the fabric store (for different fabric), I saw this stretch "kente" print and remembered that a fellow designer, Robyn Shumays had made some gorgeous scarves out of it. The thing is, I touched the fabric, and the picture of what I should make out of it appeared in my mind (this often happens with me on numerous projects). Other fabric forgotton, I took this home.
This is not true kente cloth but a representation- manufactured into a stretch fabric. True kente cloth is hand woven, and worn for formal events by high ranking members of the Akan people of Ghana. "Kente comes from the word kenten, which means basket in the Asante dialect of Akan. Akans refer to kente as nwentoma, meaning woven cloth. It is an Akan royal and sacred cloth worn only in times of extreme importance and was the cloth of kings. Over time, the use of kente became more widespread." Source: Wikipedia
The colors have significance as well. Here are two videos about the colors I found while researching:
Here are two videos showing the making/weaving of authentic Kente: https://youtu.be/08n-kxPFHVA https://youtu.be/1Ts0jg-BiXM
Hooded garments were worn since ancient times time for protection and warmth. They were worn also by clergy and people with religious affiliation, and made popular during the medieval and Renaissance period. But the "hoodie", more specifically a hooded sweatshirt, was introduced as a utility garment for upstate NY workers in the 1930s. Currently, it has morphed into a popular culture symbol in US and all over the world- from being associated with delinquent activity in the 70s, to becoming a symbol associated with hip hop culture and breakdancing, to being a key costume design element in the movie 'Rocky', negatively with black and brown cultures, and more recently as a symbol - a public protest in regard to the injustice of the Trayvon Martin killing and of solidarity with his family https://www.npr.org/2012/03/24/149245834/tragedy-gives-the-hoodie-a-whole-new-meaning
For me, the rationale behind using the print and the hood on this garment is symbolic of identity. I am an American with Caribbean parts - but all of this , no matter how tangential, is rooted and influenced by African historical culture and custom.