Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora

Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora
By Martin Sarreal

On the 4th of August, Shades of Noir was invited to attend the opening of ‘Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora’, presented by The Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) as part of their inaugural exhibition.

In continuation of CIAD’s work in highlighting lesser known facts and histories in relation to African Fashion and Design, this exhibition showcases the development of the Tartan pattern, as well as its influences beyond the common association with Scotland and Scottish culture.

With a collection of traditional clothing from Africa, the Caribbean, and India on display, each set of costumes are accompanied by fact sheets that document the strong influences the British and Indian fabric trade had on their cultures. From the Maasai people in East Africa adopting Tartan pattern on their traditional Shukas (blankets), to the Caribbean countries utilizing the Madras fabric as part of their national dress, the influence of Tartan has reached far and beyond its beginnings with the Highland clans.

The exhibition also features the first look from the Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2014 collection, created entirely by a small tribe in Burkina Faso with a specially made Tartan fabric. The look, along with other pieces of the collection was created in collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) of the International Trade Centre, a department developed between the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation that supports the productions of women currently working in smaller, marginalized African communities.

Keeping in line with the theme of the exhibition, the opening of the event was marked by performances from Zoloka, a Caribbean dance troupe, as well as a unique collaboration between a Scottish bagpipe player and an African drummer – exemplifying the relationship Tartan has helped build between these two cultures.

Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora will be on until the 30th of August, 2014 at Craft Central.

For more information, please visit: www.exhibition.ciad.org.uk, www.facebook.com/CIADuk, or @CIADuk on twitter.