COLOUR HELPS US EXPRESS OUR IDENTITY
Identity is one of the most compelling and contentious concepts in humanity and it’s interesting that colour plays a core role when it comes to expressing who we are.
Right from the time a child is born, they are already immersed into a world of colour in terms of the outfits to wear, the toys they play with and even their room decor.
While boys are influenced to understand that their world revolves around the blues, the girls are ushered into an environment of the pinks (Did you know that pink was a colour for boys in medieval times?). This is because colour has always been an expression of who we are, where we come from and what we do. Be it gender, culture, feelings, signals and time, colour is prime.
Fashion has been an exemplary interesting factor, when it comes to colour and identity. Through our demeanour and personal interpretations, through colour, we announce who we are and what we want to become. For example, no one would think twice about a member of parliament wearing a bright yellow blazer to parliament,
but if they do, it would be a political statement that he or she is trying to make. Around the globe, colour has been used as a form of protest.Think about, Royal blue, a colour that speaks class. It is said to have been created by millers in Rode, Somerset, a consortium of which won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III.
Looking back at time, how did our forefathers live in colour? What colours for example distinguish our ethnic tribes’ identities? Created in printed and dyed cloth, woven fabric strips or beaded attire distinguish one ethnic group from another. In East Africa, this is mainly seen in the Kitenge, Kanga and the Kikoi. The colourful Kitenge cloth for example has a long history in East and Western Africa but nowadays has expanded to many other countries on the continent.
Today, African garments take their roots in traditional dress and are won by millions of people all over the world for various occasions and for everyday wear, creating a vibrant colourful scene in whatever ceremony you attend in Africa.
The Ankara is another example of a vibrant material with rich, colourful patterns. These designs are a form of expression pronouncing everything from marital status, to popular culture, political and religious beliefs. This quintessential African Fabric was surprisingly originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market and later diverted into West Africa, where it is now the true identity of being West African.