Inside Africa Fashion Show explores traditional fashions, Africa’s worldwide influence

At Bates College’s 2012 Inside Africa Fashion Show, sophomore Nerissa Brobbey models a Togolese boubou dress with matching head scarf. At right, Gulaid Abdullahi wears a traditional ma’awis and kofia hat. Photograph by Simone Schriger ’14/Bates College.

Reflecting the influence of African fashion abroad as well as the diversity of the continent’s own apparel, the second annual Inside Africa Fashion Show at Bates College starts at 8 p.m. Friday, March 15, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

Sponsored by the Africana Club, a student organization, the event is open to the public at no cost. For more information, please contact

Some 30 students will model apparel from more than 10 African nations, expanding this year to include Senegal, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Gambia.

The program also includes a Swahili song sung a cappella by members of the Africana Club and two dance numbers — a medley of dance styles from across Africa and a Ghanaian Azonto dance, the upbeat hand-gesture style that went viral in 2011.

“I am inviting Bates students and the community to see Africa,” explains organizer Nicole Kanu. A sophomore from Little Rock, Ark., she is the daughter of a Nigerian couple. “Many look at Africa as one country and fail to see that it is a continent that contains many countries, cultures and backgrounds.”

In addition to presenting traditional garb, the show will look at the impacts of African fashion outside the continent. “A lot of clothes in America have African influences,” says Kanu, such as “tribal print” leggings and wildlife-print fabrics that are popular this season.

Inside Africa will “give students a chance to look at their closet and see — ‘hmm, where did this come from? What was the inspiration for this outfit?’ ” she says. “And oftentimes, if you research that designer or that line of clothing, you’ll see that it does stem from African fashion.”

Where last year’s show took the form of a fictionalized grand tour of the continent, this year’s edition will place more weight on fashion facts, says Kanu.

“It’ll be fun, definitely, but it’s meant to be informative and show a dimension of Africa that people don’t normally see here.”