I don’t know Ola in real life. I don’t even remember how we became facebook friends. But when he posted these photos of the lead singer in my favorite band, Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes, wearing unapologetically bold colors and prints and Irregular Choice shoes by Danny Sullivan (who you might remember from last week’s post) I fell in love.
I am not a cultural anthropologist, but one thing I do know is black people like to dress up. If you are the one black person who does not like to dress up, or the self-righteous friend of the one black person who does not like to dress up, relax, you can keep your black card. I’m just sayin.
The main point is, even though all of these outfits are dressy, I can absolutely see Shingai traipsing around the streets of London in these getups just for coffee. Or, as the shoot implies, to go buy records. What do you expect from a chick who hangs herself by the knees from balconies whilst singing, just to entertain you?
Mixing patterns is dangerous fashion territory — it’s like cutting a blow-fish, if you get it wrong, it’s deadly, but pulled off right you have a treat and delicacy. This garment totally makes the cut.
The next set of pics that showed up in my facebook feed from Ola were from an editorial shoot for Pride magazine. Which is not a magazine about being Gay and Happy! It is like the UK version of Essence, which, unsurprisingly, is a little more stylish and sophisticated than its US counterpart.
I love this. High Tea is more British than anything could be, and these two gorgeous black women seem to be both enjoying and mocking the practice in equal parts, which is basically the number-one rule of surviving quotidian rituals of the colonizer, imho.
Anytime I see anything containing sugar in Britain I think of Slavery. You should too. No Slavery = No Sugar. Each one of those precious jam jars on that shelf owes its existence to a terrible history. But also, I love jam, on scones, with tea, and even moreso when wearing a petticoat and red stilettos. Something about this photo makes me feel like it acknowledges all of those conflicting narratives.
What is she thinking? One time, I was watching Project Catwalk (the UK version of Project Runway) and one of the contestants kind of cried a teeny bit because he had been harshly critiqued, and Elizabeth Hurly who was one of the judges says to him, “Stop your blubbering. Remember you’re English.” Whoa. Since the model above has little interpretable expression, I’m assuming Elizabeth Hurly stopped by the set just before this was taken.
This last is my favorite. These girls are doing so many things. Mainstream colonizing culture is very confusing. As a member of a minority culture, you are supposed to get as close as you can to being completely assimilated, but you are also supposed to “know your place” and not try to be too much like the dominant culture. It’s like the Price is Right. As close as you can get to whiteness without going over. (For the price of this Showcase I’ll guess a chemical relaxer, a love of French cheeses, and institutional power, Bob!! What??? I went over??? Noooooooo…..)
In this pic, these girls are either complying with the colonizing demand to be everything without being anything, OR they are saying FUCK YOU and claiming it all. Maybe it’s both, but as for the latter: Colonizing culture says: Don’t Be African!! They say: we’re standing on your tea table wearing African fabrics!! Colonizing culture says: Don’t try to be British!! They say: I look good in my petticoat and my ankles are crossed primly as as a princess!! And it’s totally fashionable!!
Today, while searching through Ola’s photos for the purposes of writing this blog, I saw this:
…and then immediately went here and ordered my copy of the magazine pictured above. Pop Africana is a new magazine being edited by Oroma Elewa, a young Nijerian woman living in NYC. The website says “Pop Africana is a fashion, art and culture magazine led by a team of creatives who pride themselves on delivering a rejuvenated image of Africa.” It’s modern, it’s hip, it’s fashionable without being vacuous, but loveliest of all it’s Black. Capital B. Thank you Ola Shobowale, for introducing this African-American girl to Black British Style. You rule.
Shout Out to Africa!!