Ontology of Blackness: Beauty and Fashion

One cannot talk about beauty or fashion without discussing the body. Bringing the two together (the black body as explored through beauty and fashion) is what Tisch School of the Arts and Institute of African-American Affairs presented at the two day symposium, Beauty and Fashion: The Black Portrait Symposium.  I saw this symposium as an ontology of blackness, a philosphical exploration, with fashion as the lens to explore black existence and the categories that this existence lies in. Fashion (past, present, future) is a category to understand the systematics of how black identity, and racial identity generally, is thought through and subversed …read more

The symposium was made up of lectures and panels by scholars and artists from diverse fields. Two panel discussions that cohesively exemplified the main concept behind the symposium where Body & Image and Fashioning Beauty. The first to speak was photographer, Xaviera Simmons, Mimi Plange a fashion designer followed. Her whose inspiration for her Winter 2011 collection of women’s clothing drew on the ritual of scarrification that members of her own family have experienced. Lauren Kelley is a film maker who is working on how images and interactions can infiltrate views on race and class to children at a young age …read more

Panel two, Fashioning Beauty, included: Leslie King-Hammond and Lowery Stokes Sims speaking on their collaborative exhibition at Museum of Art and Design, Global Africa Project. Maya Lake, a young fashion designer, followed the talk on The Global Africa Project. She started her own clothing line, Boxing Kitten. Lake combines common African fabrics that were fashioned in the 1960s and 1970s black power movement with conservative styles of the 1950s during the civil rights movement …read more

Anthony Barboza is a seasoned photographer who has worked for Essence magazine whose work was used as the cover photo for this symposium.  Michaela Angela Davis followed and gave a fiery lecture on the fashion world’s ignorance of the black body. The last panelist to speak was Nigerian-born, London-based fashion designer Doro Olowu, whose work was shown in The Global Africa Project … read more

What connects black experience? Why can there be a shared black body from people all over the world – whose communities move from country to country? Systems of oppression have united (and created) ‘the black body’. It is interesting to see how fashion can work to subversively reclaim ones identity, or to reclaim who can’t.

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Contributed by MoCADA Curatorial Fellows

One response to “Ontology of Blackness: Beauty and Fashion

  1. All I can say is wow. Love the ideas put forward in this post. Just goes to show that fashion can be anything that you want it to be

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