‘What Is Your Dress Heritage?’ Exhibition

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‘What Is Your Dress Heritage?’ is a vivid exploration of the current diversity in identity within post-apartheid South Africa.

Third year students from LISOF were asked to investigate the complexity of contemporary fashioned identities as part of LISOF’s Design Theory course. The outcomes of this fascinating project will be exhibited at Museum Africa for the next twelve months.

Lecturer and exhibition curator, Erica de Greef, placed the emphasis in the Design Theory course this year on the importance of positioning these contemporary dialogues, stories and narratives within the context of ‘cultural geography’. De Greef says: ‘These fascinating expressions are constructions of, or even, deconstructions of, the diverse histories of our country seen through the eyes of young almost-graduates and reflect their personal transformations within a new South Africa’.

Through the exhibition, we observe how the post-1994 generation have placed an emphasis on issues of belonging that are located broadly within a clear need to express a local belonging in relation to a global positioning/structuring. Fashion then becomes the site for developing and portraying these potential identities and ‘fashioned’ communications generating an urban semiosis signaling (im-)moralities, histories, celebrities and individually crafted ideologies.

De Greef comments: ‘It appears that in the complexity of suddenly navigating a globalised world, where location no longer limits expression, it seems that students either opt for the safety of an existing culture, which is a ‘past’ that still offers stability and continuity, or they opt for a new sub-culture in which they seek out competing ideological referents that counter the ‘norm’ and offer a revised freedom from the expected’. The emergence of these new urban style tribes offers options for cross-cultural ‘pick-and-mix’ identities. As South Africans explore the possibilities of modernity and our diverse histories of style, fashion becomes the platform for the politics of the stereotype, and the possibilities of the masquerade.

This is an emerging field of critical thinking around fashion/dress, and the concepts of national and local identities are relevant research areas that capture a contemporary zeitgeist of cross-cultural futures.



The exhibition opens at Museum Africa on the 8th of September 2009 and runs for six months.