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The African Print Fashion Now! Community Council

by Betsy D. Quick

Collecting memories of heirloom patterns… speaking with the press about the latest fashions… leading focused tours of the exhibition. These are just some of the myriad ways the Fowler’s African Community Council stepped up to make African Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style such a beloved success in Los Angeles. It was this amazing group of African and African American men and women—hailing from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and the U.S.—who went the extra mile to ensure that the exhibition and its programming would engage Angelenos, especially those of African descent. Partnerships with schools, neighborhood councils, and local curatorial advisors have long been key to the development of Fowler exhibitions, including, most notably, Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity and Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw. Such initiatives would also be central to African Print Fashion and ensure its enthusiastic reception in our diverse city.

Installation View, African-Print Fashion Now! (2017) Fowler Museum at UCLA, Photo: Don Cole

In the year leading up to the opening of African Print Fashion Now! in 2017, members of our African Community Council made recommendations for and lent ensembles to be exhibited. They suggested programs that would draw in colleagues and friends, expanded the Museum’s media efforts by their own outreach, and brought in vendors for a pop-up marketplace.

Public Program: Azeezat Abiola Amusat on the Head Wraps of African-Print Fashion Now!

Whatever the need—Council members came forth to address the issue. Reminding us that for many occasions a dress ensemble would be incomplete without the appropriate head tie—they knew just the designer (Azeezat Abiola Amusat) to style each gele! Council members were instrumental in the creation of the opening night fashion show that highlighted the latest styles by visiting designers Titi Ademola and Alexis Temomanin. And, as if all that was not enough, they also starred in a fantastic video spot for the Museum’s Spark Campaign, sharing that video across their communities and raising more than $20,000 for the exhibition!

Installation View, African-Print Fashion Now! (2017) Fowler Museum at UCLA, Photo: Don Cole

At the very first meeting of the Council, when we had the opportunity to introduce the exhibition to the group, one member remarked, “Well… it’s about time! I am delighted to be a part of this effort.” At the opening many guests and friends expressed that exhilaration with tears of joy. These wonderful friends—and their remarkable efforts—were key to the many stories the exhibition told, its extraordinary beauty, and the profound meanings it engendered for so many.

Betsy D. Quick was Project Director for African-Print Fashion Now! and former Director of Education and Curatorial Affairs at the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Image at top: Left to right, Community Council Members Amaka Akudinobi, Mahriama Suma, Koshie Mills, and Adebimpe Ogunnaike-Efezokhae at African Print Fashion Now!

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