African Sartorial Culture and the Question of Identity: Towards an African Philosophy of Dress


Ademola Kazeem Fayemi


This paper is a critical interrogation of the apparel culture as a marker of African identity in traditional and contemporary Africa. The article philosophically discusses the sartorial culture of sub-Saharan Africans in the light of its defining elements, identity, and non-verbal communicative proclivities. Focusing on the Yoruba and the Ashanti people, the author argues that African dress expresses some symbolic, linguistic, and sometimes hidden, complex and immanent meaning(s) requiring extensive interpretations and meaning construction. With illustrative examples, he defends the position that the identity of some cultural regions in Africa can be grouped together based on the original, specific techniques and essence of dress that they commonly share. Against the present absence of an African philosophy of dress in the African sartorial culture and knowledge production, he argues the imperativeness of an African philosophy of dress, its subject matter, and connections to other cognate branches of African philosophy, and the prospects of such an ancillary African philosophy.


African identity, dress, dress code, communication, African philosophy of dress




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