Become African Fashionistas and Fashionistos in C-19 Times
Despair and dread seem like common terms and sentiments arising in the midst of the COVID-19 era. Which are true, by and large, because we live in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic in the 21st century, only comparable to the Spanish Flu from 1918/1919, where the Spanish Flu claimed as many as 50 million human lives. Even surprising some modern commentators on the current pandemic is the degree to which the preventative strategies haven’t changed much, when we look at the ways in which previous generations combatted the Spanish Flu, they used physical distancing or social distancing, masks, and the like. One of the better ways to combat the despair and dread — the sense of impending doom — in the era of COVID-19 can be seen throughout Africa in fashion.
Take, for example, Algeria, Rwanda, Liberia, Kenya, Cameroon, and Tunisia, and, probably, others. Each has taken the idea of fashion to the world of health and safety regarding COVID-19 or the coronavirus. It’s a spectacular sense of hope and creativity. It should be applauded. These countries’ fashionistas and fashionistos have taken on the pandemic with positivity rather than a doomsday pessimism.
Mounia Lazali donated hundreds of designed masks to people in Algeria. Alexander Nshimiyimana in Rwanda has been contributing masks to the public while keeping the prices affordable. The Bombchel Factory in Liberia has been extremely important for the repurposing of garments into fashionable masks. David Avido in Kenya has been repurposing some clothes to make masks. Ange Goufack and Edmonde Kennang have been producing masks with some added plastic around the eyes too, as COVID-19 spreads via water droplets. Myriam Riza in Tunisia produces masks from donated materials and then donates the created fashionable masks to the hospitals. This is the spirit of Africa, of humanity.
All of these examples are inspiring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic because all this shows are the resilience and inspiration of African peoples to set forth and find new non-dreary ways forward. And it’s not entirely out of the reach for ordinary Cameroonians, for example, or requiring expensive training or supplies. In general, the only requirements are some simple culturally appropriate design principles per te local culture, and then some materials and the ability to cut and sew.
In fact, even examining some of the materials available for the creation of the customized, fashion-savvy masks, as with the example of Myriam Riza from Tunisia, the cloth or the linens can be donated from friends and family for them. Or someone could simply gather old clothes, cut them up, and then repurpose them for masks. Even doing what the Goufack and Kennang — the Cameroonian sisters — did, they added plastic coverings for the eyes too.
In spite of the despair and dread because of the prominence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the affects on all of our lives, I would sincerely propose taking some time to reconnect with family, children, and friends, and to go the extra kilometre by customizing some Cameroonian-styled masks as part of a homecraft exercise. It would be thoughtful, kind, could fill some time, and would show a concern for that which matters to all of us as a gift to others: Life.