Each one Teach One: The Power of Image in Fashion
Home can be an ambiguous term for many. It can mean our place of residence, the place we lay our heads. Or, it can carry a sense of comfort and permanence, the place in which we find and form our identities. For immigrants and members of the diaspora, home often represents more than one place. This creates a new challenge and opportunity, one in which we must adapt to having multiple identities and cultures.
Originally from Uganda, Sandra, came to London to study. She has settled down to raise her son, calling the city home for over 10 years.
Within British society there exists a strong sense of multiculturalism, and a large presence of African and Caribbean people, languages and cultures. However, the diversity of these cultures can often be reduced by the definition of ‘Black British’. This word encompasses its own culture, but often ignores the specific ethnicities and backgrounds of its people.
Sandra described to us how she has been on a quest to instill a sense of culture in her son, in the face of those challenges. Having spent time working in the youth justice system, she noted how easily Black British boys can lose their identity. “They often do not know the greatness they come from,” she told us. “In Africa, we have a very celebratory narrative, we learn about our heroes. I spent my youth learning about all these great leaders, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, but that doesn’t happen here in London.”
For some, Living in a home away from home can be isolating, leaving us questioning who we are. Sandra found a way to instill cultural pride in Africa in her son and inspire him to be a leader. “I am trying to teach my son where he came from while reminding myself of all the great people that came from Africa. Camarades’ clothing helps me do that. I tell him ‘You are the future, you are the one to rewrite what they have misconstrued’ ”
She believes that clothing is a very powerful way of communicating. “People are often taken aback by the images on the Camarades clothing he wears,” she says. Her son wore the Patrice Lumumba T-shirt to a camp, and as a result, sparked an educational conversation with other children. In the conversation, they began talking and bonding about Africa, signifying the power of the image. It acts as a point of interest: many of us will see an image or piece of artwork, and become curious, want to know more...what it represents, who it is, and what is its significance. Immediately, Sandra’s son will be able to inform others on the late African revolutionary, his impact upon the continent and his lasting legacy.
Fashion, in this way, helps us to rewrite the narrative of Africa as a continent, and tell our stories: ones of excellence, revolution, and strength. On top of this, fashion is a fabulous way of communicating with our peers who we are. Here, Sandra’s son is representing himself as a leader, someone with influence and resilience... all factors which echo a celebratory narrative of Africa and contribute to the essence of nationalism and pride. Scenarios like this, connect us as a broad community and remind us that we all have stories of greatness that we can wear with pride.
Written by Charlie Reynolds-Thompson, October 2019.