L’Uomo Vogue Presents May/June All Africa issue.

We are at the point again in Africa -post colonialism- where Africa/Africans seem to be charging forward in a new era of the wind of change that will once again re-brand Africa/Africans not only to the world at large but also amongst Africans. I am a big fan of Franca Sozzani in her bold genuine steps to really be a trailblazer in the publication/fashion world to right international wrongs and to showcase beauty on a global scale, while encouraging and challenging us all to do the same.  I was elated to see Franca in my homeland of Ghana letting the world know that our designers can and are competing on a global scale and I was even more ecstatic to hear that Vogue Italia will be a media sponsor for the upcoming Ghana Fashion and Design Week. This is the sort of Pan-African inclusiveness that has been part of the African story and agenda since independence ; yet seems lost amongst many global Africans.

It’s not often we build a web article and find the need to tag it with the keywords ‘Ban Ki-moon’ and ‘fashion’. Not that the UN secretary general isn’t stylish enough for us, but on this occasion L’Uomo Vogue has decided to give him the cover slot of their May issue in honour of an entire edition dedicated to ‘rebranding Africa’. Let them explain:Africa is a land with a myriad of resources and unexpected opportunities; above all it is a young continent with a huge desire for self-affirmation and for men and women to be guaranteed the same measure of dignity. It is a ‘continent in progress’, a land in constant evolution, with an ongoing commitment to offering its people better living conditions,” the editorial team at the Italian men’s branch of Vogue explain in a press release. It continues: “Africa needs to recreate an image for itself that moves away from the picture of war and famine habitually presented to us by the media. And indeed there is a positive side to the continent, one where there are textile companies, oil deposits and modern cities rising up in countries we are as yet unfamiliar with; huge steps forward have been taken in the field of education, which have led to the building of primary schools, high schools and universities.” Who better, goes their thinking, to illustrate a celebration of Africa than Ban Ki-moon, who is interviewed by the magazine’s editor, Franca Sozanni, about the continent’s sustainable growth (the woman on the right is singer Lira, the picture is the other image being floated by L’Uomo Vogue to explemplify what else you can find between its covers)...That they have opted not to put an African person on the cover seems odd. But the image of a man (a very important man, at that) behind a desk, in a suit, the world sitting behind his shoulders, is clearly there to convey a certain seriousness. It will be interesting to see how such an exercise as ‘rebranding Africa’ plays out on the pages of L’Uomo Vogue.” READ MORE

Africa is in the news — but not just for the sad and familiar reasons of conflict and suffering. The continent is entering the fashion arena, with the quality of its handwork, artistic creativity and its potential for economic growth bringing Africa literally in vogue. The key word for an overall résumé of changes in attitude and perception is “rebranding.” Ms. Sozzani did an “all black” issue for women’s Vogue in 2008, and she has subsequently promoted multiculture with a focus on black creativity and beauty on the magazine’s Web site, Vogue.it . Ms. Sozzani’s personal commitment helps to dispel any idea that rebranding Africa via fashion is a gimmick or that it might sit uncomfortably beside the deep-set issues of poverty, disease and gender. The editor has been appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for Fashion4Development — a global campaign that uses fashion-based initiatives to support the United Nations’ wider issues in helping Africa…” READ MORE

L’Uomo Vogue‘s Rebranding Africa issue is an idea whose time has come,” Fashionista contributor and founder of Africa Style Daily Zandile Blay said. “From fashion to film to politics, the continent is in the midst of a total makeover so Franca Sozzani and L’Uomo Vogue are right to document itBut Blay says that coverage on Africa’s “makeover”–like the kind we’ll see L’Uomo Vogue‘s May issue–is too few and far between. “As an American editor I find it disappointing that only European publications are delving so deeply into the topic,” she said. “Where are the US publications in this global conversation?Read More

While I believe in the notion of Re-branding Africa and understand that L’Uomo Vogue’s All Africa May/June issue is part of a UN initiative in assistance to help to re-brand Africa to the international community by truly living up to the idea of “free trade” –which more often than not leaves Africa/Africans at a loss with little dividends to show in freedom or trade; I would have preferred to ban Ki-moon from the cover -LOL!  In all seriousness, I would have preferred Ban Ki-moon to be replaced with some of the floating images inside of the special issue of Africans like the AC Milan players and South African singer Lira -who are truly the ones re-branding Africa globally. In all fairness the international world has not enhanced Africa/Africans as much as Africa/Africans have enhanced the world. Ban Ki- moon on the cover is not exactly the type of image of re-branding Africa that many of us Africans like myself have in mind as a re-branded post independence continent.

The wind of change that brought about a plethora of post-colonial independent African nations did not have to seek permission from the international world nor the UN to re-brand itself as free independent post-colonial nations with their own unique and personal African identity that was once heralded the world over with great leaders like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Sekou Toure, Patrice Lumumba and so many other men and women past and present. We have in the past and continue til today to invite international assistance in our growth, but not in a growth of image that indirectly or overtly implies that Africa/Africans have to be more like the Western world to compete globally and to re-brand its image. The last November 2008 cover of L’Uomo Vogue‘s first All Africa issue also made this same mistake by putting Forrest Whitaker on the cover with features of Quincy Jones, John Legend, Matt Damon,  Michelle Obama and others “all expressing their affection for and their personal connection to Africa“.  While this November 2008 issue according to Robin Givhan was to “focus on people, projects and ideas. She did not want to make an aesthetic statement about Africa. So she didn’t fill the magazine with images of Western models in overpriced vaguely ethnic frocks. And unlike a recent issue of India’s Vogue magazine, which sparked outrage among activists and humanitarians, this one won’t show peasants posing with $5,000 handbags. “Fashion is not only about clothes,” Sozzani says. She broadens it so that it speaks to the vague and all-encompassing notion of identity..” Read More

Unfortunately one of Africa’s biggest problems is this vague all-encompassing notion of identity that usually never takes into account that Africa is a vast continent made up of a plethora of countries with their very own African identities. More often than not we live on the cusp of the two extremes where African faces are shown to represent Africa’s poverty and most things wrong with Africa, while Western faces are shown to represent the growth,progress and what is good about Africa. If it is about African growth, progress, charitable organizations and true free trade of emerging market business-there are Africans on and off the continent who can and should be representative of that firstly to Africans and secondly to the international world. We can speak for ourselves and have our own African images representing ourselves because we have been the ones generation after generation on the frontline of re-branding Africa and showcasing our African identity to the world.

L’Uomo Vogue‘s May issue delves into a topic rarely explored by fashion magazines: World politics. In fact, the whole issue is dedicated to the “rebranding of Africa”, and features the unlikely cover star of 67-year-old Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN….Africa does not need charity,” cover star Ki-moon says. “Africa needs investment and partnership. Joining forces with civil society and private sector, including non-traditional players, like the fashion industry, has become indispensable. Sustainable development is my top priorityRead More

I, in full disclosure must inform that I have yet to receive my copy of this issue to delve deeper into the content beyond the cover; However as much as I congratulate Franca Sozzani on the bold step with the May/June second All Africa issue of L’Uomo Vogue -I still feel we have a long way to go in the international community along with our own African communities world wide in understanding that just as the re-branding issue of once emerging markets like China in its undeniable global growth and appeal at its heights during Kofi Annan‘s term as UN Secretary General would have never had Kofi Annan on the cover to represent re-branding of China – Africans like myself would have also preferred to see the image of our own on the cover as our continental representation. The images of a continent/nations says a lot to and about its future!

In my own efforts in representing fashion, beauty and other companies trying to enter the African market, I have found enough difficulty in convincing clients that their westernized blonde and blue eyed/closer to White than Black ideal of beauty in their advertising and marketing strategies can not and should not be translated as representative of entering the African market without any African faces along side of it.  I also have found that there  is still so much miseducation and misconception that Africa can somehow be generalized like China or America, but the worst part of my experience has been in seeing that Africa generally presents itself continentally as a power struggle constantly hindering a lot of growth brought on by our own selves and our lack of being able to do anything on our own without aid and assistance from others because instead of building the right structures and finding African solutions to African problems, we rather spend more time fighting amongst ourselves in a power struggle to be top boss in doing things at our own time and setting self serving timelines in progress, while usually granting multinationals and the international community full and free access to be at the forefront and the face of our leadership and progress because as the saying goes “Everyone wants to be a chief, But nobody wants to be an Indian“?  Generation after generation we seem to be complicit in consuming and outputting the same ol’ same ol’ as we watch our dreams deferred. Africa/Africans need to collectively change our attitudes as Dr. Nkrumah said, in order to stop being complicit in hindering our own growth! We as Africans need to be more diligent and pro-active in setting the example and course for the future of our continent and in making sure the images representing our nations and continent are reflective of our independence stance in Forward Ever, Backward Never!

In the future as the world of Africa & the West mate more & more into the totality of world culture, the creative strength of the African personality, which is evident in tribal sculpture, will contribute far more profoundly to human fulfillment than can yet be imagined” Dr. Kwame Nkrumah- 1966

I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me….I made it quite clear that from now on – today – we must change our attitudes, our minds, we must realise that from now on, we are no more a colonial but a free and independent people. But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work. That new African is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all, the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our own foundation. Our own African identity…We have won the battle and we again re-dedicate ourselves. Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa….We face neither East Nor West, We Face Forward” Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

“Made In Africa”

Scholars and scientists now conceive that Africa is the first place of mankind
Africans were the first builders of civilization
They discovered mathematics, invented writing, developed sciences
Engineering, medicine, religion, fine arts, and built the Great Pyramids
An architectural achievement which still baffles modern scientists’

The 225th Emperor [echo] direct descent from Solomon and The Queen of Sheba [echo]
He is the “King of Kings, The Lion of Judah [echo]”
The name Haile Selassie I means “Power of the Trinity”

[Verse 1: Stephen Marley]
Educate yourselves, of Africa
To liberate yourself, Africa
Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry

Our history that they stole, Africa
Is written in our souls, Africa
Oldest nation on this earth
Know just what you worth
Well well

Ships that sail to distant places
Robbed us of our rising worlds
History says that you’ve betrayed us
Talking of the Gods you serve
Hear the rambling in the sky
Tears that our fore fathers cry
And today we’re still in chains
Take the shackle from our minds
You’re the corner stone
The king upon the throne

How beautiful are thou, Africa
Our nation have to bow, Africa
Don’t you fall from grace
You’re that secret place
Aye! Aye-ah-aye!

[Verse 2: Wale]
Power to the people, Motherland representa
I’m on trial with the man she my co-defendant
And I demand her attention, can you focus women?
I’m getting closer to the sky errytime I hit it
Haile Selassie I, “Power of the Trinity”
Soul made in naija, my voice made in Italy
White mans world that I’m livin’ in, some say
But it was Africa the continent we all came from
Can’t nothing come between me and you
So before I have seeds gotta understand my roots
Gotta understand the truth. We is all king’s ’round here
Lifes not all fair, work till we fall dead
Paul goin’ hard ’till I urn like a Pall-Bearer
Although my body’s in the U.S my heart’s there
I can never be ashamed of her, I got my features and my name from her
Mama Africa

[Verse 3: Stephen Marley]
The richest place on earth
Know just what your worth

Talking about the God you serve

Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry

They infiltrate our homes, Africa
They claim it as their own, Africa
Now we must stand tall
To break down all these wall-alls
Well well

Our children must be taught, of Africa
The science and the art, Africa
Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nahhh!

Educate yourself, Africa
To liberate yourselves, Africa
Keep your heads up high
No more will we cry

Beautiful are thou, Africa
A legend have to bow, Africa
Oh Oh!

Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)
Made in Africa, We share Africa (We share Africa)