ASC seminar by Edith Ojo (Brighton based arts freelancer) & Nicola Stylianou (MoDa, Middlesex University)
The Fashioning Africa project at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (2015-2018) aimed to develop a new collection of African dress from 1960-2007. This was an area where existing British museum collections were weak to the point of virtual non-existence. The project was innovative in other ways too, because, as a collaboration between the Museum’s World Art (formerly ‘Ethnography’, later ‘Non-Western’) and Fashion & Textiles sections, it cross-cut conventional curatorial divisions and allowed the Museum to transcend the problem of reproducing the split between ‘African dress’ and ‘Western fashion’. Moreover, it aimed to explore new ways of collecting by devolving decisions over what to acquire to an external panel, thus aspiring to look beyond expertise in the field of museology to co-produce the new collection with diverse interested parties bringing other forms of knowledge to bear. This paper will address why African dress hasn’t been systematically collected in the post- independence period and explore the methodology of co-production.
Edith Ojo is an Arts Consultant based in Brighton who has always worked closely with diverse artists and art organisations across the region. She also currently sits on the Fashioning Africa Collection Panel, Brighton Museum. Prior to becoming a freelance consultant, Edith worked at Arts Council England for several years as Diversity in Arts Relationship Manager. She holds an MA in African Studies (SOAS), and a BA in Fine Art (Chelsea College of Art & Design). She is also currently a Trustee at a local Brighton Community organisation, Trust for Developing Communities.
Nicola Stylianou was awarded a PhD in 2013 for her thesis ‘Producing and Collecting for Empire: African textiles at the V&A 1852-2002.’ She went on to work at the V&A on a two-room display about the African objects in the V&A collection. She currently works at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Middlesex University. In January she takes up a position at the University of Sussex to work as a post-doctoral researcher on Making African Connections in Sussex and Kent Museums: De-colonial futures for colonial collections. She is a participant in the Fashioning Africa Collection Panel at Brighton Museum, a project to acquire African fashion and textiles from 1960-2000.