November 16, 2008

Wafrica - the African kimono

Exploring different cultures around you while traveling can take shape in many ways. Traditional clothing and textiles of a country I am visiting are always intriguing to me. I found the beautiful fabrics of Japan fascinating, and one of my favorite books I found in a Tokyo bookstore was of kimono and yukata patterns. Here is an unique story I discovered recently in The Japan Times that illustrates what I mean:

The seed of Wafrica was planted earlier this year when Serge Mouangue, a Tokyo-based concept- car designer for Nissan, decided to explore mixing the two cultural landscapes in the form of one of the most iconic symbols of Japan: the kimono.

"They may appear different on the surface but they do share some cultural similarities," the 35-year-old says. "Both societies are very tribal and have a respect for hierarchy and an appreciation of the power of silence.

"And then there are the differences. In Japan there is no improvisation. Here, improvisation can mean trouble, shame, difficulties. But in Africa, it means life, renewal, health and spirit."

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