PhDs in style

26/07/2016 - 10:55-0 Comments by | kenya flag

This past weekend was once again the annual Afro-Karibik Festival in Bayreuth. As I’ve written before, the festival consists of a whole weekend of African food, clothing, and music. The town’s main street is turned into a lively market place, with colourful stands stretching as far as the eye can see, flowing even into the side streets. Featured at the stands are delicious dishes, attractive clothes and sandals, and unique accessories, sourced, presumably, from Africa. There are those who frown on the whole concept of the festival, arguing that it is simply a commercial venture without much authenticity and should be ignored, while others jump into it wholeheartedly and take the opportunity to enjoy African dishes and arts.

This year, apart from the usual stands, there was a unique one by students of the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies – BIGSAS – my graduate school. The stand featured photos posed by the students, displaying clothing from different parts of Africa, and was complemented by an hour-long fashion show on one of the main stages at the festival.  It was refreshing to see the usually ‘buried-in-their-books’ doctoral students show another side of themselves, taking to the catwalk and displaying some of their national clothing in style.  The local newspaper covered the event in the following link, where you can also take a peek at some pictures of the event:

Observing the show, I found myself reflecting: being foreign in Germany (as in any other country) is a mixed bag.  There  are those who, just by looking at you,  assume that they have you figured out – they simply pull out all their stereotypes and click ‘apply to all’ in their minds, without needing to have ever talked to you.  On the other hand, there are those who approach you with their curiosity and through conversation and questions learn one or two new things.

In the same way,  displaying clothes at such a festival may feed into the stereotypes of an Africa purely composed of  bright clothes, music, and dance, when there is much more to the continent than beautiful clothing.  On the other hand, clothing is still a part of the whole – and an important one at that – so what about choosing to celebrate that aspect at such a festival? Have a thoughtful week!

Tags: Holidays & Events, Leisure Time, Society & Culture, Student Life


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