Under the banner of “International Geneva”, some consider Geneva as a city rich in cultural diversity. While it welcomes a varied cultural life, it is a commonly accepted reality that this diversity must be created and brought to life by those who wish to experience it fully.
One of the great things about Afrodyssée is just how well it promotes this cultural diversity in the City of Light. This fifth edition of the African Trends Market was cause for much celebration, proving yet again how necessary and pertinent Afrodyssée continues to be for those living in Switzerland and are curious about African culture.
Aside from the marketplace stalls, there were interactive workshops and debates on issues spanning cultural appropriation, black hair care, race and how to better promote cultural innovation on the African continent.
It is perhaps inevitable that race remains a key consideration for those living in the diaspora. This year’s main discursive focus centred on people of African descent and the role of the United Nations in protecting their human rights. It is part of the initiative of the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner’s (OHCHR) entitled; the International Decade of People of African Descent and the commitment to mobilize international and national attention regarding the challenges faced by people of African heritage living in the diaspora. They also serve to shine a light on issues such as discrimination and exclusion which descendants and citizens of certain countries face as minorities.
The Food Village offered a chance to sample cuisines from Senegal, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and Cameroon. There were a variety of savoury dishes to satisfy the appetites of the curious, as well as the discerning palate.
The fashion show was heaving with high-level invitees such as the Ambassadors of Rwanda and of Benin, as well as guests eager to experience the latest innovations in fashion and design, both in streetwear and haute couture. Africa was represented from East to West right across to the south with designers from Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Congo, South Africa and Mali.
Runway outfits designed by Liputa Swagga (Congo), Mille Collines (South Africa, Kenya) and Marché Noir (Togo) delighted spectators. Equally worthy of attention were the printed garments shown by the Nigerian-German label, Wear your mask.
Firm favourites proved to be the delicate designs of L’Empreinte Noire (Cameroon), the flowing garments of Hamaji the Nomad (Kenya) and Threaded Tribes (Ghana) with their motto, “Be yourself, no matter what”.
It was interesting to find in this year’s Marketplace or Le Grand Marché - as it is fondly called - the inclusion of books for sale on African history and culture, including biographies of iconic leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Cheikh Anta Diop and Patrice Lumumba.
On the fashion side, there were bags, jewellery, cosmetics and accessories of every description with relatively affordable price tags. Notable was the Ethiopian-Swiss label, Albaso, whose bags tell a story of the rich Ethiopian and Eritrean heritage of its designer, Merhawit Samuel.
The label was created two years ago and has gone from strength to strength, even gaining distributorship in the Globus luxury shops. This is evidence of the confidence they have in her brand and testimony of how hard work and dedication can pay off.
“Dear Katiopae” offered beautifully crafted jewellery which were handmade in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Aicha, the stall owner works full time, but loves crafting and bringing to life historical African symbols and culture.
Afrisocks provided coloured socks as a much-needed accessory for every fashionista, while Uhorakeye presented delicate, yet colourful serigraphy prints.
Wax Up Africa, is again on the radar. They have a shop in Geneva which offers batik fabrics at affordable prices. They were also recently mentioned in a national magazine, Femina, reflecting the increasing fashion-forward kudos that is being given to African prints in the Western design.
iLab Design showcased art and interior design items by artisans from the diaspora, including paintings and one-of-a-kind household furnishings.
Each of their pieces tells a story. Their commitment to this objective has seen them set up a concept store in Geneva, where the more discerning client will have time to leisurely browse their collection and discuss in greater detail.
Afrodyssée ended on a high note with DJs playing the night out at the After Party with Afrobeat rhythms and modern dance tunes which had bodies grooving and feet shuffling across the converted dancefloor.
As always, Afrodyssée manages to magically combine the richness of contemporary design with the inimitable African cultural heritage, along with unique musical beats and rich food, all making it a unique experience to be savoured in large scoops.
It is sometimes easy to forget that this is the only cultural event of its calibre in Geneva which offers an important platform for up and coming designers and creators to share their experiences, but also to be able to market their wares to an audience that is generally underrepresented, but keenly interested in African design.
For many present, next year’s edition of Afrodyssée could not come soon enough.