Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


April 28th, 2014

Tartan: Its Journey Through the African Diaspora – EXHIBITION

Tartan: Its Journey through the African Diaspora is the first major project from The Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) and tells the story of  how tartan travelled around the world and through its influence led to aspects of material culture being developed  in certain parts of Africa and the Diaspora. The project looks at how these cultures adapted, adopted or absorbed this influence to bring significance to fabrics such as madras cloth. Madras cloth was created in India and then sold to people in the Caribbean, the fabric has been used in the development of many islands national dress.

Scottish Kilts

Scotland has a long historical and cultural relationship with tartan. Tartan: Its Journey through the African Diaspora will uncover the history of how tartan came to Scotland, and the dichotomy between the use and social significance of madras fabric in the Caribbean and the US. The project will explore the emergence of tartans in Kenya in the form of shukas; the blankets worn by the Maasai and discover the relationship to tartan that has developed amongst the Zulu’s in South Africa.

The project, which has 3 major outputs; an exhibition a documentary screening and a dance performance, will  highlight the heritage and legacy of how these fabrics came to move around the world and to explain how cultures often intertwine to develop different traditions and cultural practices.  There are also a number of public workshops where they invite everyone to join in and engage with the history and heritage in a fun and creative way. There will also be interactive elements to the exhibition where visitors will be able to learn how to tie various garments using the provided culturally relevant fabric.

Zil'oka dancers

Their journey’s story travels to Scotland, Kenya  South Africa and various countries within the Caribbean passing through India, and quickly docking in the USA along the way. This enables them to map out a broad picture of how the development of these patterns have come to influence the economic, cultural and social developments in these countries/ regions.

Their three main outputs –

1) the exhibition – will take place at Craft Central gallery in Clerkenwell, central London from the 5th – 31st August 2014,

2) the dance performance and

3) the documentary screening of how the whole project was put together, will take place at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 12th September 2014.

For more information keep checking back to their website page and follow them on TwitterFacebook and Tumblr

This is definitely one we recommend!



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  1. When will this exhibition come to Africa? South Africa? Kenya?
    Can the video be viewed by diaspora people?

  2. Barbara Jean Championships

    What a wonderful article! I never knew about the African connection with tartans.

  3. Barbara Jean Champ

    Followup with my brief comment is my name is Barbara Jean Champ-I
    I’ve in the USA, Utah in particular.

  4. lisa

    I am looking for the sett for the African tartan . I already aware that it comprises of red, gold and green.

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