At the heart of this edition of the State of Fashion Biennale is a decentralised structure. Ties that Bind has unfolded across four places: the home site here in Arnhem, as well as in three sister sites in Kenya, India, and Brazil. In each sister site, an interlocutor-curator – Sunny Dolat in Nairobi, Kallol Datta in Bengaluru, and Hanayrá Negreiros in São Paulo – was invited to develop a Ties that Bind project embedded in their local context and community. Their thoughtful, powerful exhibitions happened in March and April 2024, and highlights from each one are presented in Arnhem.

Decolonisation movements around the world mark a time of growing joy in the magics and realities of being African, of African descent, and connected to African traditions, customs, rituals and cultures. Fashion has been the cauldron for many brewing political conversations, as design practices expand the myriad ways there are to be, look, perform and express being African.

Approaching designers and artists as contemporary custodians of heritage, Tradition(al) spotlights and celebrates the nuances of culture and heritage as they manifest in fashion across Africa. The exhibition draws attention to the materials, expressions, silhouettes, and knowledge systems that have – in surviving to this day and age – resisted the oppressions of imperial erasure. As makers embrace, evolve, interrogate and dismantle ideas of tradition, such practices continue their legacies and begin new life-cycles.

Am I still of this soil, stripped of my beads and charms?
Am I still of this soil, with my forced fluency in these foreign tongues?
Am I still of this soil, if my body has never been rooted in its rituals and dances?
Am I still of this soil, when I’m ashamed to pray to the mountain God?

Will this soil accept me still?

State of Fashion 2024 | Tradition(al)
Titled State of Fashion 2024 | Tradition(al), Sunny Dolat organised an exhibition featuring 20 makers, a series of talks in collaboration with Lagos Fashion Week at Circle Art Gallery – Nairobi, Kenya between 4 – 14 April 2024.

Highlights from State of Fashion 2024 | …of involution, of languor… can be seen at Rembrandt Theatre during the Biennale’s run in Arnhem.

Tradition(al), Nairobi, Kenya
Circle Art Agency, 4 – 14 April 2024
Curated by Sunny Dolat

Tradition(al) Featuring:
Dickens Otieno
Doreen Mashika
Emmy Kasbit
Hisi Studio
Johanna Bramble
Lagos Space Programme
Loza Maléombho
Lukhanyo Mdingi
Papa Oppong
Poisa Africa
Ushanga Kenya Initiative

Sunny Dolat
Sunny Dolat is a fashion curator, cultural producer, creative director and co-founder of The Nest Collective. He was a Consultant Researcher for the exhibition Africa Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Photo: Kaj Lehner Hawi