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'Head to Foot': Fashion statements by African women
December 12, 2006

'On the head… around the neck… on the wrists… on the fingers… around the hips… around the ankles… on the feet… and on the back'. 'Head to Foot' was outstanding collaborative show by some of Zimbabwe's seasoned visual artists' and professional fashion designers that ended at the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe on the second of November 2006.

"Fashion Statements have been made by African women for hundreds of years. Adornment has been part of the life of African women over the African continent. Adornments worn by African woman have had cultural and ritualistic differences and meanings but have been part of the way in which a woman has expressed herself, declared herself and presented her self to her world. The culturally significant African woman is-she who sees her presentation of herself engaging cultural symbols, beads jewellery, her hair done in a certain way, her clothes made from a certain material and suiting her body in a certain way. From 'Head to Foot' the African woman has been culturally presentable through what she wears on her head, around her neck, on her wrists, on her fingers, around her hips, around her ankles on her feet and on her back".

Today African culture becomes more cosmopolite and there are inroads of this and inroads of that so that there 1S little difference between the way African woman present themselves to women elsewhere in the world. On the back there can be Dubai, on the wrists and fingers China, on the feet Malaysia, around the hips, UK. But there is also an 'updating' of the African way of a woman presenting herself, new uses of beads, the colours of Africa, the 'shape of Africa' as identified in dress and today' adornment, the accessory. The accessory today can 'make' the woman. Old shoes, old belts, recherché hats do not a woman make. The latest in bags from Germany, the softest of leather with studs and metal and the odd bit of silver can redeem the oldest of dresses, the clumpiest of shoes.

So the National Gallery of Zimbabwe made a 'call' to young people who abide by how they look, what they wear for their effect on people, their standing in society., how they are perceived and seen by presenting Head to Foot. And in presenting head to Foot the National Gallery showcased the work of some of the best designers today in Zimbabwe. There were the smooth elegant 'international scene' leather bags, waistcoats and jerkins of Mashingadzi Gomo; there were the elegant cleaving clothes of Hope Masike, worn with outré accessories, and by models with heads topped with oriental turbans. There were the 'close to nature' accessories of Tarisai Gweje, bags suitably displayed on sand and belts hanging from a fence.

The exhibition was so 'staged' so that each designer's work had its own environment, atmosphere and feeling. The Gallery anticipated that the exhibition has provided meeting grounds for the ideas of the visual artists, designers represented and other young designers, that joint projects might result, workshops be planned and other integral events take place.

Artists represented include: Hope Masike, Tarisai Gweje, Sabina Musvati, Masimba Hwati, Mashingadze Gomo, Emily Mashanda, Tapfumanei Musunza.

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