The language of the African Fabric has almost never been described in a novel before, until now and in the novel, Venus of Khala-Kanti. It a great privilege and honor to introduce a book I would recommend for all to read, especially anyone in love with style from an African perspective. I will write my perceptions of the book soon, but in the mean time, see a glimpse of the language of the African Fabric as written by author, Angele Kingue, a woman ahead of her times, and truly worthy of praises in my humble opinion, for the way she takes style from an African perspective to new heights in her novel Venus of Khala-Kanti (which you can purchase here on Amazon by the way for $18.61). Enjoy!!!
(Dr. Angele Kingue with students at Bucknell University)
Excerpt from Venus of Khala-Kanti p.117-1119 :
Ever since Bella let her do as she pleased in her fields, Clarisse was beside herself with joy. She only dressed in green and golden brown, the colors of earth and plant life. She felt she was coming alive again. Dressing the part was her way of extending her mission into what she thought of as external purification. She remembered the woman selling African fabric in the market in Brussels, whose clothing was an indicator of her mood. Kiki was her name. She was the woman most reviled by the men in the African community of Molingo. She crisscrossed all the markets along the West African coast and came back with new fabrics decorated with new designs, to which the market women gave evocative names.
When Kiki wore her fabrics called “Capable Woman” or “Wealthy Woman,” it was to remind the local gossip that business was going well. This also countered the rumors of bankruptcy that arose each time she traveled away from her shop. Then, according to her own close friends, when she suspected that her husband had dipped his cassava stick in the neighbor’s soup, she broadcast her anger to the world, and above all, to the unscrupulous woman with a fabric named “I Run Faster Than My Rival” (a beautiful, predominantly green wrapper with a motif of two brown gazelles, one outpacing the other), or “If My Husband Goes Out, I Go Out” (a green, ochre, and brown wrapper with two birds in a cage, one of them about to leave). And when things had calmed down, she was likely to wear “My Rival’s Envious Eye” (a wrapper whose central motif was a women’s eye) or “My Husband Is Capable” (a rich white bazin fabric). Clarisse met Kiki during one of her stays in Brussels. Her man at the time had taken her there to buy her a present. Clarisse had immediately been seduced by this strong, outgoing woman, who talked to two or three customers at a time while keeping a watchful eye on the cash register. “You don’t need to open your mouth for people to know what you’re thinking. Let your clothes do the talking. Not just through the color. Let the designs come alive. They are what must convey the state of your soul to the world. My sister, your minis and your blouses are beautiful, but they are mute. For me, the language of my fabrics speaks louder than all the Street Radios in the world. I’ve also got wrappers that know how to lead to love and tenderness, wrappers that are more expressive than Wolof women’s small white wrappers, or Baoulé women’s yéké yéké. Look at this beautiful woman’s arm stretching out affectionately toward this man’s hand. Isn’t that beautiful, eh? And these two birds with interlaced necks. In Brazza, people call this wrapper bolingo, it means “love.” When a man comes in here to buy it, I know he’s just met a new woman or he’s trying to make peace with another.” Clarisse listened to all this attentively, emitting admiring noises. “You’re the Queen of the Wrapper,” Clarisse told her. Carried away, Kiki whispered to her, “You must come back to see me, I’ll show you my exclusive collection. My suppliers didn’t take me seriously before, but you know what? Now, they are using my patterns. But I don’t say this to everybody,” she continued, her voice even lower. “I am in the process of starting a sartorial revolution. You’ll see, if God lets me live. I am in the process of devising an anti-mistress fabric for men’s boubous. They put it on and there’s no way they can look sideways, and even if they do look, there’s no way they can function,” she said, bursting with laughter.
Clarisse never returned to see Kiki in Brussels because her accident occurred a short time later. But in this corner of the forest, she found herself thinking about her and telling herself that someday she would find a way to get people to wear their emotions right on their bodies in order to find true symbiosis with their environment. Didn’t the people of the southern forest once read the rhythms of their songs from the painted fabrics they wore? She told herself she would surely find a way to bring the plant-dyed and fiber garments back to life, belts made out of leaves, skirts of raffia, wrappers of beaten bark. But for the moment, with the help of two other women, she raked, she hoed, she dug, she marked the trail for the visitors. “It will be a pretty crescent with a hibiscus or daisy hedge,” she encouraged herself.