Africa is known for its bold, unapologetic use of colour. Stories are told in pigments, tones and hues; a kaleidoscope as diverse as the cultures and peoples of the continent. For the initiative Colours of Africa, a collaborative project with Google Arts & Culture, we asked 60 African creatives to capture the unique spirit of their country in a colour which represents home to them.
The projects they have created are personal and distinct stories of Africa, put into images, videos, texts and illustrations. Each artist has also attempted to articulate what being African means to their identity and view of the world.
Colour:Spirit of Violet
My Colours of Africa adventure took me back to the village where my mother was born, an area in Homabay County around Lake Victoria in Kenya. There, I had the pleasure of witnessing traditional dance performed by male dancers wearing multicoloured costumes and a traditional feathered headdress called the Kondo Udo.
They were accompanied by female dancers wearing purple tops and sisal skirts, dyed in shades of pink and purple. From both costumes worn by male and female dancers, I chose the colour purple for my Colours of Africa discovery.
Purple symbolises nobility, compassion, creativity, dignity, mystery, inspiration, peace and spirituality. It is also the dominant colour of the Kenyan National bird – the lilac-breasted roller – and the Kenyan national flower, the tropical orchid. These two symbols feature in my purple digital print design, the final piece that emerged from my colour exploration in Kenya.
What it means to be African
Being African is freedom. I feel deeply connected to my origin and the traditions passed down through my lineage. Knowing myself is freedom, because I never have to question who I am and where my roots are. To be African is to love. My continent is filled with pulchritudinous people, authenticity and a deep sense of spirituality and interconnectedness. To love Africa is to love myself.
Anyango Mpinga is an eco-innovator who has embraced the principles of circular fashion to explore radical systems in textile design. She founded her eponymous contemporary, sustainable brand in 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya and it is now renowned for its reimagined white shirts, bold prints, size inclusivity and its balance between androgyny and a bohemian aesthetic. As a forward-thinking designer, Mpinga is exploring the use of emerging technologies such as 3D modelling and bio-inspired design to create sustainable textiles.
She is the founder of Free As A Human, a non-profit organisation that tackles the humanitarian and environmental crisis of the explorative labour practices in the fashion industry. As part of her mission to serve grassroots communities, she actively implements some of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. These include Goal 5, advocating for Gender Equality and eliminating violence against women including human trafficking; Goal 8, which highlights the importance of providing decent work and economic growth and eradicate slave labour and Goal 16 for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, which calls for the end of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against women. Through key partnerships with organisations in Kenya, her company champions education for young female survivors of modern slavery.