About LaShaune Fitch’s Thesis Project
Fabricating Desire: Fashion, Photography and Cosmopolitanism in Bamako
In the wake of colonialism’s historical legacy and in the midst of economic crisis, a surge of creative agency and material cultural production is taking place in West Africa. At the heart of this “paradox of crisis and creativity” are African artisans and fashion designers whose innovative work is generating economic opportunities both locally and globally.The woven and applied patterns of bazin, industrially manufactured damask woven in Europe or Asia and dyed by women in Bamako, Mali, will be the locus through which to analyze both the politics of the expressive in Bamako and the efficacy of the fashion industry as a strategy for the alleviation of poverty in West Africa. Mapping the layered patterns of bazin’s design reveals symbolic and material landscapes, multiple circuits of production, and the contradictory effects of globalization. I will consider each layer as a map with which to navigate the labyrinths of Bamako’s marketplace, whose changing patterns of production and distribution, particularly with regard to gender, reflect Mali’s shifting position within the global economy.
I will combine my memories as a cultural tourist to Mali with observations on the representations of African women in order to comment on the larger historical and socioeconomic forces shaping African cultural production today.