Nigerian creatives Daniel Obasi and Yagazie Emezi team up with Vlisco on a new short film

Vlisco&Co, which has been creating unique textiles influencing the fashion landscape in West and Central Africa since 1846, enlisted Daniel Obasi and Yagazie Emezi to probe Igbo culture’s past and present traditions in a new multimedia project.

Earlier in 2018, Filmmaker Daniel Obasi created a short afrofuturistic fashion film An Alien In Town which “follows two stylishly clad humans who take on the responsibility of teaching a new found alien how to fit within the Lagos metropolis” also in collaboration with Vlisco&co. The artist has teamed up again with the Vlisco venture, along with photographer Yagazie Emezi, for the latest edition highlighting traditions and customs in Eastern Nigeria in Vlisco fabrics that are all too familiar in Igbo (and Nigerian) households.

“This multimedia project was deeply researched and gave Obasi and Emezi the room to document beliefs, myths and ways of life found in Igbo culture that are still alive, despite the preconceived notion that they are fading away,” a statement by Vlisco read.

The film addressed the Igbo belief in reincarnation, reworking Igbo women into contemporary designs by Nigerian designers Fruche by Frank Aghuno and Gozel Green.

Still from Udara. Courtesy: Daniel Obasi/Vlisco

“The film isn’t time-bound, but rather draws inspiration from the past and present in an attempt to broaden the perspective of what is possible with Igbo culture,” the statement reads. “It is an ode to the diverse layers of being Igbo through; symbolism, music, traditional beliefs, the mild conflict and interdependence between Christianity and traditional religion within the Igbo communities. Udara approaches spirituality softly and sheds light on certain Igbo beliefs like reincarnation ‘the belief that someone can be reborn in another lifetime’. The tone of the film is one of loss and not entirely about celebration with hopes to draw attention to a culture that is gradually dying.”

Photographer Yagazie Emezi captured Gozel Green’s collection on the set of an old backyard veranda dating 80s and early 90s while addressing the origin and the unfortunate disappearance of Uli: the traditional artform for Igbo women used as a form of beautification on the human body. As Uli was discouraged in colonial times, patterns and colours were worn less on the face, moved onto the fabrics and gradually disappeared from the public eye.

Fruché, in his collection, imagines a reincarnation (Rebirth) of colonial Igbo women as futuristic working women that rule in all facets of life.

Fruche’s REINCARNATION Collection. Courtesy: Yagazie Emezi/Vlisco

“We asked ourselves what these futuristic Igbo women would look like if they wore nothing but Vlisco Hollandais in their everyday life,” Fruche said. “Igbo women for centuries have been known as hard working, empowering, forces to be reckoned with. It is no coincidence that we have drawn inspiration from their effervescence. This collection sheds light on how progressive the Igbo were, even in colonial times.”

Gozel Green’s collection is also inspired by “Uli’. “We infused our love for our culture and contemporary art and maintained the original designs on the Vlisco fabrics we worked on to create an intriguing collection. Like Uli, we had a perfect mix of cuts, trims and lines to emphasise the body form of the woman.”