Nadina Did This & Sassy Apparel

Posted by Nadina Ali on

 

This September will see the launch of a collection of my designs in collaboration with Sassy Apparel at their re-launch event. The designs are inspired by my experience as an immigrant living in a country where the anti-immigrant sentiment is strong enough to facilitate Brexit and the concept of lending stolen artefacts (particularly from Africa) back to the countries they originated from - an idea that some museums in the U.K.  have decided to fully embrace. As a child of immigrants from Africa myself, both the above issues have resonated with me and I am keen to use my collaboration with Sassy Apparel to start a public conversation about the legacy of colonialism and the absurdity of loaning cultural and historical artefacts often acquired by highly questionable means.

The first design from the ‘Nadina Did This’ collection is ‘Colonisation’. This is inspired by the phrase “go back to your country” which people of colour are likely to have heard at some point in their lifetime. The phrase is meant to let us know that we do not belong to the country in which we live in, regardless of whether we were born there or not and is solely based on our appearance. It is an obviously racist and ignorant statement and is usually uttered by people who do not understand (in some cases choose not to understand) how history has lead us to this moment. It is not surprising then that YouGov found 59% of British people think the British Empire is something to be proud of and only 19% think it is something to be ashamed of. Many immigrants, including those who for instance were British citizens when they arrived to the U.K, would not be where they are today had their country not been colonised in the first place. I want my design to be a reminder of that fact and to challenge the narrative of colonialism being some benevolent civilising mission that previously colonised countries should be thankful for.

 

Nadina Did This x Sassy Apparel - Colonisation

The second ‘Nadina Did This’ design in the collection is ‘Stole It’. This is in response to the unveiling of the Maqdala 1868 display at the Victoria & Albert Museum earlier this year, which I learnt about through BBC Africa. The Maqdala 1868 display showcases stolen artefacts from Ethiopia which the V&A has offered to return on long term loan. I was particularly struck by this idea of lending back stolen pieces of historical and cultural significance to the descendants of its original creators. Effectively, the museum is saying that it doesn’t matter that these artefacts were acquired through theft (as part of a violent expedition that even the museum calls a "shameful episode"), these items now belong to the museum and will not be returned.

Maqdala 1868 at The Victoria and Albert Museum

The items showcased in the Maqdala 1868 display are from Ethiopia, they belong to the Ethiopian people and Ethiopia is where they should ultimately be displayed permanently. It is the Ethiopian Government’s right – not privilege – to keep these items and look after them regardless of the V&A's or UK Government's justification for keeping them. These items are not the only stolen artefacts that are up for long term loan to their countries of origin. I recently found out that the Benin Bronzes, from modern day Nigeria are currently held at the British Museum. The museum has offered to loan it back to Nigeria. Again, these items belong to the Nigerian people, they do not belong to the British Museum and should be permanently returned, not loaned.

 

Nadina Did This x Sassy Apparel - Stole it

Some of the arguments for not returning these items include that the countries of origin will not be able to showcase them to the number of large audiences that come to British museums and that they might be unable to take care of them in the same way they are looked after in Britain. In my opinion, this is a neo-colonial and imperialist way of thinking which implies that the countries of origin are incapable of appreciating and enjoying these historical pieces, despite the fact that they are the original creators. The aim of the ‘Stole It’ design is to question the validity of loaning stolen artefacts to their original owners. It is time (British) museums become more transparent and accountable about how they have acquired items they have on display, particularly those acquired through violent means. It might also be time to review how museums operate altogether so they can start accommodating for the restitution of artefacts – whether acquired legally or illegally – to their countries of origin.

Nadina.

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Nadina Ali is the designer behind design project Nadina Did This. Originally from Marseille, she came to the UK to study Clothing Design and after a few years working in the fashion industry, decided it was time to share her own ideas with the world. A lover of pop art, street culture, bold graphics and typography, she aims to incorporate those elements into her designs.

She has chosen to collaborate with Sassy Apparel because of their commitment to make politics accessible to a wider audience via fun, affordable and ethically made products.

Nadina also happens to be a skilful baker and she will be baking some tasty sweet treats for the Sassy Apparel re-launch.

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Don’t forget to follow activity leading up to the big day by using our #TooMuchSass hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and catch us in real time at @SassyApparelUK


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