Model shows off work of Ghanaian designer Christie Brown
(Courtesy: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo/Eric Don Arthur)
As the Obamas prepare to visit Ghana, much of the focus has been on how Michelle Obama should highlight the AIDS epidemic among young girls in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, whether most like it or not, there is a paradigm shift in how Africans view themselves and their insistence on telling their own stories. Accordingly, celebrities or political figures from the USA or Europe, visiting Africa, should not be expected to always highlight Africa’s poor or diseased. There is a better way, the Style way, which is even more powerful and can be a vehicle to empower, enrich and ultimately help resolve the problems of the poor and diseased in Africa.
Michelle Obama using her style power can help impact and improve Ghana/Africa’s economy and overall image in these three key ways:
1. Boost Africa’s Economy: When visiting Ghana Michelle Obama should be expected to use her globally recognized style power to highlight Ghana’s thriving clothing and fashion industry. In doing so, she immediately places Ghana and African fashions, firmly, on the global fashion map and helps create a demand for Ghana/African textiles. This demand, in turn, creates jobs in Ghana/Africa’s clothing and textiles industry which are largely filled by women. When women are earning a living, they are able to afford and address the nutritional and health needs of their families.
2.Re-brand Africa in the West: Isabel Toledo, Jason Wu and Thakoon Panichgul are emerging designers that have catapulted into the world limelight because Mrs. Obama wore their designs. Michelle Obama has effectively help brand in the mind of the world that these designers can dress any woman in the world, even the First Lady of the United States of America. Similarly, using her “Obama factor” Michelle Obama can help rebrand the image of Africans in the West. Dressed in the designs of Ghanian designers like Kofi Ansah, SIKA or Christie Brown, Mrs. Obama effectively helps replace the highly saturated images of Africa in the West as naked, sick and poverty stricken with “stylish, healthy and fashionble”
3. Breach the African-Americans versus African Divide: Michelle Obama as a descendant of enslaved Africans visiting Ghana is powerful! Beyond the obvious affinity many African-Americans already have towards Ghana, her visit and wearing of Ghanian designers helps expand the mindset of African-Americans in the USA towards Africa.
While African-Americans have historically embraced the Kente cloth, originally from Ghana, and use Kente in numerous celebrations, there is no denying the tension among Africans and African-Americans in the USA. For the most part, the two groups lack understanding of each other’s culture and value systems, effectively creating a wall that, at times, makes communication difficult.
Michelle Obama dressed in Ghananian designs immediately helps create a natural curiosity with both Africans and African-Americans to begin understanding and appreciating their cultural differences and similarities.
Uduak Oduok is a California based attorney, journalist and model. She has a keen interest in the intersection of fashion, music, film and the arts through a legal framework. She is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ladybrille Magazine, a magazine connecting today’s young, vibrant and globally chic American and European woman to Africa’s equally young and vibrant fashion, film and music industries. Ms. Oduok can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] You can also visit Ladybrille Magazine at www.ladybrillemag.com