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African Folklore Meets Fashion

TAMERRA GRIFFIN | OkayAfrica   in  ·
April 2, 2015

The two words that Amaka Osakwe uses to describe her newest Fall collection for Maki Oh sound like they were pulled from an Apples to Apples game: mermaids and appropriation. Given some context, though, the Nigerian fashion designer’s explanation of what inspired her work showcases a rather thoughtful sensibility for a clothing line that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is conceptually relevant.

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In a recent interview with Style.com, Osakwe spoke at length about the two concepts that fuel the Maki Oh collection for the upcoming season. “Mermaid” is actually a nod to the water spirit Mami Wata, a staple figure in West African folklore. The legends behind Mami Wata’s genesis are as broad as the cultural regions that celebrate her, which include Haiti, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. The underlying theme for the spiritual idol, though, is that she commands attention and can bring people unimaginable fortune or life-crushing despair at will. Osakwe describes her as the “keeper of virgins and goddess of the river.” The color scheme alone evokes an organic mood: textured taupes and smooth camels play with black as a canvas, and are complemented by middle-of-the-ocean blues, forest greens, and gentle rose hues.

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