The majority of the museum’s African textiles were collected by British people in a colonial context, between 1860 and 1940. Consultations with black and minority ethnic communities in Brighton & Hove revealed a feeling of disenfranchisement in the museum and its activities, as well as discomfort at the way in which the World Art collection was amassed.
The museum took the opportunity of an HLF ‘Collecting Cultures’ grant to work with local people, its BME Heritage Network, fashion experts and academics to develop the collections, focussing on acquiring new items from 1960-2000. This collaborative approach has brought new meanings, relevance and ownership to the existing African textile collections in a project exploring a shifting period in African history where many countries achieved independence from Britain.
Fashioning Africa has found new ways to engage communities in developing collections while building a UK resource for understanding changes in fashion in African countries post-1960, which did not exist before.