Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Afrocentric Fashions At The AfroPunk Festival (New York) 2013-2015 (with a bonus video of AfroPunk Paris 2015)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents excerpts from several internet articles that refer to the vintage and afrocentric fashions worn by attendees of the 2015 AfroPunk festival in Brooklyn, New York. Four videos of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 AfroPunk festivals are also included in this post. In addition, comments about AfroPunk fashions from some of those video's discussion threads as well as from other YouTube discussion threads are also included in this post. A video of AfroPunk Paris (2015) is also showcased in the Addendum to this post.

The 2015 AfroPunk festival (New York) was the tenth annual event for that festival. I'm not sure if AfroPunk Festivals (New York) prior to 2013 had the same apparently high level of emphasis on afrocentric fashions. Articles that I've read about those previous festivals didn't mention afrocentric fashions in their descriptions of those attendees' clothing, hair, or accessories.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

This post is part of an ongoing series on AfroPunk music & fashion. Click the "AfroPunk music" tab below for other posts in this series.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

Editor's Note:
Some of these excerpts are lifted from articles that were published in reaction to Black British blogger Zipporah Gene's post accusing African Americans of appropriating African cultures. However, my focus in this post is on the descriptions of the fashions that many festival attendees worn and not whether they were appropriating African cultures or reclaiming African cultures. Click for a pancocojams article that addresses Zipporah Gene's controversial post.

These excerpts are presented in relative order of the festival year with comments about the oldest festival year given first. I've assigned numbers to these excerpts for referencing purposes only.

There are lots of internet articles about the AfroPunk Festivals (New York). Most of these articles are photo slides with very little if any descriptive text. This is just a sample of the comments that I've come across about fashion worn at those festivals.

These comments refer to the 2013 festival:
1. From AfroPunk 2013 Festival Style Photos
36 PHOTOS, 8/26/2013
"Style is something Brooklyn, New York...

Style is something Brooklyn, New York has plenty to offer. So with the AfroPunk Festival taking over the borough this past weekend (Aug. 24-25), it was safe to assume that a natty, but funky bunch would show up and show out to catch acts like Danny Brown, Saul Williams and Chuck D. They did.

In these coming shots, check out some of the most interesting hairstyles (thick dreads, detailed high-top fades) and clothing (skillfully tattered tops, crazy prints) the weekend had to offer."

These comments refer to the 2015 AfroPunk Festival (New York)
2. From Accusing Black Americans of Appropriating African Clothing Misses the Point African-influenced styles can be traced back to the Black Power movement. by Nadra Nittle, Sep 15, 2015
..."Black hipsters have gravitated to the tribal-meets-boho look for years now. Picture a Zoe Kravitz or Solange Knowles type, hair styled in a piecey Afro, waist-length braids or locs. She dons a concrete-skimming skirt with red, green, and black print. Her septum ring and face paint, á la the Masai warriors of East Africa, vie for your attention.

At the Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn last month, every other attendee rocked some version of this look. But draping oneself in the colors of the Pan-African flag and sporting tribal tattoos isn’t fashion forward, says African journalist Zipporah Gene. It’s cultural appropriation — even, she insists, when African Americans do it."...

No. African Americans ‘culturally appropriating’ African culture isn’t a thing ; Opinion by Demetria Irwin September 8, 2015
..."don’t stamp the cultural appropriation label on the African-American AfroPunk attendees wearing flowing wax print maxi skirts (which are actually of Dutch origin but definitely an on-trend look that is capitalized on and has been inspired by African merchants and designers. That alone shows the complexity of cultural appropriation. Also, for the first generation Americans, reaching back to Africa or the Caribbean for style clues is only a plane ride away to their parents’ place of birth, not a deep dive into Google or fashion mags."

4. From
Young Paris: Afropunk 2015 *
"Good afternoon, this is Young Paris. We’re at the HausOAlt

Oh, AfroPunk is all. I was here last year as a guest. It’s funny, I did some social media stuff and a lot of it kinda went viral and people started following the aesthetic where I was going with this afro futuristic, afro-futuristic, traditional, contemporary concept, And it just started rapidly growing an audience. It’s just down to see the timing when it happened and that they’re able to put me on a platform where I can sharing the information. So that’s how I see it hear. Just the sharing.

Well my father co-founded the Congo ballet. And in their lineage they would use different colors to highlight their features. And so the national ballet had like a distinction within the Congo about how they would present themselves. He was a choreographer at thirteen and he continued this lineage. So I just carry on that tradition.

We wear different colors for different reasons. So with red, it symbolizes the blood of our people. Yellow is the sun that provides life. And green is the grass, It gives us food. And the white is –when we lose our ancestors, we wear white in remembrance of them because we carry on their lineage.

So my father died a couple of years ago, Since then I usually only wear the white.

For me I took the idea of this science and built it into a pop culture aesthetic around it."...
*This is my transcription from the video. Additions and corrections are welcome.

5. From The Bold And The Beautiful
"As with anything punk—be it the boundary-pushing music, dress, or politics of its most hard-core loyalists—there is always a sense of urgency. The guitar must thrash harder, the music must be louder, and yes, the fashion must be bolder. The message of rebellion and personal freedom has to propagate quickly, honestly, and without pretense.

What the concertgoers of Afropunk’s eleventh annual music festival—which attracted an unprecedented number of iconoclasts to Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park—brought this past weekend was style with a same sense of immediacy and purpose. Bucking trends and rules, their dress played mercilessly with color and proportion—yet it was the subtle collision of detailing that drove the most fully realized looks home. SZA’s oversize tank was as impactful as a runway gown, especially as she leapt in the air while tousling her heap of copper curls. Traditional wax print was tied and repurposed into modern crop tops and jumpsuits, retro seventies glam mingled with Prada sneakers, and Americana and Afrofuturism motifs were all captured by Ben Rasmussen’s Polaroid camera.

As he explains, “It wasn’t just the fashion, it was their presence. Everyone we photographed was dressed beautifully, but what moved me was the energy and confidence that they exuded. . . . It is inspiring to see that sense of self.”

Here, that palpable confidence is on full display as we showcase the boundary-pushing style of this year’s Afropunk’s revelers."...
[slide show of photographs of some attendees]

These two comments refer to the AfroPunk music scene in general and not specifically to the 2015 AfroPunk Festival (New York):

WARNING: Some of the comments in this documentary and in this discussion thread include profanity and the n word.

Zorgoon Trollstones, June 2015
"this!!!!!!!!! man I can relate on so many levels and i'd love to share my piece but im too lazy to put it on the internet. i'd rather do a video or do it in writing. Because the irony is, modern music came from African Americans and Jamaicans. Period. And rock has always been black. From BB King to Jimi Hendrix to Slash to Tina Turner (those vocals!). Soul, RnB, Blues, Funk, Jazz, Rock n Roll, Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady, Bebop, Doowop, Motown. Get in touch with your roots and you'll realize these ghetto kids who make fun of you are making fun of their roots and depriving themselves of their own heritage and inheritance. They're also limiting their own creativity and constricting their self expression. But on top of it all denying their own complexity as human beings, and thus their own humanity.

The Masai and Samburu warriors of Kenya dye their hair/dreadlocks bright red, as do the Hamar people of Ethiopia. The Nuba of Sudan wear elaborate and sometimes spooky face paint, making Black Metal face paint look like a rip-off.. Mohawks are a common African tribal style. Piercings are obvious. The dancing wildly and screaming vocals has always been park of African music, performance and even religion. So is wearing sharp or dangerous looking items as jewelry and adornment. Going through a punk/goth phase and also having been a confused coon helped me grow and get in deeper touch with myself and my culture as a Caribbean American. It was insane how much of our cultures collectively, have permanently transformed Mainstream culture. It's insane. Our hair is also big and wild by nature. Let your afro grow, it's the most rebellious thing you could ever do because it asserts your right to be human. Original. Honest. Your skin alone is the most shocking outfit you could ever wear. I stopped with the hair straightening etc because.. why? Why should I changed the most rebellious hair on earth to conform to a conformist way of anti-conforming lol?"
This comment was reformatted to enhance readability.

7. violetviolence79, December 2015
"...i agreed, i have notice since James Spooner is not longer part of the Afro-punk festival, its been going downhill in my opinion, the media only report what they're wearing and very little about the performers, smh"

Additional comments from videos that are embedded in this post are given below those videos.

These examples are given in chronological order according to their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest dated example given first.
Example #1: AFROPUNK Music Festival

iamOTHER, Published on Aug 8, 2013

AFROPUNK is an influential community of young, gifted people of all backgrounds who speak through music, art, film, comedy, fashion and more. Originating with the 2003 documentary that highlighted a Black presence in the American punk scene, it is a platform for the alternative and experimental. Remaining at the core of its mission are the punk principles of DIY aesthetics, radical thought and social non-conformity. AFROPUNK is a voice for the unwritten, unwelcome and unheard-of. Watch more from AFROPUNK here:
Selected comments from this video's dicussion thread (numbers assigned for referencing purposes only)

I apologize for the spacing errors in this section. I'm not sure why they occurred.

1. Dominiku Chan, 2013
"gr8 show I wish i wore my african dress next year im going in I <3 Brooklyn"


2. JoJo Myles, 2013
"looking at these displays of individuality make me want to stand out more"


3. rob mac, 2013
"Not my crowd but its great to see a different variety off black expression and culture from the norm."

4. Stephen Goodwin, 2013
""Individuals"......yet all the girls have the half shaved head hairstyle....yeh, haven't seen that lately, smh"

5. DirectedByRocko, 2013
"Unfortunately the festival has become more about style than about music and expression. People come decked out in "costumes" so they can have their photo taken or get in a blog video such as this. It is beautiful to see so many proud black people but some of them are only doing it because it's cool now and for approval"

6. Aspen Riley, 2013
"thats what my cousin said she said it change its all about fashion now"

7. Jamal Stead, 2013
SO many Beautiful people in one place, Diversity is Dope!

8. kevin hayden, 2013
"So some time i get really really jealous of New York because they have the coolest EVER , and they have a every strong Afrocentric scene there. I hope Chicago can catch up one day."

9. Ariel 0, 2014
"This..would help me as being a young African-American and not having to deal with what my family labels me as<3 But I'm confused?..Are this goers more focused on outfits and being 'unique'? Because I was hoping just to see down to earth, individuals who don't care and a few bands playing punk music or such and such...Err-sorry this is long winded, all I see is hip hop :("


10. kali4good, 2014
"You see hip hop becus thats such a huge part of black culture so its only rightbut at afropunk there are also rock bands electro etc. The point of afropunk is an outlet for those who dont belong in this mainstream world. I know a couple of people who have gone i promise you if not all MOST of these people are genuine and thats just who they are. This is a place to let your creativity loose and just be YOU! So many different kinds of people go there. Its for black people who dont fit the mold the media portrays us as... its for the minority"


11. Jose Ocampo, 2014
"As much as i loved afro punk i laos found it to be very corny, it felt like tons of hipset kids worrying more about what vintage or ethnic clothing their wearing than actually listening to the music its afropunk but anytime somewhat hardcore rock was Played people left because its not hip hop"


12. TRANZEURO, 2014
"That's probably because a lot of the people who go to afropunk now aren't even aware of the origins of the festival,they just hear that Chuck D or Questlove etc are performing so they go.I've been going to afropunk since 2006,and every year more and more hip hop artist are included.It started off as a rock/punk oriented festival but as much as I still appreciate AP,I believe it has definitely begun to lose the point and focus of why it was created in the first place.There are plenty of venues and festivals were hip hop artists are able to do their thing.As far as I know afro punk is the only music festival that focuses on black artists who create and perform rock music.I strongly believe it should stay that way."


13. Drawingunz001, 2014
"does anybody have any info on the last girl wit that violet color hat & gold teeth ? i think i just fell in love."


14. Henri qsc, 2014
"she is Erikah Badu <3"


15. Tahara Cherry. September 2015
"After watching this whole clip I just want a gold grill like Mama Badu."
This comment refers to the gold covering on singer Eyrkah Badu's teeth.


Example #2: AFROPUNK FEST 2014

AFROPUNK, Published on Aug 28, 2014

A recap on AFROPUNK FEST 2014. Stay tuned to AFROPUNK TV for more exclusive interviews and performances from the festival.
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
1. Aurora Lara, 2014
"Afropunk is basically a festival for black people who think they're white, but try to act like they don't think they're white by overcompensating on the "mother Africa" tattoos, memorabilia, and wearing tribal clothes mixed in with modern fashion."

2. U-n-I Survive, 2014
"So, if they started acting more like what you think qualifies as "black" behavior, then they would be acting more like themselves? That's the problem, society wants to put black people in a box, and if you're not wearing the cultural 'hat' deemed appropriate for you (thug, rapper/r&b singer, nba/nfl star, drug dealer) you somehow aren't really black. It's sad that fellow people of color actually co-sign this mentality. It's mental incarceration. Afropunk (despite it's recent hipster influx) was about black people who didn't fit the above mentioned mold being liberated through music and art."

3.Aurora Lara , 2014
"+U-n-I Survive I didn't say anything about 'acting black'."

4. U-n-I Survive, 2014
"+Aurora Carmody
You're right you didn't, but you did say that the festival is for black people who think they're white. That seems to suggests to me that (and correct me if I'm wrong) you think that, because the people going to this festival are interested in things not typically associated with black people, they're trying to be something they're not (hence why you said they think they're white). My thing is, how can you propose to know something about an entire group of people without having even interacted with them? As if a choice of music or a band t-shirt (or even a mother Africa tattoo) says anything about who the people who attend the festival really are?"

5. Aurora Lara, 2014
"There are enough of these people on Tumblr for me to have an idea of what they're like."

6. U-n-I Survive, 2014
"That's just stereotyping. That's no different than someone watching a bunch a videos on Youtube of black people committing crimes and saying "I've seen enough of these people on Youtube to have an idea of what they're like". They're just people with personalities and nuances, just like you. How about instead of judging a group of people you haven't met, go up and introduce yourself to some of them (assuming you live near the type of people that would go to Afropunk), you might actually vibe with one or two, who knows."

7. Aurora Lara, 2014
"I guess"

Example #3: Afro Punk Fest 2015

wblsfm1075, Published on Aug 27, 2015

WBLS was on hand at Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park for the annual Afro Punk Festival. Watch as festival attendees enjoyed a full weekend of great music, vibrant art and all around good vibes.

Example #4: AFROPUNK: The new counter culture

CNNMoney, Published on Aug 26, 2015

The AFROPUNK movement is pushing music and fashion forward. Here's how it's leveraging social and new media to democratize access and accelerate the exchange of images and ideas.
Selected comments:
1. Claude Leguerre, October, 2015
"This is the 90's "Conscious" Movement's granchild. The clothes, the styles, the dress, the influences, It can't really be "explained" to those who are outside of it in a way they understand:

You are either "of it" or not.
It makes sense, or its doesn't.
You are a part of it, or you're not. Its that simple.

You can have your Lil Waynes, Rick Rosses and Minajes. I'll take this please"

2. nyeeezy, November 2015
"0:29 i bet shes not fulani"

3. Richard Swanson, December 2015
"You have said too much already. this is like hollywood or halloween. They dress up for one or two days then go perm their hair and wear high heel the next. None of these women have ever made anything from cow milk. +nyeeezy"

ADDENDUM: [TRAX.TV] Afropunk Paris 2015

Trax Magazine Published on Jun 24, 2015

En plus de découvrir en totale immersion le festival Afropunk, notre court-métrage dresse le portrait d’une génération multiculturelle, libre de tout carcans et qui revendique le droit à la différence.

[Google translate:
In addition to discovering the immersive Afropunk festival, our short film portrays a multicultural generation, free from shackles and claiming the right to difference.]

Réalisation : Chayet Chiénin, Manon Tarasconi
Images : Datis Balaï, Manon Tarasconi, Benjamin Carrion, Odhran Odhunn

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