By: Arthur Rodriguez
Photos by: Edward Koh
On an early December afternoon, the board of the African Society of Georgetown made the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool their stage as they stunted a bright cerulean blue fabric riddled with orange and navy peacock feathers. Their unique styles and cuts of the same Ghanaian print symbolized their unity through identity as the board of the only organization on campus that represents the entire African continent.
As we can see here, Georgetown students are making beautiful strides to incorporate their identity into fashion. Regina Titi-Ofei (NHS’19), the Vice-President of the African Society of Georgetown (ASG), felt the organization carried a responsibility to improve visibility and market itself in a manner that would allow people to feel its presence and simultaneously “celebrate our culture and the beauty of our dear continent.”
Each board member was given the liberty to choose a custom design based on their personal style. Some touted tasteful off-the-shoulder dresses, such as that of Gladys Adarkwah (COL ‘20, ASG Secretary), while Kawther Berhanu (COL ’19, Students of Color Alliance Representative) donned a long, flowy skirt with a hijab of the same print. Regina, a native Ghanaian hailing from Accra, had these stunning designs sewed to fruition by the same tailor that made her childhood clothes, Deborah Ankomah. An incredibly talented local, Deborah does not own a phone and cannot read nor write, yet mastered her craft through an apprenticeship to sustain herself financially. Among Ghana’s poorest, Regina points out, Deborah only charged the ASG board 93 Ghana cedi, or $20 US Dollars, per clothing item.
When asked what she does to incorporate her home into her personal brand, Regina held up the pendant hanging from her necklace, a golden sankofa. As a member of the adinkra symbols, these traditional emblems express various themes and aphorisms related to the history and beliefs of the Ashanti people, an ethnic group in south Ghana, on fabric, walls, pottery, and jewelry.
Sankofa particularly encapsulates the call to “go back to your roots” in the face of mistakes in order to build a more promising future. Regina adorns her day-to-day fashion with this golden pendant as a symbol of her bond with her twin sister, who serves as the physical embodiment of her roots, as well as a testament to Ghanaian pride: the country is a large exporter of gold.
Perhaps most admirable of the concerted effort to channel identity through fashion is ASG’s persistence to not let it end here. In the spirit of fashion and philanthropy, ASG is hosting Abissa, an annual showcase of various aspects of dance, fashion, and art on the African continent. Taking place on April 14th, the proceeds of the show will be donated to a charity focused on skills and capacity building of African youth on the continent. Having provided the opportunity for its board to express its cultural pride through clothing design, the African Society of Georgetown looks forward to the debut of many others longing to do the same.
ARTHUR RODRIGUEZ is a sophomore in the SFS studying Science, Technology, and International Affairs with a concentration in Global Health and Biotech and a minor in Spanish. As a native of the Bay Area, California, he can be found indulging in the boba of the greater DC area or possibly tucking away in an HFSC music room in an effort to escape responsibilities.