European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal EFHA World

PAGNE AFRICAIN a Pan-African Fabric Exhibition at ModeMuseum Hasselt

African textilesBlack History MonthEuropean fashion

Organised by Black History Month Belgium, at ModeMuseum Hasselt an extraordinary exhibition on the historical and contemporary relevance of African fabrics

The Modemuseum Hasselt, member of our association, unveiled Pagne African – a thoughtful and fascinating exhibition dedicated to pan-African textiles. Curated by Rachel Hansoul, Stephanie Collingwoode Williams and Okemwa Nyanchama, the exhibition as a part of black history month Belgium.

It was about time to have a fashion exhibition on the marvels and significance of African textiles, unpacked as the result of technical knowledge and spiritual reflection. These textiles have a strong agency: behind the complex and colourful motifs they embody the history of a continent whose rich and diverse culture is best expressed through material culture. 

The exhibition considers fabrics for their aesthetic strength, cultural implications, political influence, commercial significance, since, as curators put it:  ‘African fabrics are a wonderful way of showcasing Africa’s rich and divergent cultural heritage, history, spirituality, cosmology and normative structures. Fabrics are a microcosmic reflection of these underlying valuations of selfhood and belonging’.

The conceptual framework of the exhibition approaches African textiles in three ways: categorically, since it showcases a number of original textiles, such as the Kente Cloth, the Mudcloth, the Kangha, the Kitenge, the Ethiopian Cotton and the Ankara or African Wax. Thematically, exploring core themes as Primordiality, ancestrally and origins; Spirituality, ritual and healing; Significance of colours; Cultural identity and status symbol; Contemporary manifestations of African Fabrics. Finally, sensorially, aiming at engaging the visitors and audience by facilitating the possibility to use the senses to get to know these fabrics and experience them through sight, touch, smell and also taste.

To learn more – there is so much more to learn! – visit