February has come round again, so BOZAR is preparing for three days of art, creativity and the Afropolitan spirit. The theme of this year's Afropolitan Festival is Heroes and Heroines. A three-day event filled with art, dance, music and cinema, and you can go home with your own little souvenir of African identity. The NAW Pop-Up promises a range of design and fashion collectives from the African continent or diaspora, bringing anything from socks with African prints to exciting herbs and spices. Here is a glimpse of what's on offer.
Dolls with afro hair
When searching for a gift for her niece, Rokhaya Diop realised how difficult it was to find a child's doll that was not white and with silken hair. This led to the launch of Urbidolls, a brand of black dolls with afro-textured hair. As a little girl, she painted her white dolls black, and as an entrepreneur Rokhaya Diop has now made it her profession.
Strangely enough, despite the fact that African literature is often exported worldwide, you can still struggle to find a good African book in Brussels. Last year, Celestina Jorge opened Pépite Blues in the Matongé district in Ixelles, a bookshop selling Afro literature in its widest sense: African, Afro-American, from the diaspora, etc. You can go there for classical literature, non-fiction, as well as children's books. Celestina offers children's books reflecting Belgian diversity, allowing Arab children, black children and those with mixed origins to start emulating their early heroes as they read.
Running a bookshop goes beyond simply selling books, it is also a place to swap ideas. That's why Pépite Blues is also organising small exhibitions and concerts, and inviting authors, including travel writer Lieve Joris and the Brazilian feminist author Djamila Ribeiro.
The African ‘it factor’
On the second day of the Afropolitan festival, there will be a screening of Bangaologia. The science of style, a documentary about the mysterious African 'It factor' in the fashion world that inspires so many of us. African fashion is also well represented in the pop-up. For instance, you can discover Babouche Fashion, a new Belgian handbag brand inspired by Moroccan aesthetics. Afrigarde sells ‘wearable art’. They found their inspiration in colourful geometric wall paintings and the traditional Ndebele ornament worn around the neck.