‘Western and African culture and fashion is gradually becoming one big thing in this new era which I will term Afro-Westernism.’ – Tsutsublema.
These are the words of the audacious stylist Kobby Klein AKA Tsutsublema as he presents to us in his latest exploration into the breakdown of colours and gender stereotypes. A Way to Describe A Rainy Day, he calls this art work. And for him art is not only about how the world is but how the world could be.
For the longest time the colour pink in all its gradients has been aligned to femininity or womanhood. From flowers like cherry blossoms, to dress code to even, and many Millennials will testify, the Pink Ranger from Power Rangers.
Tsutsu believes this conformity is a social perspective that has no real backing and he is tearing it down with one editorial photoset at a time. His latest work which coincides with the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is a veritable approach in recognising how colour coupled with African and Western fashion are fusing into a new era both home and abroad.
In this art treatment Tsutsu’s main themes are highlighting the colour pink, Africanism, melanin, the colour pink and vintage style. Raw and beautifully shot- his concept is making a benchmark of a declaration and the personal reasons behind it intrigue us.
The colour Pink is usually aligned with tenderness. What inspired you to use it here?
We all know the color pink is a very controversial hue. It has been subject and boxed into a particular gender for quiet a long time. As an artist , I chose pink to represent the sentimentalities- that unbridled innateness of ideas and emotions- in any person. A tabula rasa irrespective of gender .
You mention Afro-Westernism. How would you define it?
This concept came to me after years of noticing the culture clash or rather fusion of African and Western fashion. For me, it’s basically a melding of both African vintage fashion with a blend of western style and characteristics. A jacket with typical Ghanaian prints. Or even a plaited skirt with kente hems. Yes, that there is Afro-Westernism to me.
Fashion is almost always a cycle of trends. Do you believe Afro-Westernism is here to stay?
With the world evolving into a global village, I believe Afro-Westernism is not just the moment. It is here to stay. I mean, it’s been happening for a while now and that’s mostly because of the generational shift in Africans and their identity expression. Remember how Ghana-must-Go print outfits were making waves a while ago? Today, even the western world fashionistas incorporate African prints and influences into their looks. Some may call it appropriation but I see it as assimilation.
“People are talking…Some are angry. But what matters is that they are having these conversations and feeling something- anything, really.”
The darkskin man and woman is your go-to muse and canvas. What radical approach do you hope to see with regards to fashion and style involving dark-skinned folk?
For a very long time I have been an advocate for seeing more darkskin folk in fashion and art . With the collaborative effort of other talents and models, I reckon we are all on course to achieving this. It’s refreshing that Iman and Naomi Campbell, legendary as they are, are not the only darkskin models on everyone’s lips now. There is a whole new crop of melanin models walking top runways and wearing high-end fashion. I like that.
You see, my intention is to reclaim the once-upon-a-time reverence that came with the saying ‘the darker the Berry, the sweeter the juice’.
Gender stereotypes are one of the elements you are breaking with your work. What cultural conversations are you looking to start?
I come from a continent where gender stereotypes are so enshrined it’s practically a tangible institution- a continent where parent tether their children to their own notions of which occupations are made for men and which are designated for women. I have my work cut out for me and I am glad I am not the only artist making this cultural shift happen in not only Ghana but the continent at large. People are talking. Some are confused. Some are bemused. Some are angry. But what matters is that they are having these conversations and feeling something- anything, really.
Today we are changing the narrative through expression with fashion and colors. And it’s that dynamic step we need for cultural change.