Michele Weni Ologoudou
Benin X France
African history, documented much like histories from elsewhere around the world, is often overshadowed by tales of brave men fighting for their kings and countries, with the role of women frequently confined to marriage, motherhood and victimhood. For Beninese fashion designer Michele Weni Ologodou, this narrative will not hold.
Paying homage to the Agoodjie women warriors, or Amazons of Dahomey (present-day Benin), Ologodou created a contemporary cloth collection that teleports three significant moments in the Agoodjies’ history: war, victory and peace. More than historical figures of anti-colonial struggle, the Agoodjie women are symbols of feminine power, protection and loyalty.
What would these warrior women of the 1800s be wearing today, in 2017? This is the question Ologoudou answers through costume and accessorization. In the spirit of learning and filling history’s gender gaps, the fashion show is complemented by a masterclass focusing on the history and culture of the Agoodjie women.
An ESMOD Paris graduate and designer for international fashion houses such as Naf Naf-Chevignon and Sonia Rykiel, Ologodou created her own brand, Weni, in 2008. Four years later, the synthesis of Ologodou’s craft, her experiences in Africa, as well as her love and dreams for African art and textiles resulted in the formation of the collective and festival Mode Is Art (MIA Collective). The collective operates between Benin and France and includes artists Yao Metsoko and Jean-Claude N’Doumbé.
All three artists from MIA will be exhibiting at the World Cultures Festival in Hong Kong under the Full Circle Art Africa programme.