Monday, 23 October 2017



By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted October 23, 2017)

The African Heritage Night 2017 was reminiscent of previous AH events which have been organized over five decades since Alan Donovan, the American designer and former USAID worker first arrived in Africa back in 1967.

It was an extravaganza of fashion, beautiful faces and music by another band assembled by local artistes in conjunction with Mr Donovan. In the past it was the African Heritage Band, organized by Job Seda (who later became the acclaimed Ayub Ogada) that performed at AH events.

This time round, it was Papillon with his marvelous musicians who provided the live musical fire of the night. But then the fashion show, choreographed by Nigerian designer Paulina Otieno,
featured an eclectic range of musical accompaniment including Fela Kuti and Ayub Ogada..

The star designer of the night was the internationally – known Nigerian batik artist, Nike Seven Seven Odundaye. Credited with reviving the vanishing Nigerian textile of Adire, Nike’s indigo-blue tie and dye fabrics have been exhibited all over the world.

The one big difference in this year’s African Heritage Night was the absence of Mr Donovan who has been well but who was meant to be the star of the night.

In his absence, Mr Donovan was appreciated by everyone from former AH model Emma Too and Harsita Waters of Alliance Francaise to members of the Nigerian High Commission and Strathmore University’s Dr Luis Franceschi.

                                         Former African Heritage model and designer Emma Too
But even in his absence, Donovan’s presence was felt and tangibly seen in the Pan-African textiles that covered two floors of wall space, filled the cat-walk with elegant, original fashions made from the same fabulous hand-made fabrics and even the band Papillon that the designer has encouraged and assisted all along the way.

Ultimately, it was the fashions that were most breath-taking. Made from textiles that came from Cameroon, Congo, Mali, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Kenya, the fashions stole the show.

But without doubt, the designer that was also a crowd-stopper was Nike Okundaye. With her elegant hand-stamped indigo-blue Adire gown, flame-red coral beads and flamboyant ‘peacock’ headdresses, she was definitely the presiding African Queen of the night.

African Heritage Night's African Queen, the Nigerian batik artist in her 'peacock' headdress and coral beaded necklaces with Alliance Francaise's Culture Director Harsita Waters (all photos by Margaretta)

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