OPEN CALL: The Fold Gloss_ary

The act of layering one thing onto another is being called on; to expand on how we describe the action, the intention, or the reason of folding in the realm of fashion from the African continent. We are seeking 54 entries as 1-minute voice-notes or 1-minute video recordings in all languages to create an audio-visual fashion glossary.


This project begins with a question. How can we address absence in libraries, in text books, and in the fashion imagination. Can we collectively seek – so as to listen to – the many intangible narratives of fashioning, of acts of folding, holding, weaving, dyeing and making, as powerful pan-African creative potentials?

Our interest in calling for words and sartorial practices on the continent acknowledges the shared powers of fashion and language to express ideas, to resist erasure, and to remember. Like languages that are lost, gaps in the fashion lexicon require collective attention to seek out the ways of wearing, making and being-with-cloth-and-culture that have persisted despite the efforts of fashion erasure across Africa.

Why a glossary?
A glossary – originally called a book of glosses – offers explanations of words not in common use. To whom and for whom does this fashion glossary work, when the words we seek are in common use, just elsewhere? Offering an audio-visual route for words, we are proposing that to include the sounds of words and their stories, we will invite listening to the things we may not know.

Why folds?
Folds allow fabrics to take form. Each pleat, crease, drape and fold fashions cloth. These acts of making and wearing are the holders of ideas, meanings and histories across the continent, including the folds of the iqhiya, the m’boubou and the kanga. At the same time, the fold is a metaphor. It offers a discursive lens to remember, hold, hide, meander, encompass and express. The fold is an archive of multiple dimensions.

About the Call
The Open Call welcomes short audio contributions from the continent and the diaspora that explore the action, aesthetic or idea of a fold in fashion. We believe in the power of the oral – following its role in history-making – to re-word and reframe stories from the continent. We are seeking 54 audio or video submissions in any language from artisans, wearers, fashion scholars, designers, tailors, creatives, critical thinkers, artists, etc. as a means to co-create a unique sound-piece map of fashion knowledges from Africa.
We are interested in the polyvocality of these fold-stories and their potential to express concepts or gestures and ideas of fashion that require listening. We also interested in the multi-disciplinary explorations of the fold as a visual object, as a material action or as a way of relating to the world.

Access & the Creative Commons
As a collective exploration involving many folds, we will consider new technologies and
categories that explore organising principles and decolonial forms for audio-visual
representations that can play with the folds in our ‘glossary thinking’. Whilst we draw on the capacities of the digital to reach creative communities, audiences and collaborators, we also recognise the limits of these formats. We are experimenting with ways, both inclusive and accessible, that will cohere and share the myriad contributions. We envisage a convergent assemblage of concepts that will be made available to students, curious historians, and future creatives, artists and designers via a range of possible digital and/or print forms. 

Key to this project is a commitment to ensure access to creative work that expands and enriches the field of African fashion studies. Both digital, and if possible, physical accessibility is key to decolonising knowledges and to shifting narratives on and from the continent. The glossary will be licensed under a Creative Commons license which means that the work can be shared and adapted for non-commercial purposes by all project participants and partners. Creative Commons is the global non-profit organization that provides free legal tools to manage the copyright terms attached to creative materials, making photos, videos, writing, music, and other creative content in “the commons” available for legal use, sharing, repurposing, and remixing under its copyright licenses.

Send your 1-minute voice-note or 1-minute video recording to +27646256208
(WhatsApp or Telegram). First submissions are due by the 29 May 2023.
If you have further questions: