OPEN CALL: Pan-African Research Residency 2023

The Pan-African Research Residency is a fashion-led cultural exchange program attempting to engage with knowledge around the production of barkcloth and Isidwaba, a pleated leather skirt worn by married Zulu women.


‘The Fold’ is an interdisciplinary multimedia project curated by the African Fashion Research Institute in collaboration with Creative Nestlings and supported by the British Council as part of their New Narratives co-commission for 2023 which fosters more diverse, alternative narratives in Africa and the UK, with the aim of changing reciprocal perceptions between both places, stimulating better understanding, and unlocking new connections and collaborations between young people. .

‘The Fold’ is also a concept that appreciates forms of fabric manipulation and aesthetics from the African continent, rarely regarded or rarely appreciated in the current fashion landscape. These aspects, look into applications of drapery or of pleating for example, which are all forms of fabric manipulation, and in some cases, are more associated with that of the avant-garde or that of the Far East. ‘The Fold’ is also explored as a metaphor, a conceptual idea, or a poetic form of representation, philosophically elevating those spaces or marks left behind by folds in fabric, such as crease marks on a pleated skirt, or skin such as wrinkles on an elderly citizen’s weathered hands.

This fold area or crease mark represents a time or place in African fashion history, where knowledge and stories have been folded away or hidden. The aim of the fold is to bring these stories and this knowledge to light for future generations. It is a multi-dimensional approach that uses various mediums to achieve its goals and has the potential to create a significant impact in the fashion industry for cultural preservation and fashion education through storytelling.


The Pan-African Research Residency is a fashion-led cultural exchange program attempting to engage with knowledge around the production of barkcloth and Isidwaba, a pleated leather skirt worn by married Zulu women.

The research residency aims to explore the possible connections between the two cultural objects and geographical regions. One of these objects is the Mutuba tree, which is commonly associated with Uganda and the production of barkcloth. However, the tree is also found KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

We are looking for a KZN-based Fashion designer, researcher or creative practitioner who will be joined by Ugandan interdisciplinary artists, Sheila Nakitende, Liz Kobusinge and Johannesburg-based South African fashion practitioner Lesiba Mabitsela.

The two-part residency begins in KwaZulu-Natal on the 25th of June and ends on the 12th of July 2023.

The second leg of the residency will take our selected participant to Kampala, Uganda in October 2023 where more in depth work will be done exploring the production of barkcloth and engaging in cultural exchange with local fashion practitioners in Kampala.

Participants will engage with embodied histories of wearing, making and styling in both KwaZulu-Natal and Kampala. 


Participants will contribute towards a series of public programmes; an open-studio event, a series of recorded talks and/or panel-discussions and film-screenings.


Participants will be engaged in an average of 15-20 hours of in-person on-site workshops.


KZN-based Residents on the KZN and Kampala legs of the Residency will receive:

  • Full access to the programme, including organised tours, dinners, workshops, and curatorial assistance from AFRI facilitators, partner institutions and extended networks.
  • A stipend
  • Accommodation cover
  • Travel costs (including flight to Uganda and VISA cover)
  • Fashion designers, researchers or practitioners with a keen interest in indigenous materials/material forms and indigenous design practices.
  • Participants should have a keen interest in exploring African forms of sustainable fashion.
  • Participants should have basic level of understanding and working in English, which will be required for smoother collaborative efforts between all participants.

Please include the following:

  • A short motivation letter (max. 1000 words)
  • A short description and visualisation detailing how you plan to explore the concept of ‘The Fold’ and/or traditional pleating practices such as Isidwaba in your work (max. 1000 words)
  • CV (max. 2 pages)
  • Portfolio (max. 10 pages – 5MB)
  • Copy of valid passport valid for six months after October 2023

Proposals will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the theme as described above.
  • The contribution of the proposed project to the field of indigenous and sustainable creative practice.
  • Aesthetic/Archival merit.
  • Demonstration of a coherent practice that combines knowledge, design and making.


Interested practitioners to complete the form below or submit their application to:

Subject title: The Fold KZN Residency 2023

Submission closing date: 30 May 2023, 23h59 SAST


The application process is by Google Forms OR email only