Diana Ejaita is a global artist—worldly in her creativity, and her quest for inspirational experience. The Italian-born designer has traveled extensively since her youth. She studied fine art in both France and Germany, and she has since based her creative work between Lagos, Berlin, and Milan. Ejaita credits her Italo-Nigerian heritage and an innate wanderlust for helping define her unique aesthetic. “From Mexican textiles, pottery, and jewelry traditions to the beauties of Maghreb or Sub-Saharan and West African countries, every culture has this big gift of the chance to learn from ancient craftsmanship traditions,” the multidisciplinary artist tells CR. “There is something more there than just an object in it. There is culture and history, working hands and time.”
Certainly, Ejaita has found her stride with her African-imbued ethical fashion label, WearYourMask, named for the transformational role of masks in African ceremonies and rituals. A fusion of traditional pattern and modern styling, the line applies narrative and symbolism for broad cultural connections. The alchemy of Ejaita’s style has also garnered acclaim for her illustrations, which have recently graced the covers of a popular political magazine.
Here, CR speaks with the breakout artist about the mix of approaches within her work, how decoration can transcend into spiritualism, and why she relies on history for her modern creative expression.
Your style has a distinctive mix of patterns and textures. How do elements of West African culture influence your work?
“I was inspired by the West African tradition of using the garment as a way to tell stories. The symbology, ideograms, and patterns represent a story or an idea, a concept. I think this is a very open and democratic way of passing on knowledge. I was inspired by different groups of West African symbolic systems, as a student of fine arts in France and Germany. I worked with and studied a lot of ancient ways of communication and used them in painting, video installations, and finally, in textile printing. WearYourMask has developed its own system of symbology that is very simple, as well as universal.”
Which artists and creative inspirations have made an impression on your work?
“I am fascinated by craftsmanship all over the world. This is what catches my attention before any other artistic way of expression. Art has also influenced me from different directions. I bring with me influences from the Italian Renaissance, as well as the Surrealists from South America and Europe, or Russian Avant-guards, Nigerian and Malian photography of the ‘60s and so on…I can’t just name one or two; I do not have one favorite. Everything is inspiring, especially life and people’s stories.”
In 2014, you started your own fashion line, WearYourMask. What is the spirit of the project?
“The concept of the project is to bring in a possible dialogue between different cultures. It is a representation of diaspora mixtures. I want to tell stories that go beyond terms such as ethnicity or exoticism. The starting point of the project was initially to bring a dialogue between minimalism and symbolism, black and white, simplicity and the complexity of traditional and ancient ways of craftsmanship.”
How do your textiles and garments forge a global sense of connectedness?
“Nowadays, the exchange and connection between cultures and people is easy. We have access to a great variety of told experiences and views, and we are all somehow part of a global diaspora. The connection that I try to show with my garments is simply a translation of my experience as an Italo-Nigerian with the beauty and complexity that this brings.”
In what ways do you see fashion as a universal mode of expression?
“I would rather say that the fashion industry and Western aesthetics have been ‘imposed’ at so many levels that many cultures have abandoned their traditions and the possibility of developing a modern interpretation of traditional fashion. I am so happy to see that nowadays the necessity of real representation of diversity is imposing a divergent way of creating fashion. Fashion has great power—to empower, tell stories, and it can be part of a revolution.”
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/culture/a30766772/artist-diana-ejaita-wearyourmask-designer-interview/
createdAt:Tue, 04 Feb 2020 17:48:45 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article