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Two: Deconstructing the Ivorian Vestimentary Traditions: New Fashion, Contemporary Beauty and New Identity in Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie's Aya De Yopougon.


It is evident that discourse on African dressing culture as part of African beauty or its shifting paradigms in African literature has not been given much attention by literary and cultural critics. It is apparently because such issues are glossed over in African literary works which are exclusively textual while dress styles belong to visual discourse. Writers describe different parts of the body but leave out the aesthetics of African woman's hairdos and dressing culture. Marguerite Abouet's and Clement Oubrerie's Aya de Yopougon, as a graphic novel, offers the possibilities of a discourse on hair styling and sartorial practice, because both elements are paradigmatic of African beauty.

In her Home and Harem (1996), Grewal analyzes Romantic and Victorian ideas of beauty which owe much to Burke and Ruskin, to show Western conceptualization of women and Eurocentric definitions of the beautiful; yet it should be known that the European hegemony of this universalism of beauty/aesthetics is located in Platonic and Cartesian formulations (Matereke and Mapara, 2009, p. 203). Although the black woman can be said to fall under the model of "order" and "submission" with its paradigmatic relationship with society, she falls short of physiognomic evaluation since a "black woman cannot be beautiful because she can only arouse a feeling of terror and can therefore be in the category of the sublime" (Grewal, 1996, p. 30). With Burke's and Ruskin's taxonomy of the beautiful which can be classified under colonial discourse, the notion of beauty becomes a racial and cultural construction that polarizes global spatiality between white/black, civilized/"primitive," metropolis/colony, and centre/periphery. Eurocentric concept of beauty privileges the aristocratic women whose faces are assigned angelic roles, through physiognomic discourse that makes phenotype an indication of inner qualities.

With such aesthetics, blackness as a racial category becomes associated with opacity, fear and horror, and features that could be read as analogous to moral characteristics (Grewal, 1996, p. 27).

Contrastingly, in his "Migrant Songs for Mothers," Ajah (2012, p.15) admits that the desire to rewrite black history, to challenge Eurocentric notions and to portray the aesthetics of Blacks preoccupied black poets and explains the autoethnographic trends of negritude poetry. In Imperial Eyes, the critic conceptualizes literary autoethnography as "instances in which the colonized subjects undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer's terms" (Pratt, 2008, p.9). In essence, autoethnographic agenda remains an artistic ideology of most postcolonial African writers whose creative consciousness is turned towards the European Center. Marguerite Abouet admits that she intends to correct the erroneous representation of her people. Scholars (Pratt, 2008; Ajah, 2014; Wall, 2008; Besio, 2006) have shown the autoethnographic content of postcolonial and postmodern studies which we have chosen as parts of the theoretical framework for our analysis. With the convergence of textual and visual modes of representation, her graphic novel illustrates the aesthetic traditions of the African people in Yopougon or Yop City as it is called in the graphic novel. The narrative is spiced with scenes of ceremonies and events that showcase the sartorialism of Yop City dwellers and their reception to exotic cultures, often marketed in foreign newspapers and televisions. The characters' gorgeous hairstyles, dressing and make-up become means of articulating subjective sensibilities, rhizomatic sensuality and fragmented personality that emanate from the search for new identity and beauty. Sampled images of dresses drawn from Aya de Yopougon will be "read" as nonlinguistic cultural signifiers in visual discourse.

Premised on the lack of attention on the nonlinguistic resources in meaning-making of multimodal texts (Lui, 2013, p....

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Ajah, Richard Oko, Egege, Letitia, Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies
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Author:Ajah, Richard Oko; Egege, Letitia
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:6COTE
Date:Dec 22, 2017
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