The Darfur Sartorialist is an exhibition launched by Portuguese urban engineer, humanitarian and photographer Pedro Matos to showcase the colourful clothing and trendy fashion sense of women in Darfur, Sudan.
Matos was in Darfur for three and a half years with the World Food Programme when he started taking these photographs in a country where it is apparently forbidden to do so. Initially surprised by the style and fashion that thrives in Darfur, contrary to Western images of the region as poor and suffering, as well as the freedom women enjoyed in Darfur, some of which he witnessed in the easy way men and women flirted with each other, Matos realised that fashion is not exclusive to Rome or New York. It took the fashion of Darfuri women to enable Matos to realise that reality is more complex than the cliché of the oppressed, conservatively dressed and constantly fearful Muslim woman or of Darfur as a region associated with war, refugees and tragedy.
Upon confronting his personal conceptions of refugees, and of oppressed Muslim women, Matos began taking photos and was further surprised by the “Western gestures” some women took when posing for photographs. He was driven to sharing these photographs with fellow Westerners under the banner of the Darfur Sartorialist, loosely based on Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist, a blog dedicated to the intersection between fashion and “daily life”. With the tagline “Darfur is fashionable. Beyond the conflict and the images engraved in our minds lies a proud people wearing colour combinations unlikely in the trendy West”, the Darfur Sartorialist aims to counter Western stereotypes of Muslim and African women. At once, the photos of fashionably dressed women in Darfur should lead viewers to question perceived notions of the oppressed Muslim women and the hopeless African continent. We are meant to see that African Muslim women, like Western women, are also concerned about how they look, and on a wider scale Africans are similar to Westerners despite the issues in the Islamic world. [Read more...]