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Malian designer Xuly Bët encourages new talent in Paris

By Zeenat Hansrod

Malian fashion designer, Xuly Bët, has opened his boutique to up and coming talent. For a couple of months, their work is displayed among his sophisticated and buoyantly funky outfits. The latest on show come from Le Quartier Général. Their sketches reflect their work on African identity in the hip hop culture.

Xuly Bët's La Boutique of is like Ali Baba’s cave - full of treasure and promise. The latest works on display are 20 sketches presented by the young, identical twin sisters, Elodie and Delphine of Le Quartier Général.

The sketches are only drawn with felt-tip pens and some of the larger pieces (2 metres x 1 metres 80 centimetres) took the two artists as much as a month to complete. The series is called Bouboys, a contraction between the African boubou and the “b-boys” or breakers - dancers within hip-hop culture.

With Bouboys, Elodie and Delphine are exploring elements of African identity to be found in hip hop culture in the United States and through its founding fathers like Afrika Bambaataa and his Universal Zulu Nation.

The sketches show young black male characters wearing the usual hip hop gear but with a printed design usually found in the traditional wax textile, bazin or fancy, used for making boubous.

“We want to make visible the two origins of the black youth in America,” says Elodie.

(Photo: Le Quartier Général)

The Bouboys series emerged slowly after much travelling, skateboarding sessions, hip hop love and tons of photographs. The twin sisters then saw a link between the African diaspora, hip hop and an African penchant for flamboyance.

“It was an inspiration to work and mix Western and African cultures because in our heart, we carry these two cultures,” adds Delphine.

That's a passion they share with Xuly Bët.

The Malian fashion designer may have a well established career, but he feels the need to reinvent himself and his craft constantly. Interaction with other artists is one way of doing so.
 

(Photo: Le Quartier Général)

The bright young things that he’s helping also contribute to fuel his own creative vitality. That’s one of the reasons why he felt the need to open his boutique to budding talents.

“They [Elodie and Delphine] are doing something great. They are bringing something creative around the African identity. You know, it’s not just about me and my boutique and my clothes. It’s also about how we make something together,” says Xuly Bët.

He firmly believes that it’s only by opening up to other cultures that one grows. A feeling he regrets is not shared by fellow Africans.

“We have to open up to the world! It’s not just [a question of] being an African but an African in the world. I think that they are too focused on themselves. They confuse culture with tradition. Culture is not tradition. Culture is dynamic and is shaped by our contact with others.”

With his legacy in mind, Xuly Bët strives to bring his daily contribution to a modern Africa, proud to stand on its own two feet with no need for handouts.

(Photo: Le Quartier Général)

Le Quartier Général is currently in Peru working on a new project, a follow up to Bouboys. With an ethnologist friend of theirs, they’ll continue to explore the concept of African identity; in Lima, they are looking at the Afro-Peruvian population whom they say are marginalised.

They’ll present a new series, Los Corazonegros (a contraction between “heart” and “black”), in October this year.

Le Quartier Général's works are to be found, until the end of July, at Xuly Bët's second boutique, which opened early this year, at 95 boulevard Beaumarchais in eastern Paris.

 

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