Looks At Afrochella 2019 Show Just How Diverse The Afrocentric Aesthetic Is

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Afrochella, a music festival and celebration of African culture, was one of the many events during this time where Black attendees from all over the world were able to rejoice in just that. And wherever Black people go to express their creativity, joy, and culture, there is beauty. Lots of it. Afrochella, which celebrated its third year, was no exception.

Merlin Valentin @its_so__merlin

One of the first festival goers we spotted was Merlin Valentin. “The reason I came is Year of Return. I was born in Honduras, but I live in New York and I wanted to see where everything originated,” she tells ishonest. For her look, she tapped an independent designer (aptly named Cultural Find Boutique) to bring her idea of African fashion to life. “I wanted to stand out at Afrochella," she expressed, mentioning that she also wanted to stay true to an Afro aesthetic. Her hot pink lips perfectly pick up the colors in her Kente-print ensemble.

Cheche Smith @chechesmithnation

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Cheche Smith brings her own twist to African beauty, pairing traditional aesthetics, like her hairstyle, with modern flair (peep the lipstick). “I'm a designer and I make most of my clothes," she told us. Her beauty look is a blend of classic and new-school, so naturally, the 'fit had to follow suit — no pun intended. "This is an Ankara fabric I made into a kimono for myself,” Smith explains.

Mekdes Kissi @mekdeskissi

Model Mekdes Kissi serves a casual, natural vibe for the festival. She is of East African descent, so for her, the event was an opportunity to get closer to West Africa. “My husband is Ghanaian, so I wanted to feel more connected to my now culture,” Kissi tells ishonest.

Arif Gursel @sirgursel and Jade Solomon @jade_solomon_

This husband-and-wife duo attracted a lot of attention at the festival, and their looks were an intentional nod to the Afro aesthetic. Their faces are mostly obscured with their masks, so you had to look beyond that for the beauty moment. Fortunately, you don't have to look too far — their body paint is an expression of the artistry behind African beauty. “We're here to represent [our] ancestors and also preach art," Gursel says. "Simply put, we do dope shit.”

Etta Jomaria @ettajomaria

Etta Jomaria offers her own take on African beauty with her outfit; simple, modern makeup; and and her gorgeous 'fro, reaching up towards the sky. “I wanted to share my little vibe of what it means to be African," she says. “It’s all about the Year of Return and showcasing what Africa is about. I'm Nigerian, so I came here to experience Afrocentrism."

Isaac Monama @i_am_ike_dizzle

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Isaac Monama traveled all the way from South Africa to Ghana to experience Afrochella — and of course show off his impeccable swag. “I’ve always wanted to come to Ghana because I’m tired of Europe and America. I wanted something different, no offense!" Monama, who travels the world for festivals, says he wants to see every country in the world. “But first, I’m starting in Africa.” While many of the other festival goers showed out in bright, eye-catching colors, Monama's Afrocentric look is in black and white, which is very on brand for him. "I only wear black except when I wear a little bit of white. I’m not going to try and find a colorful outfit — I just do what makes me feel comfortable,” he explains.

Ofeibea Sakyi-Addo @akua.ofeibea

Bantu knots have been around for centuries, and a classic hairstyle like this is just the thing to be remixed and re-imagined for a new generation of Afrocentrism. “[My hair today is] inspired by Laetitia KY. She does hair sculptures," she tells us. "She has a video with another woman where they do Bantu knots with Ankara [fabric]. And I thought, why don’t I try it?

@Sarfbort and Gezelle Renée @gezellerenee

Sarfbort and Gezelle Renée just look so cool. Their looks mix classic and modern touches of Afrocentrism, with style echoes across the diaspora. Sarfbort's durag is a Black American staple, and Gezelle Renée's Afro puffs give ‘70s roller disco vibes, but the Fulani braids with beads bring the hair look into the 2010s and now, 2020s. “I’m enjoying the homeland to its fullest,” she says enthusiastically.

DC Javianna @jay_raspberry

“It’s the Year of Return. For me, it’s about connection with my ancestors," DC Javianna says. Her high braided ponytail wrapped with golden string serves as the perfect anchor for her bead-laden braided bangs. "I’m with a group of 18 and we’re taking in the culture for the first time in Ghana. I love this good African energy.”

Ribicca Mamuye @iamabyssinia

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Ribicca Mamuye's Ankara-printed dress is gorgeous, but of course, we can't get enough of her voluminous hair. When in the motherland, it is best to let your hair do what it does naturally. “I am here to experience the beauty that is Ghana and to share in this incredible African experience,” Mamuye says.

Sara @ser.en.dip.i.fy, Maureen @maureenpowel, Cheryl @cherrrush, and Dionne @dionneverwey

This group of Cape Verdean cousins came to slay in matching Kente outfits. They kept their hairstyles dreamy and ethereal. The Year of Return wasn't necessarily a major factor in their decision to attend Afrochella, but as African women, the desire to experience the continent in its fullness was strong. As Sara tells us, “I try to do one or two countries in Africa every year to get to know it – country by country.”

Brianni Nelson @thegrandbrix

Chicagoan Brianni Nelson is an absolute vision with this gorgeous halo headpiece — serving African Royalty, but make it comfy for a festival. For Nelson, just being in Ghana is self-affirming of her beauty. “I feel beautiful because Ghana is beautiful. I’m happy to be a reflection of this place, at this time," she says.

Schcola Chambers @combat_angel6

Schcola Chambers's drip gives us total New Yorker vibes — appropriate, since she lives there. But though the city is her physical home, Ghana has its own comforting familiarity for Chambers. “Being here feels like home in my heart," she explains.

Karen Okonkwo @karenokonkwo

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A black dress anchors Okonkwo's look, while her printed robe and matching headpiece give off that Afro-vibe. Okonkwo is the co-founder of a diverse stock photo company, and her business partner is Ghanaian. “[This] gave me an opportunity to see his hood,” she says.

Mohammed Blakk @mohammedblakk

Stylist Mohammed Blakk of @vibeheavy had few words, but his outfit says it all. The carved mask, cowrie shells, and robe are as Afrocentric as it gets, but his attitude gives us a modern, performance-art quality to his look.

Ingrid @Njbaby821

A simple 'fro and a beaded bang was all Ingrid needed to tie together her look. Her trip to Ghana, like many others we spoke to, was sparked by a curiosity in her history. “I came here because I love exploring my culture and roots," Ingrid says.

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