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Safia Elhillo. Image from Safia’s Instagram.

From Taiye Selasi’s dreamy designer collections and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s flayed sleeves and Dior collaboration to Alain Mabanckou’s dapper suits and glasses and Yvonne Owuor’s elegant dresses, from Chika Unigwe’s on-point accessories to Molara Wood’s newspaper dress and Teju Cole’s Ikire Jones scarves and inspiring a jacket design and Sisonke Msimang’s thigh-high heels and Nnedi Okorafor’s Emmys dress, writers from Africa are taking a lead in showing that writers can also be, well, good dressers.

In ways, fashion and literature complement each other. Ask Nigerian poet Theresa Lola who teaches a poetry class immersed in fashion, or right now, you can ask Sudanese poet Safia Elhillo who attended the 2018 Arab American Book Awards ceremony, where she was being honoured for her debut poetry collection The January Children, in clothing that is nothing less than a fashion statement.

The silvery ash suit Elhillo wore—jacket and trousers atop a white shirt, all made by Scotch & Soda—is imprinted with chinoiserie-looking designs. The look is accessorized with black boots, which match her black halo of hair, and a giant ornate gold-coloured necklace that could have been worn by an ambitious rapper—and who better to tell us that writers deserve musician wardrobes than the poet herself whose prize-winning collection has the Egyptian musician Abdel Halim Hafez as its centrepiece. (Except you’re considering the Swedish Academy who’d have us believe that songwriting is poetry).

Here are the photos Elhillo shared on Instagram.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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