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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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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction 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 Curator at 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 work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. 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 has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. 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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