An Afro-Italian originally from Senegal, the businesswoman arrives at Afro Fashion Week to present her line inspired by diversity, hybrid identity and innovation.
Aida Aicha Bodian, an Afro-Italian with Senegalese origins, has lived almost all of her 33 years in Italy. Today, she is an expat residing in Paris and is a creative working on various fronts: a web marketing consultant, digital strategist, blogger, businesswoman, and activist. As a blogger and as an activist she has always been focused on diversity, consistently coming out with new collective projects online or through social media (The Diversity Net, Roots Evolutions). Above all, she is trying to redefine the concept of multi-identity as we know it through her website (Afrita Girl). The last of these projects is a fashion line that has brought her to Milan’s Afro Fashion Week to present her new collections, Nebua and Melanin Nappy.
“Fashion has been my long-term passion, some years ago I even thought of becoming a stylist, but the right opportunity arrived when in Paris I was hired to work on marketing for Salvatore Ferragamo. Thinking of his personal story, I said to myself: why not?”
Afro fashion is popular now in Milan. How much have the “new Italians” contributed to creating that trend?
“I believe that fashion represents an excellent territory for appreciating difference. Through fashion, we experiment with an identity that does not reside in the colour of our skin but, if anything, in the awareness, and in the flipping, of cultural stereotypes about our bodies that we live with from childhood. Stereotypes that surround the colour black, around afro hair that should be straightened – always problematic, if not explicitly negative. Today the cosmetic lines such as Nappyitalia or Ciao Bellissima offer products developed to valorize African women’s or children’s hair and, above all, to learn to love it and to love oneself. With the line of t-shirts Melanin Nappy I had this change in mind, this idea of empowerment that I wanted to try to express, in a graphic way, with slogans.”
The other line, Nebua, instead refers directly to Senegal, to African colours and textures.
“Nebua is an explosion of colours. I arrived in Italy as a child but my passion for the wax, the bazin (African cotton-based fabrics,) for the clothes of this extraordinary tradition, has remained the same and my dream was to return to that and to propose it with small capsule collections. Thanks to Nebua, I have had the chance to collaborate with Senegalese artisans and creatives, making links with Africa and with the trends that are emerging in Senegal but also in Nigeria and Tanzania. The project is taking its first steps at the moment, but I hope it can grow.”
As a digital marketeer or as a Millennial, you’ve directed everything towards e-commerce and online sales, how has that gone?
“It is too early to say, let’s say it was natural to exclude big generalized shops like Amazon, and choose a channel such as Afrikea, an international e-commerce portal created for the appreciation of the culture and craft ‘Made in Africa.’ In this area, I see quite a lot of movement in Italy also, and this is an excellent thing. For example, there is an e-commerce platform dedicated to African products, Ujamaa Family, created by a group of Italo-Tanzanians.”
You arrived in Italy when you were five years old, you followed your family to the provinces first of Lombardy and then Emilia. Was the reaction to this provincial social environment what triggered the direction you have taken?
“The world of the ‘90s was completely different from the world of today. As a child, I was the only African in my class. In general, I was surrounded by kindness, I do not remember a single episode of racism. On the other hand, Paris is the first city I have lived in and I love it like crazy. My role, if there is one, comes from an identity that is plural and always in evolution, which in my opinion constitutes an advantage, not only with regard to languages. My language has always been Italian, which we spoke at home as well, and not French, which I only studied later. In this sense I feel 100% Italian, and this has stimulated me to move forward on a journey that links diversity, empowerment, communication and innovation.”
You can follow Aida Aicha Bodian on Afrital Girl and www.aidabodian.com
(traduzione di Cleo Malca Nisse)