Camille Lynn Wright, a fashion major in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, traveled to Senegal as part of a six-week independent research project with the African and African-American Studies program in Arts & Sciences. She published her findings in the WUSTL Undergraduate Research Digest.
What drew you to Senegal?
I went to study the globalization of the Senegalese fashion industry and what effect — if any — that globalization might have on Senegalese cultural identity. I also speak a little French, and Senegal has one of the largest fashion industries on the west coast of Africa, so the country really appealed to me in that way.
What were your impressions?
Senegal is an incredible country for artists. There’s a rich history of live music, painting, sculpture, fashion, dance … anything an artist could possibly dream of. I was quickly able to make friends and talk about art, philosophy, blackness and culture over nightly cups of tea.
How has that experience impacted your work in the studio?
It has had an enormous creative impact. I’ve used specific fabrics and motifs from Senegal, such as a textile called raffia and the curves of domes from mosques in the holy city, Touba. But more importantly, I learned that Senegalese designers are constantly incorporating parts of their ethnic, religious or national identities into contemporary designs for the global market.
I’ve noticed that with my inspirations — whatever they may be — I can’t help but see them through a black lens, be it architecture, geography, the future, anything. It’s a lens I couldn’t get rid of even if I wanted to; it’s a part of who I am and gives richness to my point of view.