The Dashiki, Rebecca Pietri x Natassja Swift

The Dashiki is a cross-cultural garment; originally a Yoruba men’s work shirt it came to symbolize the Black Power movement of the 60s and 70s. It was bought to America as a souvenir from men who travel to Africa with the Peace Corps.

In this private commission,  I also wanted to work on a work shirt, but a 20th Century one. The T-Shirt was a no-brainer and a bit ubiquitous.  I chose the sweatshirt because the fabric was more substantial, and I could create layers in it using various processes.

I want to create a deeper looking hiding some visual elements of the design in the design The client’s brand logo is hidden in the pattern, a technique I learn from old Playboy magazine covers.  As I started playing with the Angelina Print digitally, it resonated with me that it had graphic similarities to the Brooks Slave ship image.  It is an image of how enslaved people were transported to the Americas.  Scaling the design larger and adding texture to the print with puff ink in the screen-printing process, the puff ink resembled and feels like scarification. This could translate into identifying markers to one tribe or to one owner.

I wanted to explore Identify further and add faces to the story of this garment. Nastassja Swift is an incredible Fiber artist and game for new challenges.  I asked her to use felting skills and her artistic language in a new way. She created mini faces from black felt and applied them to the garment.  Coincidently the connection with the Brooks Slave ship images was very subtle but strong and present in the finished piece. I didn’t tell her about inspiration.

This was created for The Met Gala Guided Glamour. The Croc is given an alternative legacy that highlights handcraft in contrast to the ready-made Croc. Celebrating the unknown and uncredited faces of labor of African Americans. . Collaborating again with  Nastassja Swift to create the black faces that were attached to the shoe.

These items individually and collectively, are an archive of many histories and legacies that align with the Client.  This piece has a deeper, personal, authentic narrative that was an act of restorative justice and sustainability.