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France, Africa: Black Fashion Week Marred by Visa Problems

Two renowned African fashion designers and several models have been denied entry to France for Black Fashion Week October 2012. Black Fashion Week was created by Senegalese fashion designer Adama Paris to show the world the diversity and influence of African creativity on contemporary fashion and has been held in Dakar, Senegal for the past ten years. The first show outside Dakar took place in Prague in November 2011, since then, it has travelled from place to place.

Black Fashion Week 2010, Dakar by Seneweb ( CC-license-2.0)

Samba Doucouré wrote [fr] on StreetPress :

La “Black Fashion Week” a donc la particularité d’être itinérante. Elle se déplacera en novembre prochain à Montréal (Canada), en attendant Bahia (Brésil) et Bratislava (Slovaquie).

A distinctive feature of ‘Black Fashion Week’ is that it travels from place to place. In November 2012 it will travel to Montreal, followed by Bahia, Brazil and Bratislava, Slovakia.

However, whoever travels also needs a Visa, which was a sticking point for the two renowned designers and the several models who were denied permission to enter France.

Black Fashion Week 2010, Dakar by Seneweb (CC-license – 2.0)

The designer Mame Fagueye Bâ finally obtained her Visa and gave a press release [fr], several excerpts from which can be read on her Facebook page:

… Nous avons gagné ensemble et je vous le dois !

Je pourrai donc faire défiler ma collection à “Black Fashion Week” à Paris le 6 octobre 2012. Notre détermination à communiquer une injustice et de lutter ensemble pour la faire reculer …

… Je voulais également vous sensibiliser sur le fait que nous allons travailler en direction du Ministère de la culture sénégalais, dans le cadre des accords internationaux notamment entre la France et le Sénégal pour une meilleure reconnaissance des ambassadeurs culturels et artistiques de chaque discipline.

… We won together and I owe it to you!

I will therefore be able to show my collection at ‘Black Fashion Week’ in Paris on October 6, 2012. Our determination to communicate an injustice and fight together to get rid of it….

… I wanted to also raise awareness about the fact that we going to be working with the Senegalese Ministry of Culture, within the scope of international agreements, notably between France and Senegal, for better recognition of the cultural ambassadors and artists from each discipline.

Here is a video of the Mame Fagueye Bâ fashion shows by youtube user bbaabbccful:

The second case, which unfortunately has not yet been resolved, is that of the Malian designer Mariah Bocoum Keita, sister of respected singer Inna Modja, who has been held up in Mali. The designer wrote an open letter [fr] to the Malian French Embassy, several excerpts from which are below:

Permettez-moi de vous exprimez ma stupéfaction face au refus qui m’a été signifiée pour ma demande de visa court séjour ce Mercredi 3 Octobre auprès du service des visas de votre ambassade au motif que les informations communiquées sur l'objet et les conditions de séjour ne sont pas fiables.

… j’ai résidé de façon permanente sur le territoire français plus précisément de 1993 à 1999 années au cours desquelles j’ai suivi des cours …. A la fin de mes études, je suis rentrée au Mali…

… Par ces temps de fort taux d’immigrations clandestines, je puis comprendre que cette décision puisse être motivée par une suspicion légitime. Mais au vu des documents présentés et des raisons que j’évoque ici, vous conviendrez avec moi que je n’en ai aucunement le profil visé.

Let me express my amazement to the Visa Department of your Embassy at the refusal of my short stay Visa application this Wednesday, October 3 on the grounds that the information provided on the purpose and conditions of stay were not reliable.

… I have resided permanently in France, specifically from 1993 to 1999, during my studies… At the end of my studies, I returned to Mali…

… During this time of high rates of illegal immigration, I can understand that this decision may be motivated by legitimate suspicions. But in the light of the documents submitted and the reasons discussed here, I am sure you will agree with me that I do not fit this profile.

Despite these challenges, it seemed that all designers and models eventually made it to the event.

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