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( The National ) Why Tiffany Haddish's Oscar outfit is so important for the Eritrean diaspora

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Wednesday, 07 March 2018

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Why Tiffany Haddish's Oscar outfit is so important for the Eritrean diaspora

'That this African-American celebrity has embraced Eritrea so much has been quite a beautiful thing to see for all Eritreans worldwide'

Felicity Campbell

March 7, 2018

Tiffany Haddish arrives for the 90th annual Academy Awards. EPATiffany Haddish arrives for the 90th annual Academy Awards. EPA

Tiffany Haddish grabbed the spotlight on this year’s Oscar red carpet for all the right reasons with her bold choice of dress. Choosing to eschew traditional red carpet attire, the actress opted instead for an Eritrean dress known as a zuria.

When asked who she was wearing on the red carpet, the 38-year-old actress said, “My father is from Eritrea. He passed away last year. He said one day I will end up here. And, if I ever end up at the Oscars, to honour my people. So I am honouring my fellow Eritreans.”
Comedian Tiffany Haddish arrives for the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018, in Hollywood, California.  / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISSPhoto: AFP

Why her choice means so much

Farida Deglel and her daughter Easter Lees head up Farida Design, an Abu Dhabi-based company that designs bespoke clothing with a focus on using organic cotton grown in Eritrea. We spoke to them to see what they made of Haddish’s choice, and what it means for Eritrean culture globally.

“There are many reasons why Tiffany Haddish representing Eritrea on the red carpet means a lot,” says Lees. “There is a massive lack of representation of Eritrean culture outside of the formal cultural rituals - weddings, religious ceremonies or national events. Outside of that people don’t normally go to the workplace or formal events not connected to the culture wearing Eritrean clothes."

The Bilen Blazer. This jacket, as well as being made from handwoven Saba, is trimmed with the a headscarf made of silk traditionally worn by women of the Bilen tribe.  Courtesy Farida DesignThe Bilen Blazer. This jacket, as well as being made from handwoven Saba, is trimmed with a headscarf made of silk traditionally worn by women of the Bilen tribe. Courtesy Farida Design
“The fact that she bought the garment in Eritrea is another important factor. The way she engaged with the country when she was there has been something that’s taken all Eritreans by surprise, that this African American celebrity has embraced Eritrea so much has been quite a beautiful thing to see for all Eritreans worldwide.”

'The face of black culture is changing massively'

“Things are changing in African fashion, however, when it comes to our region we really struggle to get any publicity. While other countries in the region are more established and have more funding, we are still are in our infancy.”

Traditional Eritrean wedding attire complete with Zuria and kaba's. Courtesy Farida DesignTraditional Eritrean wedding attire complete with zuria and kabas. Courtesy Farida Design

“The face of black culture is changing massively, and part of that is the attire that people are choosing to wear. There are African Fashion Weeks sure, but you rarely see African fashion on mainstream runways - unless it’s been culturally appropriated. So Haddish representing Eritrean Fashion at the Oscars is just incredible for African fashion as a whole, let alone the horn of Africa.”

What was she wearing?

Lees from Farida Design explains Haddish's outfit...

"Tiffany was wearing a typical Eritrean dress. It is embroidered in a Meskal pattern with a metallic fibre. It's appropriate that she call herself an Eritrean princess as the fabric the dress is made from, Saba, is named after Queen Sheba. On top of this she is wearing a kaba."

Very typical Kaba. Courtesy handwoven cotton fabric metallic embroidered on velvet.Very typical Kaba. Courtesy handwoven cotton fabric metallic embroidered on velvet.

"This is a very traditional garment, used at formal ceremonies, and is normally knee- or floor-length, although Haddish chose to wear a shorter version, more of a shawl. It's made of velvet and embroidered with metallic thread."

Her jewellery

90th Academy Awards - Oscars Arrivals - Hollywood, California, U.S., 04/03/2018 - Comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish. REUTERS/Carlo AllegriPhoto: Reuters

"Haddish decided to represent the ethnic groups of Eritrea by wearing Talal earrings. They are known for a very distinct hooped earring, with hand hammered patterns and are usually made of gold."

Lees added that Haddish's choice to wear an Eritrean outfit at showbiz's biggest event was a step in the right direction: "Incorporating Eritrean culture into everyday wear is something we as a business have been trying to change as well. We want to encourage people to use or wear Eritrean clothes, or clothing with Eritrean themes or lines in their day-to-day life.”

U.S. Actress Talks About Meeting Extended Family in Eritrea








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