Why I Started The Dandy Lion Project

Why I Started The Dandy Lion Project

Seven years ago, when Ngozi Odita (Society HAE/Afrika21/Social Media Week Lagos) asked me to curate an exhibition at her pop up gallery in Harlem, I had no idea at the time that I was foreshadowing a subcultural movement that was on a resurgent rise across the globe. That one exhibit has evolved into the most comprehensive multi-media survey of global Black Dandyism to date. Over the past six years, the exhibition has traveled to notable institutions including the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (Brooklyn, NY); Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art (Newark, NJ); the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture(Baltimore, MD); and Open Ateliers Zuidoost in (Amsterdam, NL), the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago) and is now on view at the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco). Additionally, it has served as a platform for scholarship and academic discourse both here and abroad, including panels and lectures featuring Dr. Monica Miller, author of Slaves to Fashion, the foremost authority and godmother of the Black Dandy.

As the project expands and connecst with the contemporary connoisseurs of this phenomenon, I continuously marvel at the historical images I meet at the crossroads of time, space and style. Men of African descent were dandy and fine well before fine and dandy was even a “thing” by Europeans or anyone else for that matter.

Here’s to rebellious Black men around the world, whose sartorial decisions are challenging mainstream narratives of Black masculinity, creating a space for elaboration on elegance and allowing a moment for us to indulge in collective nostalgia. For those of you who have supported since Day 1, thank you. And to everyone just hopping on…buckle up and enjoy the ride. Cheers!

 – Shantrelle P. Lewis
Founder + Curator, The Dandy Lion Project

An All African-American Diasporic NOLA Haberdasheress.

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