Vibrant self representation. Music, movement and freedom, as played out in the outdoor nightlife of Burkina Faso. Volta Jazz, the Spring Summer 22 collection by Wales Bonner, draws on a time-honoured tradition of West African studio portraiture, notably the work of Burkinabe artist Sanlé Sory in the 1970s.
In his celebrated studio Volta Photo in Bobo-Dioulasso, Sory captured in black and white, using a Rolleiflex camera, a fashionable group of young, sophisticated visitors, who relished the chance to engage in jubilant acts of self-depiction in a newly-liberated Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso.
By dusk, Sory documented the music and nightlife of a city reverberating with the free-spirited energy of the times, including Volta Jazz, an orchestral musical group that defined the Bobo Yéyé genre. Streets pulsing with a chorus of global influences. Sunset festivity punctuated by guitar music and rich electric soundscapes. A culture in a golden age.
The uptempo scene – thrumming, for a fleeting Belle Époque, with youthful exuberance and optimism – sets the mood for a collection interwoven with threads of flamboyance and majesty throughout. Hand-embroidered craft stitching, a Japanese-inspired floral print referencing a piece worn by one of Sory’s subjects, artisanal indigo dyes, cotton hand-woven
in Burkina Faso, and West African jacquard enliven separates and sing of a luxurious cultural hybridity. Rust suede, cotton and silk light shirting layered with lush mohair knits bring sensuous textural melody, while polyrhythmic stripes and sunset gradients adorn pieces that, with hope rather than nostalgia, remix 1970s shapes with an easeful ‘90s minimalism. Wales Bonner’s hallmark tailoring is created in relaxed linen blends, with lightness, elegance and room to dance in. Wales Bonner’s continued collaboration with adidas Originals this season introduces athletic jacquard knitwear and elevated riffs on the iconic Country OG silhouette. Elsewhere, casual silk yoga pants and aT-shirt featuring custom artwork by Sanlé Sory resonate a relaxed, hippy sensibility.
Playful and self-possessed, revellers sway and jive to a freeing new beat.
Volta Jazz is accompanied by a film and photograph series created in collaboration with artist Joshua Woods.
Volta Studio à Volta Jazz, a Spotify playlist of Burkinabe music from the 1960s and 70s compiled by Florent Mazzoleni and Grace Wales Bonner contextualises and harmonises with the collection.