Aunties are a vital part of our childhood as Africans and Afro people in the Diaspora. From Harlem to Kingston to Kigali and Alabama, our Aunties could be our favorite relatives or our “nightmares”. Plus thanksgivings, cook outs, weddings, family parties will not be fun without the presence of Aunties; and their prying eyes, gossips, approving and disapproving looks and their advice. This is a photoshoot dedicated to these aunties and their ever colorful style and flamboyant fashion sense.
Researcher and archivist Daniel Obaweya—also the steward of @nigeriangothic on Instagram, a tribute to Black pop-cultural history—compiled these images; including work by Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge and another image by Joseph Chila; both of whom lived and worked in Africa, to hint at the depth and breadth of auntie style. His sources range from 1960s-era historical archives to Tumblr, and showcase both traditional styles of African and Caribbean dress and the evidence of African-American influence.
Aunties and their style
Auntie style is mostly ephemeral—an unbothered mood, but still recognizable. It can look like a middle-aged woman on the street, flamboyantly put together, cradling a phone to her ear, balancing shopping and grocery bags and herding her kids home while speaking Yoruba and English to her caller and her children at the same time. It can also look like a 20-something student in a slouchy dashiki dress and big glasses giving no-nonsense romantic advice to her friends. If what a woman wears influences how she feels, the aunties I know aspire to be deliriously joyful. The women in this collage all have an elegance regardless of their age. “It’s the way they carry themselves.
You can rock auntie style at 18, you can rock auntie style at 50—it doesn’t matter,” Obaweya says. Now in my 30s, I still aim for the flair of my favorite aunties when I pick clothes, move through the world, and reflect on how I feel about myself. So much about having aunties is the emotional experience of always feeling looked after—through moves to foreign countries, breakups, and job changes. It’s an experience I want to give another little girl one day, too.