That’s Not My Age Podcast: Senior Curator of Africa Fashion at the V&A, Dr Christine Checinska
If you’re a fan of BBC2’s Secrets of the Museum, the series filmed behind the scenes at the V&A, then you will recognise my latest podcast guest. Dr Christine Checinska is the Senior Curator of Africa and Diaspora: Textiles and Fashion, and Lead Curator of the Africa Fashion exhibition, currently showing at the museum. ‘ We had to do the show now because the contemporary fashion scene on the continent is so inspirational, so innovative – we couldn’t wait,’ she says, ‘African creatives and African diaspora creatives are pushing boundaries and changing the shape of fashion. We would almost describe it as a fashion revolution. Now is the time to engage.’
Having started her career as a fashion designer, working for high street and designer brands, including Margaret Howell, Christine returned to study a PhD at Goldsmith’s University, in 2009. Colonizin’ in Reverse! examined ‘the impact of the creolised aesthetic of the Windrush Generation on English male dress’. With research inspired by her own experience in the fashion industry and the lack of culturally diverse voices, and her nattily dressed father. On completion, she moved into the art world and academia and started giving public talks, teaching and writing – while continuing to act as a design consultant – and eventually took the job at the V&A in 2020.
‘I’ve spent over three decades exploring the relationship between cloth, culture and race,’ Christine says of her career and on-going research, ‘ the cultural exchanges that occur as a result of movement and migration, expressed by the clothes we wear, the objects we collect, the art we make and the stories we tell.’
Christine continues to build on the themes of race, culture and equality in her role as at the V&A Museum, London, and as Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), University of Johannesburg. In 2016, she delivered the TEDxTalk Disobedient Dress: Fashion as Everyday Activism (listen to it after the podcast!).
I really enjoyed chatting to Christine about her career, the lack of diversity in the fashion industry, personal style and age. She admits that in her mid-50s and quite comfortable with her freelance portfolio, she initially dithered about the V&A position, until a good friend convinced her to take the leap. Of the Africa Fashion exhibition, she says, ‘ The joy for me of meeting creative person after creative person of African heritage has personally been so enriching – after working in industry for over 30 years and rarely seeing anyone who looked like me, as someone of colour, it has been such an inspiration.’
Christine is reading: Manorism by Yomi Sode, likes seafood and occasional ‘rice and peas therapy.’
Listen to Christine’s TEDxTalk HERE.
Listen to the podcast on Spotify HERE
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Producer and audio engineer: Linda Ara-Tebaldi
Host: Alyson Walsh
Guest: Dr Christine Checinska
Music: David Schweitzer
Artwork: Ayumi Takahashi
Coordinator: Helen Johnson