Every December, for twenty years, Pantone’s ‘Colour of the Year’ has influenced the design world—interior designers, product developers, and the fashion world all eagerly await the release of the annual colour choice as it continues to determine global trends. The colour is selected based on trend and forecasting analysis from the Pantone Color Institute and influences “taking place in our global culture… including [trends in the] entertainment industry, travelling art collections and new artists, and popular travel destinations.”
The 2020 ‘Colour of the Year’ is Classic Blue, otherwise known as Pantone 19-4052. This calming shade of blue is said to be a “timeless and enduring hue, elegant in its simplicity,” according to Pantone. “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of Pantone Color Institute. “It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on… Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.” Classic Blue is already being used in fashion, textiles and graphic design. But where do we see Classic Blue in African art?
According to the Yoruba, individual òrìṣà—spirits sent by the Supreme Creator, Olodumare, to guide humanity on how to live successful lives—are said to be associated with specific colours. Blue is the sacred colour of Yemọja, the motherly water deity that is said to be strongly protective, bringing wealth, health, and fertility to her followers. In Zulu beadwork, colours are sometimes used to convey specific messages. Tight corsets (malual), made of coloured glass beads, are worn by Dinka men of today’s Sudan, to indicate their position in society; malual made of red and blue beads indicates a man that’s between fifteen and 25 years old and yellow and blue beads indicate a man that’s over thirty and ready for marriage. Blue beads on Luba lukasa memory boards symbolise Mbidi Kiluwe, the cultural hero who brought royal ideology to the Luba kingdom.
We trawled through the online collection database of the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac and the work of today’s contemporary artists of African descent to create a ‘Classic Blue’ lookbook of arts from Africa.