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The Love With Which I Wash
Salagram wears kaftan Wales BonnerPhotography Harley Weir, fashion Tom Guinness

Tripping through Grace Wales Bonner and Harley Weir’s India

From Delhi to Junagadh, this poetic travel journal from the spring/summer issue sees the designer and photographer team up for a rich portrait of the country’s masculinity

In the spring/summer issue of Dazed, Grace Wales Bonner, photographer Harley Weir and stylist Tom Guinness travelled to India for a shoot that brought together the designer’s world with the people and places of the country. In this travel journal and accompanying poem, Wales Bonner describes the inspirations behind and discoveries of their journey.

Malik Ambar brought me to India for the second time. I was drawn there to connect with Siddhis, Afro-Indians. I was brought there to reflect on displacement, migration and exchange across the Indian Ocean.

The spring collection, Malik, considered hybridity – a mirroring, through a myriad of lenses, of Bollywood/Nollywood, Hausa film (in particular Harafin So, a love story) and the work of Thione Seck, a Senegalese musician who conjures a fusion of west African and eastern acoustics. The collection considers Malik Ambar’s passage from a chained slave in Harar, Ethiopia to the revered ruler of the Deccan region of India in the early 17th century. The male body in Malik performs as an image of transcendency, bridging divides of status and origin, attempting to form a new essence.

I became aware that the story I was trying to recreate, through binding together strands of historical and fictional narratives, was a romance.

Revisiting India uncovered new complexities, new challenges, insight and inspiration. We began to connect with new temporalities, new rhythms. There was an unspoken sensuality in bare chests, hands held tenderly, an essential closeness and intimacy between men that reminded me of the writing of Essex Hemphill and his reflections on brotherhood.

Clothing was layered artfully, and cherished in a sacred sense. Dressing was an emotional action, we were aware as we observed the men at Lake Pichola, who bathed, washed and educated us on the art. True style, we understood, was about ritual, sensitivity, conviction, flair, perversion. I replay images of wet skin, immaculate nails, proud men walking – absorb street fragrance, warmth.

Beyond the romance, there was something fresh in lurex mohair, biker gangs in bandanas with sharp haircuts, and everyday humour. We were told of an African king who ruled in Junagadh 600 years ago, whose descendants streamed music from to us by the water. I was excited by masculinity that felt more expressive, proud, at ease, flamboyant. Surrounded by richness, chiaroscuro, through new landscapes and new conversions, the work felt enriched in a new light.

Respect yourself, my brother, for we are so many wondrous things

Our lives blend together like rays of light; we are men of color, adorned in shades of tan, red, beige, black, and brown

Lloyd Vega

extract from Brother to Brother, edited by Essex Hemphill

Knowing Clothes

feel it in the love with which I wash,
the pride with which I stain,
it’s all intentional
the dust dyed ivory,
flares that graze the ground knowingly –
threadbare cotton,
impeccable shirts

Soul –
henna soaked heads,
greased, parted

this made in india 1979 flare
tailor made,
all cotton.
My friend can make you very good.

Morning Ritual at Lake Pichola

unravelling in ethereal light, 
light cleanses, smoke, 
street fragrance –

the rhythm of essential ritual 
felt in sharp smacks on the water, 
oil on silk skin, 
glistening crystal foam, 
sonorous flashes, warm tones of brass, 

circle motions, round circle, break – 
slow cleanse. 
stretch, stoke, wring/writhe, dance

know the serpent scale of indian flute. 
know wet towel roll, wet seal fabric on wet skin, 
silk skin glossy with soaps, chalk, lather – 
the incense burner amber glow

street fragrance, 
street smoke, 
crystal skin, 
soak – 
extension, rise,

silk bodies emerge, silk lather, silk skin soft and wet drops 
shivering bodies, sun glint.

good views of Lake Pichola, excellent rooftop view 

dry the shivering bodies and start a new, 
sun glint 
morning rise. 
new real, morning rise

Grace Wales Bonner