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Norwood designs with purpose

Locations: News Published

Update: Green is the New Black has been delayed until November. 

Rochelle Norwood’s Africana designs are featured in the upcoming 12th annual Green is the New Black Fashion Extravaganza.

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Her introduction to Africa came 16years ago when she was dancing with the African Dance Ensemble , in Ghana. The leader created the plans for what has become the Africana Village of Peace Project (AVOPP), an endeavor near and dear to Norwood’s heart.

AVOPP is nine acres of land surrounded by water on the Volta River in Ghana. Norwood describes it as an “eco-arts village.” She wants it to become a destination for visitors. A GoFundMe campaign is under way to raise $25,000 to make improvements to water systems and housing.

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Norwood, a member Carbondale’s Seven Stars Rebekah Lodge #91, supported her vision by donating $15,000 to AVOPP. Fellow Lodge member Olivia Pevec says of the donation, “It’s a significant chunk of money for us to give, but it goes so much farther there than it does here.”

Over the years, Norwood has noticed the influx of Western clothing into Ghana. Pevec says the Lodge, which operates the Near New Thrift Store, takes clothing that does not sell to the Pitkin County landfill for textile recycling. Some of those reclaimed textiles will eventually be shipped across the globe.

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Norwood explains there is an economic driver behind the popularity of Western clothing, saying, “In the [Ghanaian] markets, you can buy a T-shirt for one dollar instead of your cultural outfit for 15 dollars that’s been handmade to your body. So you’re gonna buy that T-shirt.”

In her most recent trip in January, Norwood collaborated with a Ghanaian designer, Stella, who “sewed the clothes, with some of the outfits that are her original designs, as well as my original designs.” She adds, “It’s definitely a collaboration across the globe of me sending pictures and ideas and color schemes and then her interpretation of what that looks like.”

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On her recent Ghana visit, she brought caps from Near New. The caps were refurbished by Ghanaians who sewed kente cloth, which uses traditional West African patterns and colors, as patchwork over the cap’s logos.

Norwood will have 10 outfits on the runway and her wares will be on exhibit and for sale in a trunk show booth at the venue. The outfits will be accessorized with hand-made jewelry and braided fabric necklaces. For her portion of the show, Norwood taught the models a traditional Ghanaian dance which will be performed to African drumming.

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​​​​​​​Norwood says the work of AVOPP is “keeping the arts and culture of Ghana alive.”

Visit africanadanceensemble.org for more information or gofundme.com/f/africana-village-of-peace-project to help with the fundraising effort.

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