Last week, we invited our Her Zimbabwe readers to submit photographs of themselves, with accompanying text about what Africa Day means to you. We asked that contributes give answers to the following questions;
Current City: Kampala, Uganda
Cheryl Khuphe, Zimbabwe
Current City: Harare, Zimbabwe
I feel like am always in constant battle between my weight and age. So in opting to look my age while dressing in African attire, I usually break my pieces and wear them with a modern twist. So I like this picture because I got to combine jeans and an African piece and managed to feel glam!
Lorato Palesa Modongo, Botswana
Current City: Stellenbosch, South Africa
I love the headscarf. Wrapping it is one of the arts I’m yet to perfect. Afrikan women relate to the headscarf on many levels. Head wrappings served then, as they serve now, various purposes which are entrenched in classism, ageism, patriarchy and religion. As an example, during the period of slavery, black women were legally obligated to cover their heads with cloth wrappings. These cloth wrappings were some of the many important material symbols which was used to stereotype black women. A headscarf in my culture, when worn, can be a sign of respect; respect passed to people and a space one enters into. It is interpreted as disrespect of the highest order if a woman attends funeral proceedings without covering her head. It is also a taboo for a newly widowed to walk around without a head covering in some cultures. Additionally, in my culture, any woman, during bogadi/lobola negotiations is expected to wear a head wrapping. Similarly, most married women are expected to wear a head scarf at social gatherings, to clearly identify their marital status.
Some schools of thought opine that the head scarf can be a form of oppression against women, and a way of taking away from them full ownership and representation of their bodies. I for one think it is not right for anyone to be policed on what to wear and how to wear it. However, I am part of a generation of women who enjoy wearing the headscarf in different ways and will use it to renegotiate the meaning of wearing it. I use it for fashion purposes because I love it. I use it at free will because my mind is liberated enough to know and understand that my having a headscarf, or lack thereof, does not make me more of a person.
I chose the colourful scarf as an accessory I want to talk about because we can relate its diverse usage to the diversity we find in Afrika. Afrika is one of the most beautiful and diverse places in the world, where the spirit of humanity resides. The scarf, as I personally use it, is not a sign of oppression that was rooted in slavery at some point. Its meaning is now being renegotiated and the discourse around it being reshaped across the continent. Women can freely wear the scarf to express whatever it is that they want to express. Similarly, this is an exciting time for Afrika as many young Afrikans renegotiate the meanings attached to Africa. Afrika at some point was associated with famine, diseases, wars, indiscipline, corrupt practises and other negative statements. This now, is a time for young people in different spaces to turn around the conversation in their fields and show the true face of Africa we know and live in. The Afrika that is full of love, humanity, tolerance, hope, and beauty and resources. The Afrika that has always been a hub of knowledge production. But we somewhat ended up consuming a distorted knowledge about who we are and what we stand for. This is for the Afrika I was born in. And to be an Afrikan means to look forward to the future to the many amazing possibilities that lie ahead of this continent and its people.
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, Ghana
Current City: Accra, Ghana
I chose this photograph because it represents one of the best parts of owning a fashion label. The image is of my sister, Abynnah Sekyiamah, a model and I at the finale of a VLISCO fashion show. It is a lot of hard work producing a collection especially for a fashion show, and it is always a beautiful moment when you go out at the end and the audience appreciates your efforts.
I chose this skirt because a distinctive feature of traditional African dress is its use of festive colours, intricate patterns and figurative symbols to communicate meaning. In this case, I love the festive colours. Colour and symbols have great value in African clothing. Colour has a lot of symbolism among Africans. For example they wear dark colors to funerals. On the other hand, when they are attending an occasion where there will be a lot of happiness, it is common to see people dressed in bright colored African clothes. Which applies to this attire. I wore it because I was attending a happy event.
These garments are much more than adornment. Besides to commemorate historical events and to assert social identities, they are a form of rhetoric, a channel for the silent projection of argument.
Our history represents the rich tapestry of struggle and triumph. To be African means to look past the offenses of colonisation to a rich culture and a blindingly bright future. The growing recognition of Africa as a major contributor in the global economic scene clearly shows how Africa is emerging as one of the important continents in the world which cannot be ignored. The world is finally taking note of Africa.
Lineo Segoete, Lesotho
Current City: Maseru, Lesotho
I chose this picture of myself in a Mokhabebe because it suits how I present myself physically as a modern, avant-garde African who is attached to her roots and wishes to honour her ancestors by being as malleable and confident as they were.
Mokhabebe is aptly named after an edible lily that grows in the highlands of Lesotho. Designs are brought to life using the “Seshoeshoe” print in its diversity yet applying a vibrant, contemporary and carefree feel to it. Until Mokhabebe, I was completely against “Seshoeshoe” because it came from Germany and was introduced to Basotho via the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Further ongoing-research reveals that it might have traces in India as well. My mind was changed upon the realisation that just because we are not the core-producers of “Seshoeshoe” doesn’t mean we have not adopted it and given it meaning. More importantly I feel that through Mokhabebe I can finally marry my personal style with a national cultural symbol.
To me, Africa is the birth and melting-pot of all of humanity. Our fabrics, prints and designs, are a demonstration of how we relate to each other, existence and to our environment. We are colourful, bold, eccentric, creative and cosmic. Our attire, like our food and other traditional attributes, says to me that we are aware of ourselves, our uniqueness, and consciously present ourselves how we choose. Africa day is therefore a reminder to me of what we stand to achieve if we revisit and revise the ideals presented to us by our fore-fathers and mothers. We are making visible advances in terms of technology, education and integration, but governance and freedom of expression are lagging behind. Africa Day reminds me that the mission for a free and liberated African people has not yet been realised and that I have to play my part to bring about change.
Main photograph is taken from www.mages.artid.com