I recently did my first radio interview (thanks Capital FM) about this ol’ blog of mine and was asked what inspired me to start it. Many of the my inspirations are captured in the picture above. I love this image. It says so many things, and stirs in me emotions that connect me to my ancestors. Rather corny, you say? Corny but true! I look at this image and think how beautiful Zulu women must’ve looked, all dressed up for their wedding days, or even just attending to ther daily chores, and I feel a connection to them.
It makes me wonder how my own Tonga ancestors looked, what sort of head-dresses or hats they might have worn and the jewelry they might’ve made. It makes me sad to think all I know is what wikipedia tells me. Whilst my dad does a thorough history in terms of culture and war- he doesn’t quite do fashion history… Interestly, Tonga men are known for their smart appearance- their immaculate Western suits, always worn with a hat. (But btw what did they wear before the Scottish missionaries came along?) The women on the other hand, I’ve heard nothing. I’m extremely proud of my Tonga heritage, a pre-requisite for being Tonga, but push come to shove there is nothing I can wear that will immediately identify me as such. This shouldn’t be the case.
When I visited Ghana and Benin a couple of years ago, I was struck by the way the ‘African-ness’ was still present in street-wear. The dresses we modern and fashionable, but has distinct African flavour. I loved it, I bought a few, and errr, wore them a couple of times when I was back in Malawi. They just didn’t fly at wedding/social gatherings. They are just not the order of the day here. Go into most boutiques in Blantyre, and you find fancy hats, fascinators in the brightest colours you can imagine.. You won’t be finding a Ngoni head-dress, no Sir, or anything Tonga/Tumbuka/Lomwe.
How much does this say of our society today. How is our ‘Malawian-ness’ defined? We used to have a flag we deeply loved and felt allegiance to, that was changed. We have our ‘tribes’ but what do we really know about them? And how much are we defined by ‘tribe’ anyway? My dad is Tonga, my mother was not. Am I discarding 50% of my heritage?
In my opinion, this lack of identity and pride is fuelling laziness and sloth amongst our people. Grown men asking for money straight up and for no reason is one indication. No able man with pride would ever ask for money for nothing. When a kid’s first words he learns in English are ‘give money’ (giiiivvee manneh!!) what hope has he got when he grows up?
This cutie won’t be saying ‘give money’ to anyone soon with a mommy like that. I love the detail and intricacy of the piece, which was initially intended to mimic the coiffure favoured by Zulu women of the 19th century- which was natural hair worn in a cyclindrical shape extending from the middle of the head. Time and mastery of weaving and beading techniques led to beautiful hats we see today. P.s love those beaded earrings too. And the collar of that dress is fab!
All in all, salute! I wish I saw more of this. I wish I could dress like this! Taweni, the beautiful lady in the picture is Malawian, married to a Zulu. How I wish a had some Tonga accessories to chuck on with my next dress and instantly be transformed thus, into one fierce African Queen! So inspired!
P.p.s nice RED dress (wink wink)