With September being Heritage Month in South Africa, it seems fitting that we look at what some of Africa’s traditional heritage is like.
Although this is celebrated only in South Africa, the continent has an explosion of sartorial expressions, and some are increasingly becoming more widespread as communication between regions becomes more fluid. There’s been a boom in dashiki print fabric, with shirts and dresses a global fashion choice in the last couple of years. No longer a Ghanaian expression only (and also beloved of African-Americans), Kente prints have made a surprising jump, and are now being seen in Southern Africa as well. These are just prints we’re seeing in places like Malawi and South Africa, and usually not the real handwoven textiles made in Ghana.
However, most expressions stay in the specific places or with the specific people of origin and are used to get married in, graduate in, celebrate and generally show how a people live.
Clothing choices as diverse as those found on the continent really deserve entire books dedicated to their history, but for now we can admire a few examples via social media.
Ntombobom is like a candy store for those who love and adore Xhosa traditional attire, commonly known as umbhaco. Artists such as Simphiwe Dana and Tony Gum have recently worn items by Ntombobom.
There are many pages dedicated to the beautiful styles of Nigerian traditional clothing, but traditional accessories, such as the beaded necklaces and headpieces usually worn by those in Edo State, have to also be highlighted as an art form in itself.
Bella Naija Weddings
The biggest wedding site is undoubtedly Bella Naija Weddings, where you will see a dazzling array of styles and cultures as Nigeria has so many.
Ethiopian traditional clothing has a long history, and many who visit the country bring back the famous white dress, called a habesha kemis, and sometimes the silver crosses, which are gorgeous just on their own. Ethiopians wear the dress on formal occasions and also add a shawl called a netela.
Lesotho style is based on love for the traditional fabric seshoeshoe or seshweshwe, so named because of the sound it supposedly makes when you wear it. (I heard this a long time ago, but it could be wrong). Either way, the fabric, a staple of Tswana and Sotho wardrobes across the region, including in South Africa, is worn on special occasions such as weddings. It also be incorporated into daily wear.
In Botswana seshweshwe is known as German print, as a nod to its origins, and when worn formally it is called Leteisi. In Lesotho, the traditional blankets are the thing both men and women wear during formal occasions.
Ghanaians are some of the best around when it comes to tailored outfits in prints. Although best known for their traditional handmade Kente cloth, they also do Ankara prints as part of their African attire.
For the real deal handwoven Kente cloth from Ghana, this is it. And they ship worldwide.
The Rwandans don’t play around when it comes to their traditional attire. For the engagement or the “asking for the girl” ceremony, known as the Gusaba, this is what they wear.