I had the privilege of owning a Chitenge in my adolescent times yet, I never appreciated its value till I was older, in my twenties. Having a Chitenge at a young age was pretty cool till I became a teenager. At this time wearing one b came uncool for me. I disliked them or maybe I still do but, one thing is for sure my attitude towards wearing a Chitenge has drastically changed for the better
Chitenges in Zambia, kitenge in East Africa and Ankara in West Africa, are fabrics that are typically worn by African women and girls when doing house chores or running errands. They are also used to make outfits for special occasions like traditional wedding ceremonies and kitchen parties.
However, of late the fabric has dominated the African fashion industry despite originating from Indonesia. The fabrics are also commonly used by working women who wear them while going to work to avoid soiling their outfits especially if they are using public transportation like Pool or Public buses.
I never really liked Chitenges but, I had to to learn the hard way in four incidents and I realized why my mother and elder sister always emphasized I carry a Chitenge whenever I’m going out.
One incident I remember vividly was when I went to collect evidence for an upcoming TV2 debate competition called Debate Time in 2013. I was 26 by then and in the company of my mother. We walked into a certain governmental firm and the receptionist ( two women) said I couldn’t go in to see the boss with my skinny jeans unless I out on a Chitenge.
My mother just removed hers from her bag and gave it to me. I was angry at the two lady receptionists; it felt like they were telling me that I was dressed inappropriately but more so, I kept thinking about what would have happened if I went there alone or if my mother didn’t carry a Chitenge. Well, that was lesson number one. I was saved in those other three incidents and that’s how I learnt the importance of carrying Chitenges everywhere I went.
I’m not the only one who thought these pieces of fabric are lame and I won’t be the last but, I should remind everyone why Chitenges are important especially for African women and girls.
- Chitenges are part of our African culture.
A region rich in culture and tradition, chitenges are a part of our dress code in homes, traditional ceremonies and celebrations. Therefore, getting engrossed into western attires and forgetting our very own is a sign of a lost identity. It is a cultural norm for females from ages ranging from puberty to adulthood to own a Chitenge, wear it when doing chores, running errands or on special occasions like kitchen parties and traditional weddings. No matter the circumstances, one should never divert from their Cultural background to adopt another man’s culture.
- Chitenges are a symbol of modesty and good grooming.
When attending to chores and people, girls and women should be fully dressed to avoid indecent exposures of their private body parts to people around them especially men. Wearing clothes cannot simply protect you from exposure especially when you are so engrossed in the act of performing your chores. A Chitenge will protect your body from exposure which often brings ridicule and reproach from older women. This issue is serious; I mean you can even be accused of trying to seduce men if you are not careful. Furthermore, Chitenges protect us from getting ourselves and our bodies dirty while working. For instance, watching, cooking, fetching water or firewood, sweeping the yard or farming.
- Chitenges protect us from humiliation and messy situations.
Every female is bound to start menstruations when their time comes and this can be a problem when you don’t know the exact date aunty Flo will knock on your door hence, you could find yourself in a situation where your menstrual period just oops ups without warning, staining your apparel and what do you do? Grab the Chitenge you brought with you from your bag and you are saved from humiliation! Easy- peesy, right? But, you have to first own a Chitenge and make it a habit to carry it everywhere.
Chitenges can also serve as napkins to avoid messing your clothes when eating, when in the bus and even when you are carrying your babies on the back or on the lap. Moreover, there are time when our clothes get torn or out zipper suddenly becomes blant and untangles in the middle of nowhere and in public. That is the time to make use of our chitenges; It’s easier remembering to carry a chitenge than carrying a needle and thread. How will you even start to die your torn apparel in public?
- Chitenges have been incorporated into world styles so much that they are setting the standard for African fashion. Wouldn’t you want to rock one or perhaps an outfit. Anyways, a chitenge is better.
Chitenges may seem lame but, they are highly important for females. Western attires may be setting the trend now but, nothing beats Ankara when it comes to garments that save numerous purposes for the individual warring it.
It’s not old fashioned, it’s simply culture that protects our pride and dignity. Wear your chitenge today and feel good wearing it. You are African, you are proud. African women for chitenges; chitenges for African women!