Zimbabwe: First Lady Praises Teams for National Dress Designs

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, top left, view of capital Harare, national flag, late former president Robert Mugabe
17 April 2021

The national dress plays a symbolic role in the preservation of national values, culture and identity, as seen yesterday during the provincial launch of the national fabric spearheaded by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.

Unlike other countries in the region, Zimbabwe was among the few without their national dress, hence the First Lady's intervention which was welcomed by various stakeholders

Yesterday, the First Lady was guest of honour at a function where all the country's provinces battled it out for honours in cutting and designing outfits using the national fabric.

There were lots of eye-catching displays of baby wear, formal/executive wear, evening wear and the exhibitions that included work suits, baby wear, formal wear, executive wear, sports wear and a Presidential shirt.

Chiefs left guests awestruck as they looked radiant in their new apparel designed using the national fabric.

Evening wear, hotel ambience and smart casual wear were also showcased.

The function, which was held in accordance with Covid-19 prevention measures, was graced by President Mnangagwa, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Government ministers, traditional leaders and guests from the country's 10 provinces.

In her address, the First Lady said the coming up with a national dress was a culmination of extensive consultations that have been going on with various stakeholders to seek a way forward with everyone's involvement.

She praised Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni for having coordinated the provinces in working towards the competitions and all national dress designs competitors. "On 19 December 2020, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe launched the national fabric of Zimbabwe at the State House," the First Lady said.

She said the ministries of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation; Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development; the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, chiefs' wives, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, arts researchers, and designers had been consulted in coming up with the fabric.

National archives, museums and monuments, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and National Arts Gallery and others had not been left out.

"Countrywide consultations were also made with communities which involved assigning young creative people to make the necessary adjustments in order to accommodate them and address the generational gap," said the First Lady. "I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the work that has been put in by the teams assigned, whose roles were critical in ensuring that this process came to fruition.

"Today, we witness provincial competitions as well as a fashion show where various designs of the national fabric are on display. We also looked at the way this fabric could be designed so that it augers well with the drive to instil nationalism among Zimbabweans near and far.

"We want to encourage all Zimbabweans to fully engage and participate in the promotion and popularisation of the national fabric. This fabric will give us a national image that we should all take pride in.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am really overjoyed by this achievement. A nation's heritage is priceless and must be preserved and developed in order to foster a sense of national identity, pride and unity."

The mother of the nation said the whole idea of a national costume was to express dedication and belonging to a country, without having to say it when wearing it on occasions.

The national costume, she said, can be much more than just a celebration.

"It can keep reminding us of important pages of history - how we were living in the past, what our traditions were, what we were wearing, and so on," said the First Lady. "Ladies and gentlemen, the national dress is a very important part of Zimbabwe itself. It is also about patriotism.

"People should make it popular because it plays an important symbolic role in the preservation of national values and cultural heritage. It is our duty to maintain and take care of the national fabric because it is one of our nation's identities and distinguishes us from other nations."

Amai Mnangagwa said the national dress was not just a "costume" as constantly referred to, but an important element of somebody's culture which was often rich with symbolism.

"Educate yourself about a particular piece and how it is traditionally worn," she said. "Wearing national dress pieces is intended to be a respectful ode to traditions and cultures. Worn inappropriately, or in the wrong way may be insulting.

'Please give the national dress a place in your wardrobe and enjoy the treasured memories of your travels every time you put them on. Remember, your national dress is your national identity, wear it."

Among designers who exhibited at yesterday's event was Maud Chinodakufa from Mashonaland Central Province, who made personal protective equipment using the national fabric.

"I sew this worksuit which is personal protective equipment (PPE) using the national fabric and it helps avert danger among miners," she said. "Mashonaland Central is awash with minerals, so I made the design of the worksuit with that in mind."

Another designer described the national fabric as a vehicle for empowerment and national pride.

"As a designer and as an artiste, I see this as an opportunity to empower ourselves as young women, designers and come up with different designs and different ideas to use our national fabric," she said.

"This is an opportunity to create a very warm environment for our tourists, especially in hotels and lodges as it can be used on curtains and bed linen. It is a form of identity. When our tourists come to visit, they will feel that they are now in Zimbabwe. We want to thank the First Lady for spearheading this initiative."

Minister Nyoni applauded the First Lady whom she said was the brainchild of the national dress.

"This fabric was the brain child of the First Lady and we are today celebrating the national dress in its diversity because she did not want to limit the creativity of Zimbabweans," she said.

Chief Nechombo, Mr Langton Chikukwa, paid tribute to the First Lady for helping traditional leaders in their work to position, preserve and promote culture.

"Our culture cannot go backwards if we have a mother," he said. "As chiefs, we keep saying the problem that we have is that of cultural erosion. We need to go back and rediscover our multi-purpose cultural values we have left behind and through Amai, our First Lady and her support, we do not see ourselves backsliding.

"In all our provinces countrywide, the First Lady has been spearheading programmes that have to do with the restoration and preservation of our culture. This national dressing was our greatest desire as traditional leaders to position, preserve and promote culture and identity."

Mr Tafadzwa Chitiyo came out tops as the best designer followed by Sandra Ndebele, who came out second.

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