Finding your own voice is one of the most exhilarating experiences in a person’s life, let alone a nation. Normally when we hear of the voice, our minds race to the literal sense of speech, but, the voice is more than speech, it is about freedom, expression and the passion associated with finding that voice. The African print seems to have struck a code for Zimbabwe; it has become the “voice” that speaks of a pride of the Zimbabwean people.
For many years, articles have been written, about Zimbabwe’s lack of identity dress, however, a culture of the African print seems to be shaping our cultural dress. From time immemorial, the wrap around dress termed the Zambia, and the matching head cloth called duku have been synonymous to our cultural dressing, women at funerals and newlywed brides have usually found themselves clad in this fashion. Over time this African print has weaved its way to almost every person’s closet, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or event. The African print dress has become the new voice for Zimbabweans; it has slowly shaped our identity.
Some would argue that the African print is not weaved in the country with the bulk being manufactured outside the continent, these facts are true, but they do not alienate the fact that slowly as a nation, we are embracing something big, which in future years will eventually form our firm identity. It is in the African print that our stories are being told, for those momentous occasions, we are in a way finding ourselves dressed in it.
What makes the African print interesting is the fact that, the materials are versatile and are being used in many interesting and unconventional designs. The print is seen in ladies apparel from dresses, slacks, skirts, skirts, tops and jackets. Recently, the same print has pushed boundaries to accessories such as necklaces, headbands, bags and shoes. There has been a growing interest from men as well, with many preferring jackets, and shirts. As one moves through the streets of Harare with, with a conscious eye, they are able to appreciate this growing trend of African print.
In the past decade, African attires where limited to older women, it was almost unheard for the younger generations to be clad in such. Back then print designs emphasized volumes, big sleeves, massive gathering and mixed design concepts; however, this has changed over time, lean, seamless designs have replaced the voluminous ones making the fabric appeal to the younger generation.
Adoption of the African print into our daily lives is enabling us as a nation to shape our culture and tell a story of what it means to be Zimbabwean. In my opinion generations to come when asked about our national identity, will point out to the African print as this seems to be the one unifying aspect of our fibre as a country, regardless of age, gender or race. In a way as a nation, we have found our voice, and this voice is shaping our identity.