Role of fabrics in tradition

By Patience Nyagato

THE African continent is endowed with diverse cultures and what we wear constitutes part of our identity as Africans.

We explore the fabric side of our culture and how different materials are used to communicate in the traditional religious world.

Black or white poly-cotton material often used for formal shirts is just sewing material for many, but for cultural experts wearing these materials on certain occasions is deeply embedded with traditional and spiritual connotations.

Traditionalists say the black, white and sometimes blue poly-cotton materials are symbolic in the African traditional religion.

Apart from these plain materials, the popular black and white polka dot material known as ‘Gururehanga’ and the red and black African print known as ‘Retso’ used by traditionalists also bear deep meaning in the traditional world.

These fabrics are not only a preserve of cultural practitioners as contemporary musicians including the late Prince Musarurwa, Hope Masike, Diana Samkange and Virimai Nhedega are clad in this traditional piece when they perform.

Although it might seem like a difference in choice of colours, it has also emerged that all colours used by apostolic churches and traditionalists are symbolic and strategically chosen.