Zambian chitenge comes in an array of different colors. You will find it everywhere you go and in any part of the country. It's not difficult to come across and it is very easy to buy! (Just in case you are interested in getting one).
It's a favorite fabric for a lot of small business people engaged in fashion designing and tailoring. Market stalls run by established and upcoming designers and tailors make attires out of the chitenge fabric.
Maybe you have been wondering what this Zambian chitenge is all about. The Zambian chitenge is a wrap around skirt generally worn by women. You will find someone wearing a chitenge skirt usually with a similar colored headscarf. Some designer has even found means of coming up with various designs of chitenge suits complete with headwear to go with the attire. This kind of dressing has become very popular with the Zambian woman of today.
Many designers have also started coming up with a lot of products for men using the Zambian chitenge. Shirts, shorts and pajamas are some of the items.
So, If you happen to come across a Zambian woman in a chitenge, you're looking at some truly authentic Zambian way of dressing.
The use of the Zambia chitenge is not limited to being used as an attire but, it is also used for carrying babies and a lot other things. Because it's so versatile, the fabric is used in many ways. The chitenge used mainly for carrying the baby has got a different name. In some Zambian languages it is known as 'Impapa' or 'Inguwo'.
It has assumed a universal role in the country especially for women and you will find it in any household in any part of Zambia.
At Zambian funerals, women wrapped in chitenge are usually considered dressed for the occasion while women dressed otherwise are considered not. Some women have even gone to the extent of carrying a chitenge in their handbags, to cater for unforeseen circumstances like the aforementioned, because certain occasions in Zambia have only one dress code (like funerals/burials), and that is chitenge. But this practice is slowly dying due to western influence.
Women start putting on chitenges at an early age as soon as they are old enough. This is taken very strictly especially in rural Zambia. A mother of a grown up girl who's going about without a chitenge will be scolded.
The Zambia chitenge is used extensively by rural folks and it's widely used because it's cheaper. Women and even young girls manage to carry heavy loads wrapped in chitenge on their backs, and even on their heads with chitenge acting as a cushion on which to rest the load.
The patterns and artistic designs on the chitenge are varied. There are prints of traditional art, nature, and even portraits of well known people emblazoned on the chitenge. During times of political campaigns, you are likely to find supporters wearing chitenges with pictures of their favorite candidate printed on it.
In Zambian culture, a woman in a chitenge is portrayed as dressing very modestly. Any fashion that departs from the Zambian chitenge is taken as western. In urban areas, we are witnessing a slow demise of the chitenge especially among the young whose current trend is modern western attire. The influence is not very noticeable among the rural population.
But, will the chitenge tradition die out? It remains to be seen!
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