Among the Karimojong of north eastern Uganda, a young man's outfit is incomplete without a stick and chair. As part of their style, Karimojong men wrap a sheet around the waist and top it off with a bright coloured vest. The elders forego the vest and tie the sheet over the shoulders.
Why some Uganda traditional wear never made it to mainstream fashion
Traditional wear has increasingly become a tourist attraction for both international and local tourists. Even the traditional wear lovers have coined that term "African Print" to describe aspects of whole outfits that they add to contemporary wear. However, some aspects of this traditional wear did not make it easy to be adopted to the mainstream clothing lines, aside from cultural sentimental value.
Will recycling fashion ever make it?
For the sheer pleasure, they wear sandals locally known 'Ngatangai' made from car tyres. They are locally known as 'lugabire' among the Baganda. Their leather counterpart was a hit, especially from the Masai of Kenya who flooded the Ugandan market with them, they are locally known as "crafts".
However, if you ever wore Ngatangai in childhood, back in the 90s, you probably have a story of bruised pinky toes or trying to ruin them for a chance to get 'Umoja' slippers instead. The only way to get rid of these sandals was to simply lose one or both. Their durability was not enough for them to make the cut.
Accessorising for work
The world of fashion is no stranger to bizarre fashion statements on runways and from fashion designers, so may be this complex Karimojong ensemble is simply waiting for a daring fashionista to make it a hit.
To finish off the look, the Karimojong man accessorises with a stick known as 'ebela' and a stool called 'ekicholong'. However, these two accessories have a practical use for the men, the stick is part of their activities as pastoralists and the stool is for resting as the herd grazes.
Designs set in stone
On the other hand, some traditional wear has limitations which when tampered with would be received as disrespect to and destruction of a tribal landmark. For example, among the Baganda, trying to refashion the 'Gomesi' would obliterate it completely.
The Gomesi is an ensemble traditional wear. The Gomesi, typically a silk fabric, is accentuated by an undergarment called "kikoyi" to bolster its appearance. A belt also called 'ekitambala' is then tied around the waist with an intricate knot at the front. With the Gomesi, the undergarments should not be seen.
The Karimojong women skirt known as 'abwo' is made by sewing a sheet with hides plus decorative beads. The hide has to be left out to dry for days lest it release an unpleasant smell, thereby undesirable to many persons outside of Karamoja.
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