It is summer, but walking in the streets with your back and waist out is like a taboo in Africa. The look people throw at you would paralyse your limbs. Showing a great part of your body as your ancestors is no longer perceived as a cultural deed, instead it is a moral threat. Europeans who used to see that as a taboo in the Victorian Era are now the ones who wear like we used to centuries ago when it comes to a season like this. They make the best out of it.
The young generation of Rwanda loves the fashion trends of the western countries. It has been motivated by the fashion shows on TV, and the pictures on pinterest and tumblr. But there is a huge boundary set by the previous generation that is ruled by religious moral ethics, and they are their parents, uncles and aunts, who they have to respect at the end of the day. It seems like more of an offense to the society when a girl steps out her room with too much skin revealed; any old person would call you “umushizi w’isoni” (a girl that lacks morals). Didn’t the ancient people of Rwanda have morals even though their way of dressing was revealing? Why is it shameful, today, to wear something that allows your skin, body, to take part in your style in such a season? The morals of today is limiting the fashion of Africa for no use at all. And It is not about being completely or half naked, it is about how open minded and flexible the society should be when it comes to a season like summer.
Fashion of today takes steps forward monthly; it goes as fast as technology. It has become a mixture and a divergence from culture to culture which sparks out a lot of open minds and diversities. Designers are not holding on to the Impu and Amasunzu styles, they have decided to look beyond the culture of Rwanda and opened up for whatever self-created style they could afford to design. But what if the only obstacle left is the clinging on ethics of the previous generation full of style taboos? Don’t you think that fashion in Rwanda would still be even better than it is? Africans are letting the European and American fashion go beyond theirs because of the boundaries they put up when it comes to what to wear.
There is a complication of models in Africa, especially in Rwanda, who refuse to wear anything that reveals their bodies for the catwalks and photoshoots (shout out to those who go for it!). But what would fashion be if bodies did not exist? The society should change for the fashion to also change. As much as they make the rules and taboos, they can as well change them and perceive things with an open-mindset.
Do you think that the Rwandan/African society should allow the new generation to go for whatever goes with what’s trending, the season, and self expression? Give your views and RWANDA CLOTHING will hear your voice.
More texts by Olga Divine Agahozo: