Fabric Sends Symbolic Message in Zimbabwe As African Prints Become a Growing Trend


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The styles, of varied and durable materials made in Africa and elsewhere, reflect the artistic expression of a culture. Noreen Chenesai Mukora-Mangoma, founder of Chenesai, explains her designs, which incorporate African prints and black-and-white fabrics to show that people from various races can coexist. Georgina Kahari, an employee of Jista Print, a company that makes African print fabrics, demonstrates the dyeing process, as well as the custom print and design process.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Kitenge, dashiki, batik or khanga – these are just a few of the popular styles of African fabrics that are as symbolic as they are diverse in design, color and texture. Some materials are waxy with a glossy finish, others are cotton and soft to the touch.

Each fabric represents the artistic expression of a culture. And today, they are a part of a growing style trend in Zimbabwe. The fabrics are well-made, with durable materials, and many say the prints are a way for Africans to express themselves through fashion.

“I get to look like a real African lady,” says Ellen Musvaire, as she shows off her own dress and the matching dress of her 3-year-old daughter, Nokutenda Kaylie Magaya. Both outfits were sewn using African fabric.

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Ellen Musvaire and her daughter, Nokutenda Kaylie Magaya, wear matching dresses.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

The materials are made in Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and other countries within and outside Africa.

“African wear [represents] a decent African person and shows that you love your country and continent,” Musvaire says.

Charity Chakuwana creates and sells African wear clothing and fabrics.

“We import African fabric from Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia. We make dresses, skirts and baby clothes from African printed material,” she says.

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Charity Chakuwana designs a variety of clothing and accessories for women and children in Zimbabwe.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Chakuwana adds that some of the prints – for example, pots, drums and animals – symbolize African culture.

“I sell 6 yards [5.5 meters] of the material from $10 to $35, depending on which country they are coming from and the quality,” she says. “The fabric from the Democratic Republic of Congo is expensive, and fabric from Southern Africa is cheaper.”

Designer Noreen Chenesai Mukora-Mangoma is inspired by African prints.

“African print is vibrant and celebrates the African woman and man; it represents what we are as Africans,” she says.

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Noreen Chenesai Mukora-Mangoma, founder of Chenesai, displays some of her designs.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Visit the Designers
Noreen Chenesai Mukora-Mangoma can be reached on her Facebook page or at +263 718952852

Jista Print is on 61 Prices Road in Mount Pleasant, Harare. The company can be contacted at +263 71 263 8166

Linda Mujuru, GPJ, translated some interviews from Shona.