South African Traditional Dress Biography


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African clothing is the traditional clothing, often vibrantly coloured, worn by the black people of Africa. In some instances these traditional garments have been replaced by western clothing introduced by European colonialists.
In Southern Africa distinctive shirts are worn, like the long dresses they wear. For instance, South Africa is known for the Madiba shirt, whereas, Zimbabwe is known for the safari shirt.
In the Horn of Africa, the attire varies by country. In Ethiopia, men wear the Ethiopian suit and women wear the habesha kemis. In Somalia, men wear the khameez with a small cap called a koofiyad.
After passing through an initiation school the unmarried Ndebele girl dons the ceremonial clothing of the newly -admitted adult (1st image to the left). The outfit consist of a skirt, with beaded apron, a beaded bodice that covers the breasts, a necklace or two, earrings, neck band with multiple arm and leg bands. The image to the right is a typical example of the bright colored clothing and beads that make up traditional outfits.
A girl just entering her teens dressed in traditional clothing . The outfit consists of a beaded bodice and characteristic double-layered cloth skirt with the neck, head, with multiple leg and armbands. This type of clothing is normally worn on special occasions like weddings or celebrations.
A young married woman with a colorful beaded cloak is dressed for a dancing ceremony.  The design of the beaded staff is typical of the Ndbele people. In Africa a woman’s clothing indicate whether she is married. In many parts of Africa only the married woman may wear a cloak
The Zulu people the most prominent tribe in South Africa
The chief wears a leopard skin and bright colored feathers of the bishop bird adorn his headdress. The shield and spear is for protection and is part of the traditional gear worn by the chief.
The heard boy’s traditional everyday work clothing consist of a loin cloth and skin to cover his rear, brightened by bearded hoops and necklaces.
Dancing costume of a young Zulu maiden. The entire outfit is made of beads. This costume is worn during festivals or dancing ceremonies.
Zulu diviner wears special clothing designed to please the snake. The Zulu takes its name after from their chief Shaka Zulu who founded the royal line in the 16th century. The complicated Zulu etiquette was refined during his reign.

Clothing. Prior to arriving in South Africa I envisioned an impoverished country and continent where people are in constant need of foreign aid. I rarely saw media coverage on the vibrant cultures or positive stories of the continent. It surprised me to learn South Africa is an artistic hub, especially when it comes to fashion.
World-famous South African designers Sun Goddess Clothing are at the forefront of fashion, crafting beautiful garments from traditional designs. The textile and fashion industries are extremely important to the South African economy, as they create many jobs in a country where unemployment affects one in four working-age adults.
At the Sun Goddess showroom, I tried on a corseted dress custom designed for Miss Teen South Africa. Corseting is common in South African clothing, as the laces ensure a longer lifespan for the garments. As a woman fluctuates in weight, she can pull the laces looser or tighter to accommodate her form.
Traditional Dance. Throughout history, Africans have used dance to celebrate special occasions, prepare men for a hunt, and give courage to warriors before heading into battle.
Just five miles from the Swaziland border is the tiny town of Pongola. In this remote part of northern South Africa, traditional Zulu roots run deep. Here, I witnessed a troupe of young Zulu warrior dancers put on an incredible display of athleticism and energy. With drums pounding and sticks wielded, I imagined a time when young men performed this same dance in anticipation of battling rival tribes or advancing Dutch settlers.

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