Following months of consultations across the country, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development officials and designers from the country's ten provinces met in Harare this Monday to adopt the national dress or attire material.
The adoption of the national dress material paves way for the formulation of various designs, which are comfortable, occasion-based and resemble national pride, to be exhibited end of this month ahead of the 40th independence celebrations scheduled for Bulawayo.
The consultations on the national dress material concluded with various stakeholders such as chiefs, airing their views on the idea, as the custodians of local culture, while the Ministry of Home Affairs gave heritage advice.
A national dress expresses an identity, which is usually associated with a geographic area or a period of time in history.
Such costumes often come in two forms: one for everyday occasions and the other for traditional festivals and formal wear.
The search for the national dress started in 2005, but did not yield results, prompting Amai Mnangagwa to take it upon herself to ensure the programme succeeds.
Speaking at State House this Monday, the First Lady said the national dress should reflect a lot more on the country’s traditions, history, national heritage and aspirations.
“I feel honoured to be spearheading this project as mother of the nation. I feel that as Amai, I will be able to represent the interests and tastes of all Zimbabweans, which I will do without bias.
“I have, therefore, convened this meeting of designers and to request you to now come up with appropriate dress designs that are uniquely Zimbabwean,” she said.
The First Lady urged the designers to come up with designs that speak to local culture and heritage.
She said people should feel comfortable when putting on the clothes, which should also be appropriate for various occasions including national commemorations, sporting events, leisure or other occasions.
Said the First Lady: “I am keen to see us wearing the national dress during the commemoration of our 40th Independence anniversary. This means that we should conduct competitions to select the best dress by the end of March this year.
“The dress should reflect a lot more on our traditions, history, national heritage and aspirations. It should also be appropriate on social and religious gatherings.
“It should give us our national identity that conveys a message that ‘I am Zimbabwean without even saying a word’.”
Amai Mnangagwa said the national dress should be a tool that unites Zimbabweans as a people despite different cultural values and help in celebrating the country’s cultural diversity.
Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Sithembiso Nyoni said, just like the national flag, national monuments and the national anthem, the national dress plays a pivotal role in one’s understanding of their nation and nationality.
She added that the national dress should be a source of pride, identity and symbol of power.
The meeting was attended by ministers Monica Mutsvangwa (Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services); Dr Sekai Nzenza (Industry and Commerce); designers; church leaders; traditional leaders; youths; national museums, and representatives from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, the National Archives of Zimbabwe and National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe.