Visiting Kampala in 2017 is like visiting any other big modern city, with lots of nationalities gathered together celebrating with international flair.
But amidst this bustling hive of multi-ethnicity and metropolitans, one can feel like the African flavor is lost.
This feeling is most evident when flipping through the average beauty magazine laden with expensive foreign lotions, photoshopped models, and pin-straight hair, not to mention western silhouettes. Has Kampala lost its own flavor in pursuit of the modern city?
Maybe we are scared of looking outdated or backward. Most young people will tell you that to them looking African means wearing a traditional dress, a sometimes awkward look for modern Kampala almost strictly reserved for weddings and the like. To the modern Kampala yuppie, nothing is more terrifying than looking “local”. The connotations of which may include being backward, untraveled or ignorant.
It’s time we reached into our hearts and embraced the beauty and uniqueness of African culture. Can it be that we take for granted what we have or is it that we are distracted by western standards of beauty? Slowly but surely the definition of local is changing. Uganda has started producing higher-quality products; implementing better design and holding producers to a higher standard of quality. The definition of local will also change when we realize that local can mean genuine, or traditional; it means paying homage to where we come from and how it impacts where we are going.
Any lack or dissatisfaction we feel should inspire us to redefine what “looking Ugandan” means. We are not stuck in the past, every day we get an opportunity to change how the world sees us, and more importantly how we see ourselves. It means buying locally made products when possible, it means supporting Ugandan businesses, and it means being #proudly Ugandans.
All over Kampala, you can get wax print fashion almost anywhere you are. In the basement of iguanas bar, across the street from the quality hill, or definition at acacia mall will have a wide variety of Afrocentric items. This includes shoes, hats, pillows, clothes and so much more. Try the fun graphic t-shirts from the definition, their funny slogans and quips perfectly sum up life in Uganda. Our favorite is the one proclaiming ‘I like R&B (rice and beans)’.
Even smaller tailors will usually have access to wax print fabric or kitenge print and will be able to custom make you a great piece. If you need inspiration check out Pinterest or Instagram to see what people all over the world are doing with African fashion. African beauty is not a single look or trend, it’s fluid. Something anyone can rock. Becoming modern doesn’t mean giving up the tradition, it’s about adapting tradition.
Because of this rapidly increasing market for kitenge fashion, African design, and locally made clothes. Looking Ugandan no longer limits itself to only a gomesi or a kanzu. It can mean a jerry-can backpack, a wax print skirt, or a handmade necklace. As we go through 2017 we will expect to see more examples of African-inspired beauty.
African beauty embodies everything about our culture. It usually supports the environment, or a social cause; its bright colors personify the African spirit; and because Uganda’s Afrocentric movement is still so new that there is no limit to what we can do.