What Is The National Dress Of Kenya?


3 Answers

Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered

Reports on reactions of Kenyans to the 2004 quest designs say that the foundation dress was rejected on grounds that it lacked a Kenyan identity. FYI, its looking  like the west African style of dress was purely coincidental. The source of the idea was very much Kenyan since it came from the wrapping style in which a majority if not all communities wear the leso  (in the one piece or two piece style), with the inclusion of the t-shirt that those who have issues about body exposure usually wear  beneath the wraps.

What those who complained about the design didn't take into consideration was that for the outfit to be acceptable to all, there were other factors that the design team needed to take into consideration besides fair representation of the diverse cultures into the one outfit .These are:-

The outfit also needed to be to a standard of modesty acceptable to all, and with modesty(decency) being  an issue that is equally controversial in Kenya ( especially with regards to women's dressing), attempting to fit diverse standards of appropriate dressing in one outfit would have been even more difficult than the task of  fitting the diverse cultural expressions into it.

For this reason, the design team presented the concept in its most decent form, then gave people the option of making reductions to the pattern, as seen in the suggestion to the youth that they had the option of wearing the skirt short /adopt it to their  avant garde tastes.

Being stylish and classy was another thing that people required of the outfit, especially  the Kenyans who wanted to wear it for recognition as Kenyans  while hobnobbing internationally.The wrap and t shirt presented in that form  would have been rejected by majority for  lacking style.

It is for this reason that the design team  modernized the wrap and t-shirt, combining it into the short sleeved blouse they ended up with.

The cost of the dress was another thing that was made an issue of.The choice of the kikoy was also made for the sake of style . (The idea had been  to make use of what we are known for, which meant using the known textiles.These  are the Kanga, kikoy and Maasai shuka. The kanga in the wrap style would not have looked stylish to many Kenyans, The shuka with its checks would have been too limiting, so that is why the kikoy became the fabric to "Enhance the costumes Kenyanness)."

The concepts weren't completely rejected .Some Kenyans didn't like the foundation dress design but they didn't mind the accessories proposed, so they wore them over their western fashions.This however led to the public opinion that the quest had yielded accessories, not outfits.

The reality is that all that needed to be done to the foundation dress design in order to "make it  work" ( for style as well as Kenyan identity) was for people to do what they had been avoiding in the first place :-

-Accept the inclusion of the specific ways in which the kanga is tied by the different ethnic groups (Bantu,Cushite,Nilote) as basis of for styles for the tops worn with the wrap skirt.

-Wear these, as well as the initial wrap in the immodest (shoulder baring) style.

Those who needed to cover up for modest could have done so by wearing shawls  or by going back to wearing t shirts/shirts underneath the sleeveless tops.

In my opinion if what Kenyans are looking for in a national dress is an outfit that they can identify with culturally, that transcends the diversity of the different cultural groups, that allows flexibility in fabric used for different social classes /functions,  that can be adopted to different fashions for different age groups/different functions,  they should not look further since we  already have it  all in the 2004 quest designs.
Furthermore, with the ethnic styles of wearing the kanga included in the styles for the foundation top, the concepts can be styled by people in ways that come from their tribes (if sticking to their own is what they want) but it will still be one thing to all of us.

sally Awuor Profile
sally Awuor answered

Reports on the reaction to the design say that the rejection of the foundation dress was because it looked West African,

FYI, the basis of the design was very much Kenyan, i.e  the leso wrapped under the arms, in the one or two piece style, which is common in most if  not all communities .

Those who criticized the design for that reason didn't appreciate  the fact that fair representation of the cultural diversity wasn't the only issue that the design team  had take into consideration  in order to come up with an outfit that would be acceptable to all Kenyans There  were other factors such as ;-

Modesty/decency, an issue that is controversial in Kenya, with different groups having different standards for what is decent, especially regarding women's dress.(Trying to fit the different standards of decency into the one outfit would have been a bigger headache than blending the different cultural expressions).

It is for this reason that the design team opted to make the outfit to the highest standard of modesty. They included the t-shirt that those who have issues with exposing their shoulders usually wear underneath the wraps, then gave people the option of reducing that to their tastes, as seen in the suggestion to the youth that they had the option of wearing the skirt short/ to adopt it to their avant garde taste.

Stylishness /classiness-  was another thing that was required of the design, especially by Kenyans  who wanted  to wear it for  Kenyan identity while hobnobbing internationally, which also contributed to the look of the resultant outfit . 

Kenyans wouldn't have accepted to wear the wraps in the traditional wrap around form, thus the team gave it touches of modernity that resulted in the combination of the wrap and t-shirt into the wrap styled short sleeved blouse and the yoking of the skirt.

Some Kenyans used the cost of the cloth as their excuse for not wearing the outfit.Meeting the stylishness requirement also contributed to  the choice of the Kikoy  as a fabric  for the outfit

Kenyans wanted the outfit to be made using  fabrics that the country is known for in order for it to have the Kenyan identity. The Kenyan identity was especially important for Kenyans travelling abroad.

The wrapping style in kanga would have looked like something to wear in the house, the Maasai shuka would have limited creative expression because of the checks, hence the kikoy choice.

Kenyans with  had been of the opinion that they didn't need to identify themselves while within the borders. They therefore had the choice of tailoring the outfit using whatever they wanted if kikoy was too costly.

The accessories found some followers, but  since they hated the foundation dress, they wore them with their western fashions. This is what resulted in the opinion some expressed that the design had yielded accessories not outfits.

The ironical thing is that all that needed to be done to the foundation dress to make it work (for style as well as Kenyan identity) was for people to do what they had been avoiding in the first place, i.e

-Accept the inclusion of the use of the ways in which the  kanga is tied by the different  tribes(Bantu/cushite/nilote) as basis for styles for the foundation tops, instead if sticking to what is common to all of them.

Use those styles, as well as the common to all tribes wrap ,in the immodest, shoulder exposing  form.Those who needed to have more modesty would then have covered up with accessories or simply gone back to wearing a shirt/tshirt beneath their tops.

In my opinion, if what Kenyans want in a national dress is an outfit that  transcends their cultural diversity, that can be styled in different ways for different generations/occasions, that can be made using different textiles for different purposed/classes, then they already have it  in the 2004 quest concepts.Furthermore, with  the inclusion of the various ways the different communities tie the leso , adapting the concepts to individual ethnic styles is possible,so those who want to stick to their own tribes expression can do so, but the dress will still be one thing to all of us.

Vikash Swaroop Profile
Vikash Swaroop answered
Kenya doesn't have a national dress. The country is diversified so widely that every ethnic group finds it difficult to wear a dress that is worn by another ethnic group.

All the 42 ethnic communities practice their own traditional culture and costume that is unique to them. Making them accepting a unified dress is a task that is seems quite impossible but still the government is trying to make them accept it for national unity.

The most recent effort in this direction is 'Sunlight Quest for Kenya's National Dress'; a dress sponsored by Unilever, but it is yet to get acceptance.

Kitenge is a cotton fabric that is generally accepted as an African dress but this one also has not been accepted till date, Kanga is also a piece of cloth that most Kenyans use in their homes but it is not officially their national dress.

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