Sunday, January 17, 2010

Work it Malawi!

If you’ve ever been to a developing country (particularly in Africa) you are well aware of the liberties that are taken with fashion. Malawi is no exception. For women in rural areas (the cities are all fairly Westernized), skirts are a must and all skirts are covered by a large piece of fabric called a chitenje. Women also use chitenjes to hold money, carry fruit, carry babies and wipe up spills.

Beyond that, anything goes. Reuse is the name of the game. Most people don’t have shoes but for those who do, croc-type sandals or even mismatching footgear is the norm. Some people wear clothes in such inventive ways that it borders on avant garde. I saw a woman yesterday wearing a deflated soccer ball as a hat. Used clothing from America is sold at every market so you see a lot of familiar T-shirts. I saw a girl the other day wearing a hooded vest that said “Boston” on the back (who even knew such a delightful product existed?).  Also very popular for some reason are tees that say K-Y on them. Over-representation of Dane’s homeland or product placement?

The other curious thing about Malawian fashion is the gender-bender way that they dress their children. Sometimes grown men will wear a western shirt that was clearly meant for a woman but that’s not as striking as the little boys. It’s not uncommon to plunk a kid on the height board and her little dress will fly up revealing- well- the fact that the pronoun that I just used is incorrect. This, coupled with the fact that a buzz cut is standard for boys/girls/men/women, makes for some anatomical surprises and awkward social faux pas.

I am in desperate need of a haircut but given the national trend for gender ambiguity I think I'll ride it out until I get home. Although I could rock a buzz cut I think?

side note: I was just informed that one of my coworkers routinely sees women wearing children's underwear on their heads. Is that more or less hysterical than a deflated soccer ball? Perhaps the infinitely fashionable ladies at wapatoko could weigh in?


  1. Good heavens, I just laughed out loud for the entire second half of that post. (Bailey gave me one heck of a side-eye for disturbing his meditation session.) From the deflated soccer ball to the improper pronoun...hoo-wee. Color me tickled.

  2. Oh Marge-barge, you made my day. But now that I have your attention: you are letting your public down. There are those of us who eagerly await your next post with the same fanatacism that tweenage girls reserve for waify emo vampires. And I don't have a TV here. So I'm very sad when I see nothing new on Harlanguage.

    So THIS IS JUST TO SAY (get it? yukyuk)- I love it when you update your blog.

  3. underwear on the head is more hilarious.

    take a picture!!!!!