Discovering african clothing

 

My craving was satisfied at last! One of my big wants for this trip has been getting ahold of as much Chitenje as possible. Thanks to my Malawian friends, this dream has come true.

Chitenje or kitenge is an East African fabric similar to sarong. Source: wikipedia.

About 20 minutes had passed and the hottest, sweatiest and undeniably strangest mini-bus ride of my life was approaching its end. You can read more about the bus-ride HERE. The side door slid open and before I could say Malawi livin’, I was standing on the streets of Lilongwe old town. Suddenly surrounded by dusty cars, loudmouthed vendors and, compared to rural Lilongwe, quite tall buildings. Our Malawian friend Jaco led the way and, after a couple of minutes we were traversing a dense maze of wooden stalls selling everything from second-hand electronics to personal hygiene products. Around each corner hopeful vendors hurled friendly Chichewa phrases towards us as we hurried past them. After a minute or two we arrived at a large area with a low roof, filled with chitenjeclad women sitting behind their low, colorful booths. 7000 kwacha later, I was the proud owner of 12 meters chitenje. Figuratively screaming with excitement, we ran back to the mini-bus, eager to deliver our new fabric to the local tailor.

I wake up to the sound of my mosquito net zipping open and my roommate Karoline reaching me a cup of coffee. A new day has dawned and it’s time to visit the tailor. After a quick breakfast Anastanzia, our friend/maid has agreed to bring Bjørnar and me to the local tailor in Majiga, ten minutes away from our house.

A handful of mwadzuka bwanji’s and bobo’s later we were approaching Moses, sitting upon his old Singer sewing machine. With his tape measure lying around his neck, he sat immersed in his work. As we were getting closer, Moses raised his arms towards us, split the ocean and welcomed us into the promised land of chitenje. After mere moments a smirking gang of local Malawians surrounded Bjørnar and I, laughing friendly with astonishment as two azungus (white guys) tried their best to get tailor made chitenje suits in the native tongue of Chichewa.

Moses, the tailor in Majiga is known for being one of the best in the area.

Moses, the tailor in Majiga is known for being one of the best in the area.

Moses brought me inside his narrow shop and started measuring me as he asked about how I wanted my clothes done. I handed over my chitenje pieces and Moses instructed me to come back the next day for my new personally tailored attire. Bjørnar, Anastanzia and I mingled around for a bit and headed back home. The next day, after a long day of Chichewa-courses, I hurried down to Moses’ shop. As agreed upon, my clothes were done! Two sets of matching suits richer I hurried on back home to try on my new African look. Needless to say, the result is nothing short of fabulous!

 

Moses and his gang probably finds this situation a bit absurd.

Moses and his gang probably finds this situation a bit absurd.

 

My comrades and I in our finest chitenje garments.

My comrades and I in our finest chitenje garments.

Ole Tveit Hana
Ole Tveit Hana

Ole Tveit Hana is a 20-year-old guy from the rainy city of Stavanger. During the next nine months he will be living in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi.

Ole is a guitarist with an interest in a variety of styles. In the past he’s been involved in a variety of smaller projects, ranging from noise rock and indie pop, to hip-hop and jazz. Lately though he has become increasingly immersed in the music and sounds of Africa. Therefore, some of his main goals this year are acquiring local instruments and to find inspiration in Malawi’s traditional music.

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