Black is the first thing that comes to Jacinta’s mind whenever she comes across the word “African”. She believes that Africans are beautiful, complex, colourful, diverse, rich and strong. Jacinta is a student at Strathmore University and when she is not in class, she will be found cooking, running her family’s business, or designing Africa-inspired clothing. Designing African attire is her way of tapping into her African heritage.
“My dressing usually stands out because I never leave the house without wearing something artistically African, be it jewellery, fabric, or even hairstyle. I come from a family that has a penchant for fashion and it rubbed off on me. However, I decided to focus on African fabric and prints,” she says. Jacinta’s passion for African fashion has encouraged her to learn the origins of different African fabrics, and in the process learn about Africa. Even her cooking and the décor in her house screams Africa, and she addresses elders the traditional way.
Even though more people are starting to embrace their African culture and identity, Jacinta acknowledges that there are many stumbling blocks. “It costs an arm and a leg to get good Kitenge clothes, to attend African themed concerts or to purchase African art. If we can make African products available and affordable, we can rival the likes of Gucci or Dolce and Gabbana, and more people will start appreciating African products,” she says.
“This is a very defining moment for us as young African millennials. Our culture is being eroded. From the language we speak, our dress codes, lifestyles, and even the food we eat…none of these things identify us as Africans. We are just imitating other people’s cultures and losing our heritage in the process. Most of us rarely visit our rural homes let alone relating closely with our grandparents. At this rate, it is only a matter of time before we become black Europeans,” she says.
According to her, we all have a role to play, and it starts right at home, by ensuring that our children can communicate effectively in mother tongue. If you are an adult, he says, it is your duty to learn your native tongue. “Africans are lacking in self-confidence and self-appreciation. We have been made to think we are a lesser race, hence we always feel inferior and view other cultures as being better than ours. We need to break away from that mentality. Once we do, Africa will reach its true potential.”
Jacinta Wakesho is a Diploma in Business Creation and Entrepreneurship student at Strathmore Univesity.
This article was first published in the Daily Nation here.