By Ngumbao Kithi
Mekatilili Memorial Council had a unique contest dubbed Hando Beauty Contest where women aged 45 to 70 years competed in modelling the traditional attire.
The hando, won by women in the Mijikenda community is a short skirt made of a long material, preferably cotton, folded into gathers to accentuate the shape of ladies’ hips. Usually, the hando is immaculate white but some women prefer mixing and matching colours.
Being the first ever, the contest has attracted several Mijikenda women who used the hando in their childhood but lost it to the influence of modernity and religion.
The spectacular street carnival, which took place at the resort town of Malindi on November 29, was marked by traditional Mijikenda dances like gonda, sengenya, mwanzele, mabumbumbu.
A selection of local and traditional musicians also entertained guests and tourists during the whole-day extravaganza.
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The event kicked off at Coral Key Beach Resort and covered 20km to Magarini Cultural Centre at Gongoni along the Malindi-Lamu road.
The hando can be worn all by itself or under a leso, kikoi or kishutu, all of which are wraparounds. It was worn by the Giriama heroine and warrior, Mekatilili wa Menza, who fought the British colonialists when they imposed hut tax to her people.
For centuries, the hando was common among Mijikenda women, particularly the Giriama, but it’s popularity declined when it was portrayed as primitive. The apparel has, however, made a comeback. The Mekatilili Memorial Council believes that after its revival, the hando can be endorsed as a fashionable costume not just for the Mijikenda but also for other Kenyans.
This way, it could be used to promote fashion tourism in the country. With the modern modes of dressing obliterating our cultural ways, the Malindi community-based organisation is determined to save the hando from being forgotten and only read about in history books.