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Buibui debate: What’s the way forward

By Mwangi Muraguri | May 25th 2016
A display of different types of bui bui at a shop in Mackinnon Market popularly known as “Marikititi". The fitting and decorated designs that also come in different colours and are liked by young women are the mainstay of most bui bui shops. PHOTO: MWANGI MURAGURI/ STANDARD

Mombasa’s Mackinnon Market is the place to shop if you are looking for a buibui. It is here I go to find out the emerging trends in how this clothing is being worn.

I inquire about this garment worn by Muslim women and a dealer leads me to his store with a light warning: “Chunga usinunue bui bui uende ukapigwe nayo” (be careful not to buy a buibui that will put you in trouble).

His sentiments seem to indicate there could be more to the buibui than meets the eye.

Opinions are sharply divided between the older and younger women with the latter opting for a more fitted, well cut buibui while the former advocate for the more traditional loose fitting look.

“Religious teachings are clear that a buibui should be plain, without decorations and not tight on the body. But then, this is business and shrewd designers and businessmen capitalise on fashion trends to boost sales,” Mohamed Sham tells me.

Mohamed tells me most shops at the market, which stock buibui, sell them at between Sh1,800 and Sh2,300.

He tells me this garment is divided into two general categories — the umbrella and the butterfly. The former is loose fitting and appeals to the married more mature woman while the latter is more form fitting and appeals to the younger women who are more fashion conscious.

At another buibui shop, Joseph Molel says these fitting and decorated designs, that also come in different colours, are the mainstay of his business.

“My customers say they like these designs because adorning them makes them look smart and young,” said the retailer who imports his wares from Dubai.

It is, however, interesting to note that while young women opt for these more ‘fashion forward outfits’, men we talked to — both young and old — were unanimous in their dislike of them. In fact, many associated women who wear the tight, revealing buibui version as having loose morals.

“Women in tight buibuis are certainly eye candy but I would not want my sister or mother to put on such a revealing outfit,” says Amani Said of Mwembe Tayari.

The younger women, however, sharply differ with this opinion saying they do not put on the buibui to attract attention but rather to meet their individual tastes.

“Siwezi vaa buibui itanitoa kama mama mzee” (I cannot put on a buibui that makes me look like an old woman) says 20-year-old Sophiah Omar.

“I feel good when the buibui is fitted. Besides, it is my husband who decides the degree of stara (concealment) he wants me to abide by,” she says with a smile.

According to 26-year-old Esha Mahamoud, the desire to wear tight fitting buibuis is influenced by peer pressure and what women see on television and the Internet.

“It is better for one not to put on anything than put on a revealing buibui. A buibui should be decent whether one is single or married. Also, the kind of buibui a woman puts on should not be determined by her social class,” she says.

While some of the older women appear liberal and ready to allow their teenage and youthful daughters to get a buibui of their choice, some regard the younger generation’s eagerness to “expose their body curves” a form of rebellion.

“Those who put on these tight buibuis are just confused girls who neither understand nor appreciate its value,” says 60-year-old Mariam Hamadi.

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