Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Duala Men's Attire

In daily life: work, parties... Cameroonian men usually wear the same clothing as in Europe, the US, Australia, and much of the Middle East and Asia: shirts, slacks, and so on.
Traditionally, however, Duala men wore, and still wear for specific occasions, a large fabric fastened at the waist called a Sandja. Originally, sandja fabric was made of tree bark, beaten till it was fine and soft enough to be draped. In Congo, a woven style of tree bark fabric is still made today, called "Kuba" cloth.
There were three different ways of wearing the sandja: Held up at the waist to form short sherwal-type pants*; knee-length; and the ceremonial style, still worn today, full-length. That is the style I saw the most, often called "Sandja Ngondo" because it is worn for the Ngondo celebration (which had not been celebrated for 20 years when I arrived in Cameroon).
My first experience of men wearing a sandja was at funerals, when men wore a black velvet cloth, with a white shirt, and 2 black scarves: one around the shoulders, and one around the waist. If the deceased had suffered a violent death, a red band was also worn around the upper arm.  (The women wore kabas, the Duala traditional dress inspired by the Protestant missionaries' influence.)

*For a short explanation of what a sherwal is, click here

1 comment:

  1. The Mutwa women of the Banni area of Kutch have a fascinating embroidery where they make fine embroidery works with designed motifs and mirrors in the size of pinheads, the Gracia jats use geometric designs on the yoke of long dresses. Moreover, the finest of quilts with appliqué work are also made in Kutch.

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