African fingerprints

I came across this poem that I wrote for one of my African studies courses in second year and I was gobsmacked at fact that the debate about African Literature being taught in African institutions is still contentious and unresolved. Below, is my two-cents about this issue!


African breathes, Africa sings,

Africa laughs and Africa cries

Yet all this unified motion is nowhere to be seen.

Why are our fingerprints always overshadowed by Western intellect?

When will our fingerprints dominate the global intellectual cuisine?

Why? Oh Why? Have the thoughts of our ancestral brothers and mothers been manipulated by our Western scholars?

They write, we cry,

They write, we sigh

They write and the more our continent’s persona dies!

Run! Africa Run! For this global bureaucracy is hard to overturn.

Once your African universities are overrun!

We will have nothing but international words to learn.

Write! Africa write! Let them words flow over the global coast like the River Nile.

Fight! Africa fight! Fight until our continental rhetoric drowns out the Western philosophy.

Rise! Oh dear Africa rise! So that our universities may rise above bureaucratic domination.

Dream! African dream! So that we may break free, from the very shackles that distorts the daily struggles of our people.

Print! Dear Africa print! So that from generation to generation we can dominate the global tertiary education.

african footprint

The curtain covering the hymen!

Miniskirts were worn prior to the sixties, the exact date of the invention of this piece of fashion is unknown, but what is definitely documented is its popularization. Miniskirts were popularized in 1965 by Mary Quant.[1] Since then the mini skirt has been a go to fashion piece for women. Unfortunately, this piece of garment seems to be in the middle of recent controversial debates across the African continent. According to section of men, this garment speaks to the moral compass of the person wearing it, and thus deserves a particular response from them. In my opinion, this debate is a cheap tactic to maintain patriarchal rule over women’s bodies and their sexuality. 

Do men really control the curtain covering the hymen? Can morality really be held hostage by sexual categorization of women’s wear? Are miniskirts really against a certain culture?

Two Monday’s ago, I was skim reading current affairs in Kenya and my heart stopped when I read the headline: “Mothers in minis? Not in my school, says head.”[2] A male principle of an all boys high school in Kenya, had barred female parents from visiting their sons in school, because they were indecently dressed. He claimed:

“Parents should not embarrass their sons when they visit this school. There is no ‘my dress, my choice’ here,”[3]

“We have done it before and nothing will stop us from doing it again. As a parent, you must remain simple, humble and smartly dressed,”[4]

Honestly I am not only appalled that this man holds such chauvinist views, I’m an completely vexed that he has gall to express them in public, let alone implement these sexist views. The assertion and implementation of these views implies that men hold the power to influence the decisions that women make about their own bodies and sexualities. It implies that the garment covering the hymen speaks to the moral compass of said woman, which allows men to determine the fate of that woman, by aligning certain moral assumptions to her. Such assumptions support fallacious arguments that women’s clothing provokes a particular response from men, and that these women deserve the consequences laid on top of them. A number of rapists and serial rapist have argued that their violated women because of their of their dress code, according to them these women deserved it because their dress code implied that these women were accustomed to behaving in a certain way. Like my colleague Farai Sevenzo pointed out in his article, a letter to Africa:

“This line of argument gets us all nowhere very fast and fails to acknowledge that people who rape or are driven to drooling uncontrollably at the sight of a female thigh with which they are not well acquainted are provoked only by the demons in their own heads and pander to their basest natures.”[5]

Thus the principle of that school should have set due precedent for those boys and other young men, by helping them to understand that not only is a woman’s dress her choice, but real men should learn to respect those choices. In addition, he should have pointed out to those boys that it is their responsibility to control their urges and learn not to act upon those urges. Instead, his declarations have taught these sixteen year old boys that a piece of garment reflects a person’s morality. As seen above, he clearly states that a woman who doesn’t dress decently is not humble. After such an assertion, how are these boys ever going to learn to respect women, if their own principle is critiquing their own mothers? Like Rousseau said:

“… Social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless, the right does not come from nature, and must therefore be founded on conventions.”[6]

Are these really the erroneous ethics that we want to pass on to our children?

Secondly, the picture used to advertise this issue by the Daily Nation (A popular newspaper, in Kenya), was completely inappropriate and underplayed the issue at hand.


mini-skirtAre we really expected to believe that the above picture is a correct representation of the kind of attire in question? It is a well known and accepted assumption by many Kenyans and Africans, that miniskirts are any skirt that is above the knee, yes you heard me, any skirt or dress that shows a modest amount of thigh muscle, is indecent and unacceptable. So not only does the above picture demean women, it validates the utterances of the named principle. In addition, like the vice president of Zimbabwe was quoted saying:

“”Women used to wear nhembe (a short apron) but no one protested,[7]”…

“What matters are [a woman’s] morals, not dressing. It is her right,[8]

So after reading the above comments, I decided to dig into history and see what the fuss is about miniskirts. Why were miniskirts offending men so much if back in the day, women used to roam the earth bare breasted wearing beaded skirts or loincloths, or nhembes?

According to some authors, colonization not only had an adverse effect on our political and economic systems, it also changed our social order and principles. As much as I see the slight validity in that argument, I am of the opinion that this issue has been accentuated by the rise of globalization and modernity. The more that these systems thrive, the more women’s rights are asserted and respected (at least in principle), which loosen the noose of patriarchy. The assertion of women’s rights makes a certain sect of men feel like they are losing their rightful control over women and are thus being disempowered. I’m sure some of you think I’m over thinking this, but seriously think about it, if women used to wear more ‘offensive’ and indecent clothes in the past, and miniskirts existed prior to the 1960’s, why has women’s clothing become such a sore thumb in some people’s lives? Why do some African men, feel the need to argue that this way of dressing is un-African and against Christian morals?

The latter question should raise more eyebrows then I can count, because Africans have long argued that Christianity erased every ounce of African morals. Yet in this case, these very Africans have embraced Christian morals as their moral compass. The irony of this is the white colonialists, who taught us Christianity, are the ones that promoted ‘indecent’ female dressing among their own popularise. So in fact the very arguments that have been made against the above subject, just contradict each other. In addition, let’s not forget that Christ himself left us with the doctrine of not judging each other. I believe his exact words were, it is not our place to judge as that is God’s mandate.

So the next time you want to use religious rhetoric to judge women’s morals based on their choice of dress, remember the members of ISIS, who decided to kill some women for indecent dress. Their idea of indecent dress was that these women were showing too much of their eyes.

Thirdly, I urge sexist men of any nationality, to follow the example of their Turkish colleagues, who took up wearing miniskirts to protest the rape and murder of a young woman. The aim of the social media protest was to show that a attacking a particular person based on their dress choice is not an excuse. If men from this conservative country can unite and rise against such a fallacious argument, why can’t we?

What moral code do we as a human race want to be known for? Do we want to be defined by fallacious arguments or the respect and protection of the rights of women and children?

Lastly, I want to urge the Kenyan leaders and population to join me in demanding an apology from the principle of that school. Let’s demand respect for our mother!
















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