I’d forgotten that today Baby’s class has to do a “show-and-tell” on traditional clothing. I was supposed to buy her a pair of makgabe [a fringe skirt worn young Batswana girls] for her class.
But after a couple of shopping expeditions I couldn’t find it and time ran away from me. I think part of the challenge was that most people think traditional African dress means colourful Zulu outfits, with beads on them.
Zulu skirt from Wathorg.co.za
This one looks great, doesn’t it? But it’s not what I was looking for. Then there are the beautiful Ndebele skirts made from fabrics with colourful geometric prints. They nice, but still not what we were looking for.
The Xhosa skirts don’t fit the bill either.
And neither do Shangaan skirts.
Unlike their cultural cousins, makgabe have no visible beadwork or decorations. I’m not implying makgabe don’t have any artistry. They are usually one colour but if you use wool [ you can you leather too, or sackcloth], the fringe has to be unraveled first, and then intricately plaited into a fringe.
I took one of my favourite brown woven shawls and made makgabe out of it. It was not ideal, but it gave a fair representation of what Batswana girls used to wear.
Sorry, no pictures of makgabe I made.I took some good ones, but I still haven’t figured out how to download them from my Samsung P910.