Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kofia, Bargashia, Fez: Three African Hats, Three Symbols of African Fashion

Yesterday, I went to this vintage store in the outskirt of Johannesburg and I saw these beautifully-crafted designs of a common African hat which are frequently seen among royalties, wedding ceremonies, costume parties or big festivals in Africa. These are called Kofia, a cylindrical small embroidered cap and mostly worn in countries who generally speak Swahili. This Kofia are worn and  dressed up with an African traditional costume called Kanzu, a white-coloured long robe or also known a as a tunic. In some parts of Africa, it is worn as a traditional costume especially in countries such as Tanzania, Comoros and in some towns of Kenya. In other countries, dressing up with kanzu is not necessary. Informal wear are usually worn with a kofia mostly  people inUganda. To get the best and well-designed kofia, you might want to try to visit in the East African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda which has special designs and special holes for air to go in and out of the cap. Designs such purple leaves, solid black stripes, minimalist structures, sartorial lines, etc. are nicely made to suit the need and taste of the user. 

Bargashia is the most common hat in Northern Uganda. Mostly this is used in countries such as Zanzibar, which are also partnered also with kanzu. The difference with kofia is that when it is dressed up, it doesn’t have holes on top of the hat.

In Northern Africa, fez is very popular. People of different ages wear this—from the youngest to the oldest. I have observed that unlike the kanzu and bargashia, fez has a unique tassel, just like a toga hat. The usage of fez was recorded way back when the Great Britain colonized this part of Africa which was worn by the King’s African Rifles, group of British people to symbolize their high status in the society. Fez hats are coloured red but some few hats are black. 

As what I have observed, Africa has a rich culture of different traditions compiled from the long decades of colonisations of different countries around the world. Such long history has been brought down until today with a colourful and festive way of living. The tradition and heritage has been passed and the result is a rich fashion sensibilities. These African hats are symbols of all of the hardships and sufferings Africa has received and with the new millennium, the concept of Africa has gradually changed into a more positive perspective in the international community.


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