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Beauty queen has designs of her own up her sleeve

She designed and actually made a national dress of sorts in 2002 and the attire reportedly made its way to France. Magessa was Miss Northern Zone beauty crown holder in 2000,she spoke to Staff Writer, MARC NKWAME about the current quest for a Tanzanian national dress and whether or not she will dress up for the occasion.

Q: What happened to the “national dress” you made ten years ago?
A: It wasn’t exactly the official national dress, but when two French models Hellene Leroyer and Karen Alletru who came to Arusha as part of their worldwide search for attires from 40 different countries, I designed a Kitenge outfit. Designing is my passion, I make my own clothes. A person must look different you know.

Q: So are you participating in the current race to come up with the ultimate Tanzanian attire?
A: I would have loved to, except the whole process seems rather vague; the national dress committee is not exactly straightforward, we just hear that they are in the process, but there is no clear communication regarding the whole thing.

Q: Like what, for instance?
A: They should have released the criteria, requirements and suggested the main components for the proposed national dress, we need time to work on the project and designs as well as being informed who will make up the judging panel.

Q: You do not like the lack of transparency?
A: Well, in 2004 some people came to Arusha and claiming to be searching designers to come up with specimens for the national attire. Fellow designers and I grabbed the opportunity and participated. We realised rather too late that, the organisers already had a winner, who turned out to be a sister to one of the coordinators. Not amused the rest of the designers left the Hotel Seventy Seven feeling cheated. Tanzania can be a very challenging place for talented people. The other thing is that are we going ahead
with national dress project for real? Or it is the usual “Bongo” thing of making quick money under the pretense of doing something? Let the organisers come out clean on this.

Q: But the national dress committee has a website where all information can be obtained?
A: That is if they only want designers from Dar es Salaam, Arusha or other selected urban centres where people can access the internet, I mean, isn’t a national dress supposed to be a “national” thing? Then by all means let the information reach all people, right down to the grassroots’ level.

Q: So are you going to participate in designing one?
A: Participate? I have already designed one. You see when I made my Tanzanian attire in 2002, I was young, immature and inexperienced, and I have a better product in hand at the moment.

Q: So, what does this new “national” dress of yours look like?
A: (Laughs) are you pulling my leg? In this country of copy-cats just try divulging what you have and it will be imitated. No thanks, I will not have my latest formula printed in papers and certainly not now that people are craving to design a national dress. Just for the record it has components from three major communities, two found in the Northern Zone, where I live and one from the Lake zone where I come from.

Q: So you are from the Lake Zone?
A: Musoma to be precise, my mother was very strict and wouldn’t allow me to pursue modeling or beauty issues, so I had to escape and travel all the way to Moshi in 2000 where I participated in the Miss Kilimanjaro beauty contest and won the crown. I went to the next stage and won the Miss Northern Zone title, that same year. Since then I have helped to organise, beauty pageants, fashion shows while continuing with designing in the background.

Q: What is your next project?
A: Well nowadays I spend so much of my time at work here (New Mount Meru Hotel. In a few months time from now I intend to stage a “Miss Higher Learning” beauty contest in Arusha. The region has so many universities and colleges today and I intend to tap into their creative skills.

Q: Back to the national attire; how come the national dress concept seems to target just ladies?
A: When tie-and-dye and batik materials became the rage, people designed shirts and jackets from these materials and it seems the whole country was satisfied in having the batik as the unspoken dress code for men in Tanzania. Take for instance the safari suits that are either “Kaunda” suits or the popular collar less version suits adorned by Members of Parliament during parliamentary sessions are good enough to be presented as the national attire for men. It is the women who need a special dress. Women can be rather particular when it comes to what they wear.

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