Cultured States – Andrew Ivaska’s exploration of nation building, gender and style in newly independent Tanzania – promises to be a fascinating read. Sixties Tanzania was a difficult place to be for a young woman, with a series of TANU Youth League ‘decency campaigns’ that stretched into the seventies. Mob imposition of strict dress codes – “ban the mini” – was not unusual in the capital Dar es Salaam or places such as Mwanza (h/t @katebomz na baba yake).
But let’s not consign these things to history. Just last Wednesday, the mini was banned in neighbouring Mozambique. To be precise, the Municipal Assembly of Lichinga, capital of Niassa province in neighbouring Mozambique issued a directive banning the mini skirt (h/t @hofrench).
And just last year Tanzania’s First Lady Salma Kikwete advised schoolgirls to maintain modesty at all times:
Girls! You must appreciate that you are pearls and do not hesitate to protect yourselves. Dress respectfully, do not carelessly display your pearls
She advised girls to keep their heads in their books, get a degree and not have their heads turned by older men with some money. She was speaking with her First Lady NGO hat on, touching on issues of transactional sex, self development and HIV and AIDS. But the message remains the same: put some decent clothes on and keep your head down.