A LONG, colourful scarf worn by President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his recent trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has been a topic of discussion on various social media platforms, and now, a hot selling item in Zimbabwe.
“It’s been an overwhelming response,” Celia Rukato, founder of the Harare-based textile company that has been selling the scarf for about three years, said.
In explaining how the scarf that is now referred to as the “Presidential Scarf” became part of the Zimbabwe delegation in Davos, Rukato of Chjaa Enterprises Private Limited, said: “That was completely, to be honest, a surprise on our end.”
Rukato said she simply delivered a few scarves to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ahead of the Davos trip for consideration, but it was not until word started getting around on social media about the President wearing the scarf, that she realised her efforts had paid off.
She said the scarf came about as an experiment to capture the culture and identity of Zimbabwe.
“Our family spent a long time living in South Africa. Despite regular visits back home annually, we constantly sought ways of being reminded of Zimbabwe and ways of showcasing national pride outwardly.
“We were also increasingly presented with opportunities that required us to showcase our “Zimbabweanness” when interacting with the global community across a series of platforms. A common go-to for showcasing culture for many people is through clothing, or traditional attire. In our case, this was often difficult because, beyond being able to perhaps wear clothing specific to a Zimbabwean ethnic group (Ndebele traditional attire, for example), there was little we could wear that would identify us as distinctly Zimbabwean.
“It is in this context that we were inspired to create designs and an aesthetic that we believe showcases the dignity and pride we feel in being Zimbabwean,” Rukato explained.
“From the onset we firmly understood that the Zimrocks scarf had to be rooted in our history as Zimbabweans and had to present an overall aesthetic that is clearly not aligned to any one political party. The product had to be one that all/any Zimbabwean could identify with irrespective of race, tribe or political allegiance. It is for this reason that, when designing the scarf, we settled on the Zimbabwe national colours.”
The colours of the scarf, black, green, white, gold and red, displayed as horizontal stripes, are all official colours of the Zimbabwe flag.
“These colours represent our collective historical and cultural significance and are articulated by the Zimbabwean flag and coat of arms,” said Rukato.
Celebrating being Zimbabwean, Rukato said, was a choice that every individual needs to actively make.
“When we began this project, we chose to focus on how we could contribute towards pride and positivity about being Zimbabwean. The scarf, therefore, represents the embracing of what it means to be Zimbabwean with all the good and the bad; because this is who we are.”
Since its debut in Davos, the scarf, which Rukato said her company never really marketed much outside Zimbabwe’s embassies in different countries, is literally selling itself. She said Zimbabweans are now contacting her company through various social media platforms, to place their orders. The scarf is being sold for $16.
“It’s really exciting to just see how people are reacting and are excited about it,” Rukato said of her product which the Zimbabwe public overlooked since its creation three years ago.
“We’re thrilled by the gradual conversation that the scarf has been able to illicit. It is a powerful thing to see Zimbabweans from all walks of life, in both Zimbabwe and around the world, showing enthusiasm for being able to wear the Zimbabwean colours proudly.”
She said the response from the public was quite encouraging considering that three years ago when the scarves were introduced, they did not receive such a reception.
“I’d say when we had initially put it out on the market, we’d see, you know, the raised eyebrow, ok, what’s this about? But I think that’s really just the discussion that as Zimbabweans we need to have,” said Rukato, adding that there’s more to the scarf than what it appears to be on the surface.
“It’s not that the scarf is the answer, but I think it’s just a step toward in finding how we can express our identity and culture and I guess, what we’re about through our dress, so it’s just the beginning, I believe,” said Rukato.
The scarf is now being worn by most Government officials when conducting national duty outside Zimbabwe as well as different ambassadors. People who have been spotted donning the scarf are British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Lang, Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira and Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa.
“It’s been incredible to have the scarf being ordered and worn by Zimbabweans as far away as London.”
But among them all, the biggest fan of the scarves is undeniably President Mnangagwa whose outfits are incomplete without the scarf. This is really one piece of clothing that somehow reminds him of the people of Zimbabwe who have their hopes of a better nation pinned on him.
On the President constantly wearing the scarf, Rukato said: “For us, the donning of the scarf by President Mnangagwa is an invitation to all Zimbabweans and all those who appreciate the history and beauty of the country to join hands and contribute to the building of a Great Zimbabwe, whose future is as bright as the scarf. Through the scarf, we’re saying, ‘let us be proudly Zimbabwean!”.
In addition to the scarf, Rukato designs and prints a series of fabrics that are inspired by historical monuments and symbols across Zimbabwe.
“In addition to the knitted version that is currently available, we are working on other versions of the scarf on printed cotton, printed silk and other varieties.” —Online/Showbiz Reporter