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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Kenya unveils first national dress
(L-R) National Heritage Minister Najib Balala, Sports Minister Achillo Ayacko, Vice-President Moody Awori from Kenyan TV
The Kenyan public chose the winning design

Senior Kenyan officials have taken to the catwalk to promote Kenya's first ever national dress.

The country's Vice-President Moody Awori paraded with three other ministers, all of whom had ditched their grey suits for colourful African outfits.

Speaking at the ceremony held at the Kenya National Theatre in the capital, Nairobi, the officials stressed the dress, which is similar to other traditional African outfits, was good for the country's image and identity.

"We have always wished that one day we can be identified, but not only by our faces and language, but by our dress as well - that's a common denominator that can bring us together," said National Heritage Minister Najib Balala.

Move from colonial dress

The search for a national dress began early this year, a few months after three Kenyan MPs were barred from entering parliament for wearing brightly-coloured Nigerian robes called Agbadas.

Rules dating back to the colonial era stated that male MPs must wear suits and ties in the chamber.

"This argument that the only dress that can be decent is European dress is to me awfully colonial. And I am not sure that even Europeans would today dare advance such an argument," MP Koigi wa Wamwere said at the time.

Following this dispute, the government joined with the consumer goods company, Unilever Kenya, to set up a "National Dress Design Team".

The team then launched a competition among Kenyan designers to come up with a design for a national dress and asked the public to choose their favourite.

The winning designs were displayed on Kenyan TV.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

What is an African dress code?
01 Mar 04  |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
17 Jun 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Kenya
07 May 03  |  Country profiles

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