Malawi; “Warm Heart of Africa”- Maloto; meaning dreams in local Chichewa language
What are the dreams of these modern day fashion warriors?
By warrior I do not mean an aggressive person. A warrior is genderless, fearless and gentle, a defender of all things that are good for the planet and all of her inhabitants. In this series, I will be introducing you to five warrior fashion spirits who were invited to walk the runway at Eco-Fashion Week Australia, 2017.
“Understand yourself and what you are good at!”
Mphatso Chisale is an 18 year old Malawian woman. She is what a popular African magazine entitled, “The New African Woman,” is pointing to. Mphatso meaning,”Gift,” in chichewa, one of Malawi’s local language, is being mentored along with two other designers you will meet in this interview by Lily Alfonso, internationally acclaimed fashion designer and activist.
We sit together at a favourite hangout in Lilongwe, Malawi called Kiboko, “Hippopotamus.” This is our second meeting. Both times I deepen my understanding of what being a young woman in one of the poorest countries of the world means. Even a favourite traditional game, Bao, has both a male and female version.
What does being a feminist mean to you?
A person who believes in the economic success of both sexes. A woman can do the same thing as a man, and a man can do same things as a woman. Many men say that women destroy money. A female lawyer and a female designer should be treated the same, but lawyers of course are give more societal status. When a woman is a model here, people think she is a prostitute. All that needs to change.
What is your favourite piece of clothing?
I love pants and sneakers because I can do anything when I am wearing these two items. I can move from one errand to another effortlessly.
What are you wearing right now that gives you the most joy?
My bracelet. I take joy in locally produced items. These are local beads made from Malawians. They inspire conversation and they connect people to their own brilliance and their own creative culture. They look good but in a simple way.
What are some of the challenges you face as a fashion designer?
We have to deal with the second hand markets as an alternative to fashion produced locally and ones that are committed to celebrating African fabric. Fabric and tailoring labour is expensive. There is very little fabric produced locally. We need to reinvigorate this industry. Electricity is also a problem. We face blackouts up to 12 hours every day for months.
Mphatso does not let these challenges prevent her from realising her dream. She is kind, very intelligent, poised and confident beyond what is typical of an 18 year old and humble.
My prayer for these five designers. May they be celebrated at Eco-Fashion Week Australia 2017. May this celebration flow in 10 directions to help them realise and resource their own dreams for self and community.
Thank you to Zuhal Kuvan Mills for providing such a generous platform of faith to foster the dreams and healthy economic development of Malawi. Blessings alway to her and all the organisers who dreamt this inaugural platform into fruition.
May be all beings be everywhere be happy and free.
Coming next: Part 2 - Meet Bruce Marewere
= = = =
Patti De Sante travelled to Perth, Australia, with 21 designs from these five fashion designers to promote their work, to highlight the beauty of of Malawi located in southeast Africa and to share the countries current progress in gender equality. Patti both showcased these designers, her first go at a runway show and blogs for the fashion platform. As an ordained zen buddhist chaplain and gender activist living in Malawi, she explores, “How fashion devotion develops the three minds of the Buddha and contributes to community health and happiness.” #bigmind #joyfulmind #kindmind