By Our Reporter
New York born Ugandan beauty Queen, Ashlei Watson is Representing Uganda as Miss global Uganda 2021 for the crown of Miss Global 2022 which is happening in Bali Indonesia.
The beauty Queen is using the global pageant to show case Uganda’s rich cultural heritage through fashion as her attire, a traditional ensemble was designed by Ugandan designer, Agnes Agimo.
Ashlei’s traditional wear
The dress is a combination of both modern day fashion and ancient traditional Buganda folk wear comprising of Lubugo (Backcloth), Kikoyi, American Satin, Cowrie Shells and Decorative Stones. Ashlei’s dress has Elements that represent the traditional wear of the Baganda people.
The Ganda people, or Baganda (endonym: Baganda; singular Muganda), are a Bantu ethnic group native to Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. Traditionally composed of 52 clans (although since a 1993 survey, only 46 are officially recognised), the Baganda are the largest ethnic group in Uganda, comprising 16.5 percent of the population at the time of the 2014 census.
The Lubugo ( Back Cloth)
Bark cloth is basically the outer layer of bark of a ficus tree called ficus natalensis. The tree is predominantly grown in Bukomansimbi located in masaka region. It’s actually called Lubugo or translated bark, the cloth has historically progressed from full regal attire to where it has been neglected today to be reduced to just a “funeral cloth” or “shroud. The Lubogo is still a very key element of Buganda’s oldest traditions like it’s what they use during traditional ceremonies like kusumika or when one is being crowned as the inheritor of a lost loved elder. It’s brown in color and very durable.
The Kikoyi and American Satin.
The Buganda Women’s full traditional regalia is a combination of the busuti (Gomesi) and the Kikoyi underneath to firm the cloth. The American Satin is a very soft fabric that can be used to make the Gomesi and the Kikoyi is a traditional Kanga that is used to wrap around the lady’s body. Kikoyi can be put on independently but the Gomesi goes hand in hand with the Kikoyi to give it the firmness it requires.
A gomesi or busuuti is a colorful floor-length dress. It is the most commonly used costume for women in Buganda and Busoga.
The best scholarship traces the origins of the Gomesi to 1905. The dress was introduced by a Goan designer, Caetano Gomes, then resident in Uganda which was a British Protectorate at the time. The dress did not gain wide use until the wife of Daudi Cwa II of Buganda, the Kabaka or king over Buganda, wore it at her 18-year-old husband’s official coranation (he had been kabaka since age 1) in 1914.
The gomesi is a floor-length, brightly colored cloth dress with a square neckline and short, puffed sleeves. The dress is tied with a sash placed below the waist over the hips. The gomesi has two buttons on the left side of the neckline. Most gomesi are made of, Satin, silk, cotton, or linen fabric, with silk being the most expensive. A kikooyi or kanga is tied underneath the linen gomesi to ensure that the fabric does not stick to the body. A well-made Gomesi can require up to six metres of cloth.
The first money Used in Uganda and Africa at large was the cowrie shells. Today we use it as traditional decorative elements and also in ancient Buganda traditional practices.
Cowrie or cowry (pl. cowries) is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries.
The cowrie was the shell most widely used worldwide as shell money. It is most abundant in the Indian Ocean, and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along the Indian Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, in Maluku in the Pacific, and in various parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowrie shell money was important in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.
Most African Countries are reach in minerals, crystals and stones and Uganda is no exception. Being that Ashlei is very passionate about Mother Earth her dress had to represent all elements above and below the earth.
This modern piece of art that Ashlei chose as her traditional wear is an expression of what she stands for as an activist to protect Mother Earth . It is made of purely plant based and earth based organic materials that put us back with nature and our traditions.
Ashlei Watson was born and Raised in New York- Long Island, USA. She is a writer, poet, Mental Health advocate, founder of Ashlie Watson Foundation, former Miss New Jersey Earth 2018-2019 a contest that she believes opened up her heart on humanitarianism.
Ashlei is the reigning Miss Global Uganda 2021 and she is currently representing Uganda at the ongoing 2021 Miss Global beauty pageant world finale in Bali Indonesia flying both the Ugandan and American flag.
Speaking to Ugabuzz, Ashlie revealed that she choose Uganda as her ancestral home because she is an offspring of slaves and also because the earliest human bones were found in Uganda.
“As a black American native, I am a descendant of slaves and always knew that my Heritage and roots were in Africa. With the campaign to welcome blacks around the world back to Africa I had to choose a logical country of Heritage to adopt. It is official that earliest human bones were found in the Nile Valley, the source of River Nile is Uganda,” she said
“For a descendant of slave ancestors, it’s only logical that my ancestral roots are connected to Uganda hence the reason why my adopted country of Heritage as a black American Woman is Uganda,” Ashlei added
The beauty queen also says that representing Uganda in Bali is a dream come true as she has always yearned for an opportunity to represent and celebrate her roots and heritage.