It feels good to be queen. Just ask Amina Kamara, the first ever Miss West Africa, who was crowned Saturday the 8th of November 2008 at the prestigious Conway Hall in London. The beautiful pageant representing Sierra Leone stole the show in a beautiful green dress by Keni Magma amongst 11 other great pageants from various countries. The beauty shed tears as her mother ran up to hug her in her victory walk.
African Vibes Online’s AV Reporter caught up with Amina Kamara shortly after her win with 13 Questions:
AVReporter: Now that you have won the crown, what are the first three things you would do as Miss West Africa?
The first thing has been done already; I had a celebration with my closest friends. So the next two things you should find me engaging in soon is working with sickle cell charities as this is a main concern of mine and touring West Africa which I’m very much looking forward to.
AVReporter: Have you ever been to Sierra Leone?
Yes, I visited Sierra Leone in 2003. It was amazing to see my family and my two sisters I had never met before.
AVReporter: Have you encountered any issue with the fact that you are London born and raised?
Well, I’ve not come across that yet; everyone I’ve met has embraced me as Miss West Africa, which is a great symbol of growing unity within our people’s mentality. I’ve never personally experienced any negativity towards me because of my ethnicity. I always worked hard for what I want. When Obama won the elections, Africa celebrated, even more so Kenya. No matter what ‘science’ the government or a passport may say, I am an African of Sierra Leone origin. For those that say I don’t deserve it, I can only say actions speak louder than words, and I can assure everyone that if they are of West African heritage they surely would appreciate my reign as Miss West Africa.
AVReporter: What are some of your aspirations?
I aspire to be one of the best beauty pageants ever. I don’t want people to look at me and simply say ‘Oh that was Miss West Africa 2008′. I want to set standards for Miss West Africa; I want people to know this title is more than a few photo shoots and events. There are political and social conflicts between and within West African countries, as well as horrific poverty in many areas. I can not change this, but I wish to use my position to highlight it. I aspire to be someone who when you can look at and say she was a true hero and took full advantage to do the best she could as Miss West Africa and as an aspiring model.
AVReporter: How do you think the combination of brainpower and beauty is important in achieving your goals and aspirations?
I think this is very important. Beauty attracts a lot of attention. It is necessary to combine the two because young girls and generally everyone wants to be beautiful, being beautiful and an intelligent role model makes them aspire to the characteristics attached. Just as we see some celebrities before our time were the centre of attention we aspired to their characters no matter how good or bad because we all wished we would be in their shoes some day. I think it’s also important for the guys as well, seeing a beautiful smart female figure gives them something to look forward to when in search of that right partner. And most importantly people are naturally interested in beautiful people, they want to know more about them, being beautiful and intelligent allows you to raise issues they might never have cared for before you exposed it, so beauty and brains actually is very important and that’s why most beauty pageants are attached to goodwill work.
AVReporter: What are your words of wisdom:
Don’t underestimate anyone
AVReporter: How about your secret to success:
If I told, it wouldn’t be a secret, he he
AVReporter: Fair enough. Who inspires you the most?
My Mum. She is a prime example of a strong woman who looks after her family.
AVReporter: What are some of your favourite beauty brands?
I mainly use beauty products such as Simple for exfoliation, Mac and Mary Kay products for make up.
AVReporter: Your favorite all time 3 movies:
Blood Diamonds (because it is based in my country Sierra Leone), Ironman, Love & Basketball
AVReporter: Your favorite all time 3 books:
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, Screw it Lets Do It by Richard Branson and Garanteed Success by Percy Miller (Master P)
AVReporter: What is your sign (Zodiac)
AVReporter: What is your favorite dish from Sierra Leone?
No doubt, Cassava Leaf.
DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: Sheelah Garbrah Gives The Kente Cloth A Stunning Makeover With Her Ohemaa Collection
Sheelah Garbrah is a Ghanaian fashion designer currently based in Ghana. Her fashion label, “Shebybena” is widely worn by celebrities within and outside the country. She has sewn for popular actresses like Yvonne Nelson and Joselyn Dumas.
Garbrah’s passion for cloth making began at a tender age. Confirming this in an interview, the 31-year old designer said,
“My passion for fashion started when I was in secondary school. I found myself always sketching clothes and designing. I loved to design my own clothes for seamstresses when my mum took us to have dresses made.”
Appearances at major fashion shows
Fashion events give designers the opportunity to showcase their collection to a wider audience. It is always the dream of a designer to be invited to major fashion events. Garbrah has featured in many fashion events within and outside Ghana. Her first fashion show appearance was on Glitz Africa Fashion Week in 2014. She was also part of the Durban Fashion Fair. Narrating her experience she said,
“The Durban Fashion Fair was extremely exciting because that was my first time taking part in a fashion show outside Ghana.”
The Kente-inspired Ohemaa collection
Her “Skittles” collection received numerous positive feedbacks. However, Garbrah has been spinning heads on social media since the release of her “Ohemaa” collection. The collection is a combination of spectacular designs carved from different Kente cloth designs. The Kente dress is a brightly colored silk and cotton fabric made up of various strips sewn together. The word Kente comes from’ kenten’ which means ‘basket’ in Akan dialect. The patterns on a Kente are symbolic. Of great interest is how Garbrah integrates these meanings into the Ohemaa collection.
The Ohemaa collection creatively combines kente with other fabrics to give a seamless finish. There are four different designs currently making rounds in the Ohemaa collection. Each of the designs is paired with a statement fascinator. The fascinator hat is made by Traditions Couture Millinery.
#1 – The Kyemfere Dress
Kyemfere loosely translates to ‘Potsherd’. This pattern is a symbol of experience, knowledge, service, time, antiquity, rarity, and heirloom. The pattern is also backed by the proverb,'The potsherd claims it has been around from time immemorial; what about the potter who molded it?' - African Proverb Click To Tweet
Sleeveless gowns are not particularly new but having a Kente touch makes the difference. Garbrah brilliantly combines the yellow and blue kyemfere pattern kente dress with Ankara. The kente dress forms the blouse and fuses with the yellow Ankara skirt.
The skirt flares down ending with fluffy blue embedding. The creative finish at the base of the gown is one of the reasons many argue Garbrah designed it with princesses in mind. At the waistline, there are two folds of kente dress sewn into blue silk to give the impression that the kente dress is rolling out of the silk.
As a topping, the dress is paired with a hat accessory from Traditions Couture Millinery. The blue flower and yellow feather fixed to a headband complete the outfit. In addition to the royal color, the veil draws attention like a bride-to-be.
#2 – The Sika Futoro Dress
The Sika Futoro literarily means gold dust. The gold dust was a medium of exchange among the Akan people before the coming of paper currency. This pattern replicates the gold dust. The cloth symbolizes royalty, wealth, spirituality, elegance, honorable achievement, and purity.
There are so many features of this gown that cannot be missed on a first glance beside the combination of orange and purple. The right shoulder has a strap while the left hangs loose. Rather than have a strap, a fold from the right extends diagonally to form a covering for part of the right hand.
The rest of the gown flows freely downward only interrupted by a front slit that extends to the thigh. The purple, silk flower on the right side of the waist is not just an attachment like you would see with some designers. The silk from the flower runs around the waist and forms part of the gown on the back.
Complementing the dress is a colorful fascinator. The headgear consists of an orange zucchetto with a blossoming purple rose at the top with making a bold fashion statement.
#3 – The Nanka Tire Dress
This pattern is translated as the Puff Adder’s head. It symbolizes being over-burdened with work or exploitation. The accompanying proverb is “I cannot even carry the python, yet you are asking me to use the puff adder’s head as the carrying pad”. Garbrah’s design will leave you looking like a bird rather than being exploited.
This is another perfect fusion of Ankara with kente. The sleeves are designed to look like the wings of a bird. An oval cut on the outside reveals the wearer’s shoulder. The slit running from the neck to below the breast is lined on both sides by red flowers while translucent silk covers the gap.
Two variations of the same patterned kente dress form the base of the gown. The first variation runs from the waist to below the calf while the second flare up to the toes. The deeper red color of the pattern of the flare complements red flowers on the chest.
The accompanying fascinator blends with the entire outfit in color and design. Flowers similar to the one used to adorn the chest sit on an orange headband which can be secured firmly to the head. The entire apparel is not only appealing but also teasing.
#4 – The Eban Dress
Garbrah carved this design from non-regular kente dress. However, it bears the characteristic eban adinkra symbol. Eban is a ‘fence’ which fence symbolically separates and secures the family from the outside. Eban is a symbol of love, safety, and security. Apart from the fabric, the design is enticing and would make you feel loved.
From the top, you will first notice how the left shoulder is allowed to hang loosely. The right-hand rests on the shoulder and has a curvature in form of a cone running from the front to the back. Like other designs in the Ohemaa collection, Garbrah combines two fabrics but the closeness of color can make it difficult to spot.
This design also has a front slit which extends to the thigh. However, unlike the two previous designs, this one has no flare. The gown runs straight from the hips to the toes. If you want to look elegant without calling too much attention with bright colors, this should be your pick.
To cap it off, this dress is paired with a beautiful fascinator hat consisting of a bouquet of blue roses. Two antenna-like filaments extend from the left side of the hat and curve to the right.
Beyonce Wears Ankara Suit By Nigerian Designer to UTA Artist Space Event
Beyonce has been known to spice up her wardrobe with the occasional Ankara (African Print) outfit. Her most recent Afronista statement was made at the UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills where she wore a colorful print African style pantsuit with matching hat. She attended the event with her husband JayZ to support their friend Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean at the group exhibition “Dreamweavers.”
The Designer Ena Udemba
The custom outfit was made by 34-year-old Nigerian designer Ena Udemba. In an interview with Bustle, Udemba shared that her Etsy shop “EnaGancio” had caught the attention of Beyonce’s personal stylist Zerina Ackers. Ackers asked Udemba for a one of a kind outfit made for the Grammy award-winning singer and actress.
“The creation had to be unique, something for her alone. The biggest queen on earth! I felt responsible,” she explains. “I just had to make some modifications for it to be unique for Queen B! I felt anxious and at the same time determined to be successful.”
An African Style Look That Is Befitting of Queen Bey
Beyonce’s African Style
This is not the first time Beyonce has afronized her look. She occasionally incorporates afrocentric pieces into her style and in typically Bey style, she knocks the looks out of the park.
Reigning Miss Ireland International Has Big Plans For Zimbabwean Youths
Miss Blessing Mutamba is on the spotlight as the winner of Miss Ireland International contest. In addition to the award, the 23-year-old also won the Best-In-Interview and Miss Photogenic awards held on the side. She pledged to use her new position to lend a hand to youth empowerment programs in Zimbabwe. On February 21, 2019, she paid a visit to the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the UK, Retired Colonel Christian Katsande. The statement released by the embassy following her visit read,
“Ambassador Katsande highly commended and congratulated Miss Mutamba and took the opportunity to exchange views with the newly crowned Miss Ireland International on how she could contribute in promoting tourism, sports, arts, culture and trade and investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.”
The reigning queen was in the company of her mother Mrs. Netty Mutamba. The remaining statement from the embassy read,
“The parties agreed to explore ways to assist working with the sports cluster in fundraising for the Zimbabwe Netball Team scheduled to participate at the World Netball Cup Tournament in Liverpool in July 2019.”
Mutamba’s childhood and career
Miss Mutamba spent her early childhood in Ireland. She went ahead to study Creative Enterprise at Southampton Solent University where she bagged first class honors. She recently bagged a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from the Falmouth University. Apart from chasing a career in pageantry, Mutamba works at the International Stock Exchange as an Assistant Analyst.
Mutaba also featured on the cover of December 2012 edition of GBG Magazine. In 2009, she also made it to the final of the Face of Models United. Among the awards in her archives include Runner up Miss Collegiate Ireland and Miss African Spirit Most Photogenic.
Impacting the life of Zimbabwean Youths
Often times, crowned beauty pageants talk about programs without giving hints on how to achieve them. However, Mutamba says she will lobby entrepreneurship experts, managers, and global companies to support her youth mentorship programs. The aim of the program will be to empower youths to become self-reliant and entrepreneurs. This will also impact positively on the country’s economic recovery efforts. Mutamba thinks pageantry has grown beyond just showing off beautiful clothes. In her words,
“They’re now more about empowering women, giving them a voice and a platform, rather than just walking around in a pretty dress. I have learnt a lot of different things about teamwork, humility, staying humble but more importantly feeling comfortable in myself.”
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