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Why Ashlei Watson is Representing Uganda at Miss Global Through Her Locally Designed Traditional Assemble

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Ashlei Watson is Representing Uganda as Miss global Uganda 2021 for the crown of Miss Global 2022. 

Miss Global is an annual global beauty pageant for single women ages 18–35, the widest age range in pageantry. Contestants compete for the crown of Miss Global on an international platform.

The event is being held in Bali Indonesia.

She said the best way to showcase Uganda the pearl of Africa, was through her Traditional ensemble that was designed by Uganda’s designer, Agnes Agimo. 

The 27-year-old American model who was born and raised in New York is representing Uganda after adopting it as her country of heritage.

She previously won the Miss New Jersey Earth 2018 crown.

 According to Ashlei, winning the Miss Jersey contest opened her heart up for mentorship.

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Miss Ashlei

In February 2019, Miss Global held its 6th-anniversary pageant in Manila, Philippines, which attracted more than 60 female contestants from more than 60 countries around the world. 

As a result of a controversial ending held in Oaxaca, Mexico, the competition was temporarily suspended after January 18, 2020. 

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About Watson’s Traditional Dress for Miss Global Competition, the dress is a combination of both modern-day fashion and ancient traditional Buganda folk wear. 

1) Lubugo (Backcloth), Kikoyi, American Satin, Cowrie Shells, Decorative Stones 

Her dress has Elements that represent the traditional wear of the Baganda people.

The Ganda people or Baganda are a Bantu ethnic group native to Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. 

The Lubugo ( Back Cloth) 

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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 the 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. 

Ashlei is among the top ten

The Lubogo is still a very key element of Buganda’s oldest traditions 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. 

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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. 

Ashlei at the beauty pegeant

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. 

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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 coronation 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 gomesis 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 meters of cloth.

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Cowrie Shells 

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 is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries.

An Indonesian having a glimpse of asheli on their phone

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.

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Decorative Stones

Most African countries are rich 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 pure plant-based and earth-based organic materials that put us back with nature and our traditions.

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