The Kids of Chongwe

Football is big in Zambia. Even if you had been sleeping under a rock and weren’t aware that the national team won the Africa Cup in 2012, Lusaka’s street style image should exhibit a clean and sound obsession. The green and orange colors are everywhere, most of all at the Kamwala market where one merchant ran the entire maze that Saturday and almost pulled out his hair to find me a size 12 in boys! Even the older ladies in Livingstone were wearing the official team shirts, aptly mixed with their exotic Chitenge fabrics. And so I followed suit, not only inspired to pay tribute to Zambia’s urban fashion but also to the young, new designers I met who generously bestowed me with their skirts and dresses.

And there was one last thing I wanted to do: see those African huts! Because agriculture is big too in Zambia, employing more people than the leading copper industry. I had seen the small clay structures and thatched roofs from our car on the side of the road to Botswana, but I wanted a more tangible experience, and meet the farmers in person. Adaobi took me to the district of Chongwe where she’s actually rebuilding her own farm. “A powerful chieftenais named Nkomesha is in charge,” she told me, “which is a sign of women’s empowerment!” We found mostly children at home, because the parents were at work on the corn fields. One kid told me there was a giant plasma TV in his hut, but I still don’t know if he was being serious. In any case, I had a blast. We played supermodel, dressed up, and laughed our asses off.

I loved those kids, and if it ever came to that, I would try to save a few lives. According to Family Legacy, there are more than one million orphans in Zambia, children who have either lost one or both parents or who have been abandoned, “giving it the highest per capita orphan rate in the world”. When you google “orphans in Zambia” dozens of missions, adoption facilities and child care homes show up. If you’re thinking about it, please consider adopting a Zambian child, or volunteer to help and brighten their lives, even if it’s just for a Saturday afternoon…

Photos by Cornelius Chellah Tukuta Rancen. All clothing credits on the images (hover your mouse). Thank you Musha, Debbie, Kamanga Wear and MNBO for the gifts!

PS. I’m sorry Zambia, but I read on wikipedia that your greatest football defeat – ever! – was against Belgium in 1994: 9 – 0 to be exact. I had to. I’m sorry. #teambelgium

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August 4, 2015

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10 Responses to “The Kids of Chongwe”

  1. avatar
    Randall - Reply

    All the clothes are Zambian? Hope you bought them all: so beautiful.

  2. avatar
    Adaobi Mwanamwambwa - Reply

    Thank you for all these wonderful stories and the kids depicted with so much joy…thank you!

  3. avatar

    Completely in love with that custom-made dress by Debbie Chu. A magnificent tale!

  4. avatar

    How were you guys eating raw maize or was it just for the shot. Brilliant pictures. Thank you for enjoying my country s much! x

  5. avatar
    Angelika - Reply

    truly inspiring to see so much Zambian beauty captured in all it’s glory, with a lovely sprinkle of humour and warm Zambian smiles

  6. avatar
    Amy cowley - Reply

    Hello! I am from Zambia , Mazabuka . I have worked in New York the lastu two years but I am back in Zambia , hoping to start some workshops in Zambia , would you be interested in having some involvement ? Instagram: amycowleyxsnail

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