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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Laugh or cry?

or just curl lip, and get on with the real business of political change?

And does anyone know what "autochthonous" means?



Justus K. Siboe Makokha
The writer is a cultural critic based at Kenyatta University. He researches the literatures and cultures of East Africans of South Asian descent

19-year-old, Richa Adhia was announced Vodacom Miss Tanzania 2007 at the exclusive Leaders Club in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam last Saturday night. Richa, the reigning Miss Kinondoni led other Dar es Salaam beauty queens, Lilian Abel from Kinondoni who finished second, and Queen David from Temeke who finished third in the national pageantry that now gives her a ticket to represent Tanzania in the forthcoming Miss World pageantry.

Her historic win has elicited loud cheers as well as some jeers across Tanzania and the region due to the fact that Richa is a Tanzanian of South Asian decent. This is the first time in the history of the Tanzanian national pageant since its re-inception in 1994 for a Tanzania beauty of Asian extraction to clinch the coveted title.

The head of the Vodacom Miss Tanzania beauty pageant committee, Mr. Hashim Lundenga maintained that it does not matter that Richa Adhia who is Asian by ethnicity now carries the national title of Tanzania, an African country. He argued that Miss Tanzania as a title knows no boundaries of race, creed and any pageant who was a citizen of Tanzania was welcome to contest the title.

“Each good thing shall always have its critics and each good thing will always be interrogated for its weaknesses too. We as the committee of Miss Tanzania pageantry hold that any girl of good conduct and who is a Tanzanian, even if she is of European origins is a Tanzanian and is eligible for participating in the pageant.” Lundega said.

Richa Adhia took home a brand new Toyota RAV4 valued at 45million Tanzanian shillings, 8million shillings, other deals worth 4million shillings as well as a ticket to represent Tanzania in the Miss World pageantry this year.

Special commendations go to the judges of Miss Tanzania 2007. Members of the jury were Agbani Darego (chairperson), Prashanti Patel, Jacqueline Ntuyabaliwe, Irene Madeje, Sophia Dianaku, Salum Kombo, Leons Mtauna, David Minja, Christian Masiaga and coordinator of the judges, Ramesh Shah. They put aside the tradition view of African beauty as the beauty of autochthonous Africans and politically advised other judges in the region to factor in Other African aesthetics that contribute to our national traditions such as those from Western and Asian heritage.

Some fans were disappointed in the decision of the judges and used the basis of color to question the authencity or rather representativeness of Richa’s beauty in capturing the essence of Tanzania, an African country. However, Richa’s win brings to light the contributions of East Africans of South Asian descent who continue to make significant contributions to the development of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Color prejudice has never been quite an issue of national discussion as is the case in Kenya and Uganda. There have been many Tanzanians of South Asian heritage who have risen to influential political office as is evident in the careers of Shamim Khan, the late Amir Jamal and the current Minister of Finance, Zakia Meghji. Richa was born and brought up in Kariokkoo,m Dar es Salaam. She was the Miss Earth Tanzania 2006, an office which enabled her make significant contributions towards environmental conservation across the city.

The Committee of the Miss Tanzania beauty pageant agrees Richa is a beauty of international stature. Their decision implicitly posit that the future conceptions of African beauty, especially in multiracial East Africa, will inevitably have to recognize the hybrid and ambivalent richness of our cultural heritage which draw from African, European, Arabian and South Asian sources.

She will represent Tanzania in the forthcoming Miss World Beauty Pageant which will; be held in Sanya, China at the Crown Beauty Theater on December 1st. Participants will arrive at the venue before November 2, 2007.


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