Zimbabwe has a traditional cloth. The Kingdom has its own version of Kente, called the Retso Fabric. It is a fabric that a lot of Zimbabweans are afraid to wear or even be associated with. Because of the dark spiritual significance of the retso fabric, those who still wear this piece of fabric in modern Zimbabwe are considered brave, daring and bold.
Some Zimbabwe fashion designers try to bring it back, but the fabric remains a mysterious symbol that many refuse to identify with. I would go as far as to say the cloth is ‘feared.’
In modern Zimbabwe, this red patterned cloth is normally worn by Zimbabwe traditional healers.
But going back to the history and origins of the retso fabric, it was known as the cloth of the ancestors.
The origins of the retso cloth date back to pre-colonisation when the people of Zimbabwe worshipped their gods through spirit mediums and ancestral spirits. In order to communicate with their gods, the Shona people played a special kind of music called shavi of mbira and hosho .
These musical instruments were used to call on the ancestors and gods.
The people who played the mbira and hosho to appease the gods and the ancestors were required to wear the retso cloth as an offering to the shavi, spirit of playing mbira.
The cloth, therefore, was pivotal in evoking the ancestral spirits for guidance. The cloth was used as a portal into the world of the dead spirits, ancestors. To get their blessings, one had to always wear the Retso fabric.
Where Did The Retso Fabric Design Come From?
Zimbabwe is a very mysterious exotic land of peacocks, apes and snakes. The design of the traditional cloth was inspired by this small animal kingdom and the animals it has, especially the red serpent/dragon that is at the bottom of the Chinhoyi Caves known as the sacred caves (mapako anoera) extending to Lake Kariba where the great serpent of Zimbabwe called the Nyaminyami is, but anyway that’s a topic for another day.
In fact, Zimbabwe takes most of its art, zigzags patterns and creativity from the great red serpent. The whole country is founded on designs of pyramids, triangles, zigzag patterns, which are all snake designs.
It is not surprising that the traditional cloth that most Zimbabweans are scared of wearing today is indeed the design of a red serpent.
I personally never knew anything about this cloth, nor its name until a few years ago when I was watching a YouTube video of a Zimbabwean artist called Pah Chihera who featured the Retso cloth in her music video.
I was watching the video with Miriam Matambanadzo, the one I grew up calling mother, and upon spotting the traditional cloth in the music video she said, “Ah, Zimbabweans, they will always be backwards. No class at all in anything they do. The way they are so behind in music videos, they can never catch up with Nigerians or Ghanaians because they still want to cling to their ancestral spirits even in modern music videos. Why would anyone in this day and age do a music video wearing the cloth of the ancestors? Its the cloth that is worn by vanhu vanoita zvemidzimu.’
Upon hearing Miriam speak so negatively about this cloth, I became intrigued and started to research about it. And lo and behold I found that Miriam was right, after all, the cloth is a negative cursed force, that’s why a lot of Zimbabweans refuse to be associated with it or put it on their bodies.
It is the mark of a serpent, that red dragon, and wearing it is associated with shavi, ancestral worship.
To be continued…
The Genesis Of The Revelation