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
8 thoughts on “Why Zimbabweans Are Afraid Of Their Traditional Retso Cloth”
I have been pondering over the last few topics, reading and rereading each one. Granted there are so many things wrong with our culture from a woman’s perspective. I never experienced the abuse that you did at the hands of your family and my heart bleeds that you went through all the things you did. But I implore you to view things from a different perspective- what if our ancestors were not wrong? What if our religion was not demonic contrary to what the white man said, carrying his oppressive Bible to strip away our identity that the creator made us in? Please look up King Leopold II, when he wanted to colonize the now DRC/Congo- he called the missionaries and told them not to preach the word of God but rather as they already know who God is. But rather preach to them that their God is the wrong God-that they were worshipping darkness.
In order to control or manipulate a group of people, you start by chipping away at the identity of the people. Tell them their religion is bad, their culture is backward, their language is barbaric, Africa is the dark continent. Yet the same people saying these very things came to the continent to steal, kill and plundered our natural resources. Look at all the blacks in all these first world countries, whose ancestors were slaves, they are wandering about aimlessly with no sense of identity, language or culture and act wild- not all but a majority. Because they were stripped of their sense of self.
Again, not everything about our culture is what I would consider necessary or having any sense what so ever, but if you look at even using the white man’s bible- honor your father and mother, falls in line with us BUT not to the point of abuse or to one’s harm. The very root of our culture started with all individuals in mind, including women but veered down the centuries with egotistical men who have come up with all sorts of things to keep women in bondage. My roots from Mutoko, started with the 18th Century chief- Nehoreka who revered women and even used them in a position of honor to fend off our enemy. And to me that speaks volumes as a woman, my culture has empowered me to remember who I am and where I am from with a sense of pride. Granted fellow Zimbos that I have met don’t share the same sentiment and that’s okay, as I was fortunate enough to grow up in the west and Zim- with strong male figures that wanted me to grow up knowing who and where I come from- and yes my roots are notorious for all kinds of things good and bad. I choose to embrace the good and will proudly say I am a daughter of the soil, daughter of my people and of a God that I choose to worship.
Again, I just wanted to give another perspective as our experiences shape and mold us and we form our opinions from those experiences.
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Isupport you on your words.we africans were conditioned to reject who we are.These people think that they know much about God which they know nothing.By the way the Retso cloth was not made o designed in Zimbabwe .It is a cloth used in different parts of the World .It has so many colours .Please writer do not write things you do not know.Do you have Rights of your first picture?
i hear you Jean and i think i understand where you’re coming from….Funny though,people would fear retso because they are christians and go pay hundreds of dollars for a versace with the head of medusa on it…mind boggling.I have a grandmother who was a healer(Yaweh rest her soul) and i remember her using plain black or white cloths during her ceremomies so should we fear that as well?and the other one the Hanga design….all are motifs derived from nature.
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we are conditioned to reject our identity as blacks
Musashore tsika nemagariro edu. Musakanganwe kuti Holy Spirit (Mudzimu unoyera) madziTateguru ema Jews. Mohammad ndi Sekuru vemaArabs, hapana mupenyu zvichifanana be madziTateguru edu MaZezuru.
Musashore uye musateedzere zvevamwe
This post is a mess kunyanya vawati mai vako vaishora vaona pah chihera video aine retso.. Dare renyu rinotoda mucheka iwoyo manzwa
Ignorance is bliss….it’s okay to pray to dead Jesus whom you’ve never met but demonic to honor our ancestors some of whom we know? Educate yourself and let go of this slave mentality before your pass it on to your children