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North West Traditional Regalia : The Nation’s Pride!

The hand-embroidered stunning dress is worn and respected in and out of the country.

The North West traditional regalia is Cameroon’s most popular and unique cultural attire that is worn not only by those who hail from that part of the country, but also by Cameroonians in general. The multi-coloured hand-embroidered traditional regalia, has gained international recognition and is worn by popular international figures including the former USA’s presidential couple Barack and Michelle Obama. Given the uniqueness of the traditional attire, Team Cameroon, dressed in the admirable NW traditional regalia embroidered in national colours, where given a standing ovation at the Beijing National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, the London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games among others. The traditional regalia that is mostly worn during grand annual cultural festivals, pull crowd during the “Nikai” annual festival in Babungo, the “kebeng-kendong” in Big Babanki (Kejon Keku), “Kieh” in the Mfumte Clan and “Lela” in Bali Nyonga. The grand annual cultural festival takes place in mostly all the villages in the North West Region. The dresses are also worn during student’s annual cultural week and traditional fashion parade during such cultural festivals organised in Fon’s palaces. The dresses are usually accompanied with traditional bags made with fibre and embroidered with the national colours for males, while females complement their dresses with long horse-tail decorated with cowries and beads. It is inadmissible to talk about North West traditional attires without mentioning the great artist, who is also a notable in the Kom Palace, Yerima Afo-Akom. According to him, the dresses that use to be just “dala” comprising two loincloth and a mighty embroidered garment as big as the Hausa dress, and a blouse and loincloth for women, has been reinvented by modern designers who now produce fitting gowns, kaba, shirts, trousers, “dangshiki”, skirts and children’s wear.  Veteran artist, Yerima Afo-Akom, who has been in the trade for 35 years and have trained over 80 people, said it takes six weeks to do men’s official traditional regalia while a fitting robe for women can be embroidered for a week. The prices of the most cherished dresses range between FCFA 50,000 to FCFA 600,000. Though some say the dress is expensive, designers are now making it affordable but regretted that North West elite do not promote their culture by dressing with the attire, instead, they buy and offer to friends and visitors. The regalia to him has been pirated by a cloth producing company using ink to produce the material with impunity.  

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