The Kaunda suit represents an idea around how ideology has been shifted over time, and how an identity changes. What is interesting to me is that this uniform used to represent ideas around the independence era on the African continent. It was an expression of freedom. An expression of being able to be a businessman. A way for upper-class citizens to share their roots with the working class. A way for presidents to say to the people that they are part of their people, or that they are together with the people. The Kaunda suit was a powerful symbol that spoke of leanings toward socialistic ideologies. It was a way to say, “Here I am! I am free! Here I am and I am my own man! Here I am, I am my own country now; here I am, I am with my own people now; I am together with my people!”
The name Kaunda suit was coined after Kenneth Kaunda, the first president from Zambia, which gained independence in1964. Several African countries gained their independence in the ’60s. A lot of the first presidents in Africa wore this suit as a symbol. It was a move by the presidents to show solidarity with the folk. A lot of men from this generation(the 60s and 70s and 80s) who possessed a grey coloured Kaunda suit, have given their suit away or very rarely have kept one. If they have, it is in the cupboard, tucked way. You‘ll now find the grey version of this suit as a uniform of employment.
Employees of shopkeepers in downtown Nairobi wear it and it has become a bus driver’s uniform for private schools. The surviving versions of the Kaunda suits are fancier and have begun to have more of a following in western fashion. The suit of the 60s as worn by icons of the independent era like Sam Nujoma, Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda, pushing an ideology of solidarity with working-class, selfhood away from Western thought. This ideology has shifted its power dynamics from an independent African man, back to a space of servitude. This runs counter to the shift in ideology on the continent post-independence; this is a shift away from socialism and towards capitalism. For me, the suit embodies this transition.