When a gomesi is really a knock-out, the expression these days is that it is “gomesi kiboko!”


Irene Drusilla Namaganda was born in 1896.Irene Drusilla Namaganda became the Nnabagereka (Queen) when she married King Chwa II. After his death she was the Queen Mother (Namasole) of her son King Mutesa II. The title of Nabagereka was new, created by Chwa II. Previously the wife of the King was called the Kaddulubaale. The Kaddulubaale had no official role, the First Lady was the Lubuga, a sister of the King. The Namasole was, however, a powerful person at court from ancient times.

Sanyu is wearing a suuka, the traditional dress of a maiden. It was an ankle length backcloth (later a length of cotton) wrapped around the body and belted at the waist. At the request of the headmistress of Gayaza High sch, a Goan tailor named Gomes modified the suuka to create a school uniform for Gayaza. By adding sleeves to the suuka the elegant robe recently some people(Otto Patrick & Co) dont want to call it a Kiganda dress- was invented. It was thus called the Gomesi, or the ” boarding” (after boarding school) or busuuti (the name of the robe worn by male VIPs over their kanzu).

I am sure Namasole is Queen Mother. The role of Namasole was really given its greatest focus when Mutesa I’s mother died. Alex Mackay was asked to make a coffin for her. The first coffin in Uganda’s history is said to have been that of Mutesa’s mother. Mutesa had asked Mackay what arrangements were made in royal burials the UK. Mackay’s explanation of Westminster Abbey arrangements led to Mutesa to ask Mackay to make a coffin for his mother and the Baganda royal builders to erect Kasubi Tombs to equal Westminster Abbey in stature and grandeur.

The gomesi is composed of about six layers of fabric on top of another two layers of striped undergarments, all of which is quite sweaty when worn in equatorial sunshine. There are folds and flaps, buttons, a giant belt, and tall, pointy shoulders. I’m told that some ladies put extra layers as padding beneath everything to accentuate the size of their posterior.

When a gomesi is really a knock-out, the expression these days is that it is “gomesi kiboko!”The stripped under garment is called “Kikoyi.”The accentuated posterior is necessary for shaking the hips for the traditional dance”NGOMA” or ‘AGALIBA ENJOLE’. Sexy? yes Sir!!!

There are many variations to the origins of the Gomesi. One such is that the Gomesi existed long before the missionaries and Indians came to Uganda, however, the missionaries introduced the use of cotton instead of the bark cloth, from which the Gomesi was originally made. When the Indians came to Uganda, they added the various fabrics from satin/silk blends and the vibrant colors to the traditional attire.Mr Gomes, an Indian tailor had designed the dress for a Royal Buganda member, and it took on his name. The same indian was hired to design uniforms for Gayaza high sch.GOMESI2

According to some scholars, the first Gomesi were made for schoolgirls in Gayaza, Uganda in the 1940s and 1950s. The Christian missionaries who ran the school hired Indian tailors to design the dress. Traditional Ugandan clothing was made from barkcloth. The Gomesi designed by Indian tailors was made from cotton fabric. The Baganda were the first nationality to wear the Gomesi. Today the Gomesi is the Kiganda traditional dress for women and is also worn by other ethnicities in Uganda.gomesi



The adoption started with the Buganda before moving to Busoga, West Nile and Teso and now almost the entire country. The two garments are what could be called Uganda’s signature dress. Gomesi and Kanzu.


About ekitibwakyabuganda

Ba Ssebo ne ba Nyabo, Twebaza Abaganda bonna abulumulirwa Obuganda . Era twebaza ne mikwano gya Buganda gyonna wonna wegiri munsi yonna. Omukutu guno gwatandikibwawo nga e’kigendererwa kwe kuyigiriza abantu ebintu ebikwatagana no’Buganda era nokuwanyisiganya ebilowozo nebanaffe abatali Baganda. Abaganda ne mikwano gya Buganda mukozese omukisa guno muwereze ebirowozo byamwe no’bubaka bwona obunaagasa Abaganda na’baana Buganda berizala mu maaso eyo. Obumu ku bubaka obuwerezebwa ku mukutu guno bugyibwa mukuwanyisiganya ebirowozo okubera kumukutu gwa Ugandan’s at Heart (UAH) Forum ogwatandikibwawo Mwami Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba. Era twebaza muzukulu wa Kintu ne Nnambi ono olw’omulimu gwakoledde bana Uganda bonna abali e’bunayira mungeri yo kubagatta mu byempuliziganya no’kutumbula okukolaganira awamu.

One response »

  1. A good commentary on the Gomesi. One thing has been left out. The then Headmistress of Gayaza High School, was receaving young girls destined to marry into Higher classes of Buganda aristocracy. Thie attire for young girls at that time was the ssuuka which had a problem of slipping down un-ceremoniously! So the idea of making an elegant attire, after the English lady gowns of the time. A shoulder ‘strap’ to keep the garment from slipping down.

    Kasujja Henry Mr.
    Artist/Art teacher
    St. Henry’s College Kitovu
    P. O. Box 64, Masaka, Uganda.


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