In a display of cultural fusion and design genius, Miss Universe South Africa 2023, Bryoni Govender, revealed her national costume for the Miss Universe 2023 pageant during her farewell ceremony. It is undoubtedly one of the best in recent years.
Govender's national costume is an eye-catching green Indian Saree-inspired gown adorned with traditional Zulu beads and Ndebele prints. Designer Casey Jeanne Anthony's decision to blend the Indian saree and South African traditional elements, is a stroke of genius. The fusion not only highlights Bryoni Govender's Indian heritage but also celebrates the diverse cultures that make up the vibrant tapestry of South Africa. It was an ode to the "Rainbow Nation," a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe the harmonious coexistence of the nation's various ethnicities, cultures, and languages.
This fusion reflects the diversity and unity of South Africa's culture. The gown is a mesmerizing symphony of intricate details, showcasing a stunning blend of South African Zulu beadwork and Ndebele prints, meticulously woven into the fabric.
In Indian culture, the deep, rich green of the gown represents a new beginning, as well as harvest and happiness. The colour provides a striking backdrop to the bold and colorful beading. The beads, expertly handcrafted in traditional Zulu style, added a sense of authenticity to the ensemble.
The intricate Ndebele beadwork patterns, especially on the bustier, showcase the skill and cultural richness of South Africa. It was a true work of art that will bring attention to the country's indigenous craftsmanship on the global stage.
This costume is a step in the right direction. For a number of years, African countries taking part in global beauty pageants have had to resort to gimmicky costumes, that are loud and garish, simply to be able to compete with the costumes of North and South American countries.
In a statement, Werner Wessels, the Miss South Africa organisation creative director, says they made a deliberate decision to go with something more high fashion. “This year’s national costume is an African-Indian fusion and a celebration of Bryoni’s heritage. We deliberately didn’t want an ostentatious and over-the-top national costume, but rather a high-fashion couture version that allows Bryoni to shine.”
Govender is the first woman of Indian heritage to represent South Africa at Miss Universe since Miss South Africa 1997 Kerishnie Naiker did in Hawaii, in 1998.
In the statement, she says: “It is an accurate reflection of who I am and represents my rich and diverse cultural heritage. The fabrics, colours, and design uniquely tie my two heritages together and I am very comfortable wearing it.”
Miss Universe 2023 will take place in El Salvador on 18 November 2023.
Cover Image: Willem Botha/Miss South Africa Organisation