I don't care much for beauty pageants, but this one had football and food in the mix.
The driver plays Ed Sheeran's Shape of You - “Every day discovering something brand new, I'm in love with your body…”
I was going to discover something brand new myself. An unusual football match! We were going to meet One Team Africa in a football stadium in Kalyan Nagar. It had rained the day before; the field was wet. I was excited about the match because it was between two teams of beauty queens, not between two professional football players. Rossy Mayunda, a student of BBM and a model himself had spent months organizing the show. It was the third ‘prime’ of the beauty contest of Miss Africa Bangalore.
The idea that Africa is not just one country but a huge continent full of diverse and beautiful people was evident by the models. I was witness to their beauty and grace. Rossy told us, “The project is to honour women and showcase them in all their aspects”. Women of all African nationalities got a chance to present themselves for the contest with the support of their community. Not surprising, since Bangalore has the largest African community in India with students from the francophone countries of Africa like the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Madagascar and Mali. But there were also students from Namibia, South Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria.
D.R.Congo: Rachelle Dakole
When asked about the objective of organizing such a contest, Rossy replied with a note of amusement in his voice, “Basically we want to bring African students in Bangalore together. The most effective way is to have a beauty pageant. It attracts the girls and brings them together, and where there are beautiful girls, it brings the boys too.”
Rounds in the competition were the usual beauty ones along with personality traits, intelligence and talent. There were a series of ‘premium challenges’ that eliminate the `less dedicated’ girls. The first of these was a traditional performance. The girls show off their cultural side with a discover Africa theme by wearing the traditional dresses of their respective countries. The second `prime’ was a constructive debate on different aspects of African women’s identity and the role of women in African society. The third was the football match I witnessed, since it’s the most popular game in Africa. The last and most appetizing one was cooking. The girls whip up different African recipes and serve the guests, which leads to our prime task - tasting dishes from Africa cooked and served by the most beautiful hands.
South Sudan: Ajot Atok
Finally the girls head to an orphanage to help the children. Here lies the biggest challenge because they have to communicate with Indian kids cutting through cultural and linguistic barriers. It was heart warming and amusing at the same time.
Ivory Coast: Laurenne Ano
At the end only 12 finalists remain. I speak to Laurenne Ano from the Ivory Coast who tells me she likes to try different things because no one knows what one’s true destiny will turn out to be. She had always dreamed of becoming a beauty queen, so when One Team Africa announced the contest, she was the first to participate.
Nigeria: Frances Odunze
Young Nigerian Frances Oduze says she enjoys the debate because as an Anglophone she had an advantage because it was in English. Other girls had difficulty expressing their ideas, but for her English was virtually her mother tongue.
Cameroonian Brinda feels confident about winning as she was the winner of last year’s Miss Cameroon Bangalore contest. Unlike the other girls, she wasn’t a first timer so there were no “ants in her pants”.
Bangalore is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, with over 62% of the population comprising migrants. There is an evident desire among these African students to be a part of the bustling cosmopolitanism of the 27th largest city in the world. Parts of Kalyan Nagar, Kammanahalli, Horamavu, Banswadi and HSR Layout have a large number of foreign nationals, not just Africans but people from the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific Islands as well. You are just as likely to bump into a Fijian or a Yemeni on a Sunday morning as a local.
Namibia: Dorian Selma
Why Bangalore is suddenly so attractive to all these nationalities is a question not easily answerable for a resident like me. Gone are the days of 1996 when Irene Skliva of Greece described Bangalore as a garden city when she became Queen of the Godrej-sponsored Miss World competition. These beauties see Bangalore as the hub of science, technology and business. "Bangalore for us is the training ground for our future aspirations. We don’t want to be unadventurous, complacent, upper-middle-class kids feasting on our parent’s money. Most of us are hardworking students of Computer Science, Pharmacy or even Business Management, so let us make the most of what the city has to offer" says Laurenne.
D.R. Congo: Rachelle Mukeba
Despite the hardships faced by One Team Africa due to the occasional lack of money and resources, courage and the passion to do something different for Mother Africa were the driving force in carrying this project forward.
Last night I spoke to the co-organizer Deborah. “Bonsoir Avinash,” she began, “all set for the final crowning night? There’s still some confusion about the dates because of the Bangalore University exams but it will be in the month of December 2017.”
I can hardly wait.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Avnash Totad Rajappa
Photographs by Christian Biaie