Obukalabanda: A Wooden Sandal That Was the ‘in-thing’

Obukalabanda Wooden Sandals

Obukalabanda! Call it something tough! There was a time life was simple. When the air was cleaner and fashion breezy. Yes, it might have been eons ago, but it was a perfect time. A time when the world was effortlessly beautiful, and wooden sandals were en vogue. Also fondly called, obukalabanda by the people from the central. This was before today’s Gucci.

Far away from it in fact. Miu Miu and Jimmy Choo’s of this world didn’t even exist, not at all. An era where shoes were a myth and walking barefoot was not a problem.

So people got creative, they figured that they had to find a way of insulating their feet from the rough ground. It had to be something that would weather stones and thorns, it had to be strong. Something wooden, mahogany for the feet, and so they birthed the wooden sandals. Yes, these were sandals made out of wood.

To flirter and provide comfort, they would cut it into a foot-shaped base and design a little ‘anchor’ on which the big toe and index toe would hold. Yeah, we know, we agree too that it sounds hectic and uncomfortable, but it was on in-thing. These sandals were fashionable and durable. To adorn them was to have made it in life, never mind that the two toes felt like over-worked donkeys at the end of the day, these shoes rocked.

96-year-old Agwang Philomena chuckles at how sore her toes felt, but as a daughter of a clan chief, she dared not step out of the compound without them. “I am telling you those shoes would hurt the toes, especially for us who were heavy,” she laughingly recalls. “But any girl wearing them was of a higher class, just like we looked at the women who went to school and became teachers in our village.”

Agwang remembers how hard you had to scrub the feet before wearing the sandal. “There was this small stone outside the bathroom, we would spend hours scrubbing our feet there,” Agwang who hails from Bukedea District chuckles. “You can’t wear wooden shoes and again have torn legs!”

These shoes many agree could stand all kinds of weather and all kinds of surfaces; rough or smooth. They mirrored class and style. If you owned a pair, you belonged to society’s creme.  Purists loathed them for their ugly shape, but who minded the shape, anyway? People loved them anyhow. But when civilization knocked on the door, they have wiped off the face of the earth.


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