Morgan Chitty, a 22-year-old African-American student majoring in African Studies and Politics, won a closely contested Miss Malaika pageant beamed from Harare on 14 December to an estimated 300 million people in 30 countries across the world.
Nothing is simple in Zimbabwe nowadays. To paraphrase the information minister, Jonathan Moyo, some Zimbabweans -- few but vocal -- have become so negative and cynical that all hell would break lose were they to learn that the Devil was coming to Zimbabwe. "They would protest and claim that Zimbabwe does not deserve that honour."
Nothing could be nearer to the truth!
Two years ago, Ernest Coovi Adjovi, "the indubitable African pioneer in the entertainment field" (Moyo's words) started the Miss Malaika pageant as a counter to the Miss World contest that had for years overlooked the distinctive beauty of the African woman. (Adjovi, from Benin, is also the creator of the Kora [music] Awards, his answer to the Grammy Awards which, again, pretend that there is no musical talent in Africa).
Five years of thinking went into Miss Malaika before the maiden show was held in 2001, because Adjovi did not want it to be just another beauty pageant. It had to be different and special. Malaika is the Swahili word for angel. Thus Miss Malaika was conceived as "the beauty of African origin". The motivating factor was to get something that united Africa and its Diaspora -- the hundreds of millions of people of African descent living outside the continent.
It was a noble idea, and so Adjovi adopted three broad principles as the "objectives" of Miss Malaika: (a) the pageant was "to unite Africa and its Diaspora"; (b) "to provide women of African origin with the opportunity to recognise the potential of their physical and inner beauty, not judged on Western standards and criteria"; and (c) "to serve as a platform for raising issues that are relevant to the creation of a healthy society and for the improvement of the lives of women."
These objectives were published and contestants and sponsors are made aware of them. Also well known is the "position" of the pageant: "Miss Malaika is a unique pageant that promotes African beauty as seen through the eyes of the African people, a pageant that strives to recognise inner beauty with a great emphasis on intellectual ability." There is the rub.
Because of the set objectives, Miss Malaika's winner must be "an African beauty with mental prowess". The emphasis is on mental prowess...