Shida Shoes

These sandal-like shoes known to Eritreans as “shida” or “congos” are the staple of Eritrean culture, politics, and fashion. To outsiders, they seem like simple unsupportive shoes, but these flexible sandals are more than that. During the 1960s’, the peak of the Eritrean Ethiopian war conflict, Eritrean nationalist and soldiers wore the shoes during the struggle for independence. When a person wore the shoes, civilians automatically knew they were a fighter. Many of the Eritrean soldiers didn’t have a proper uniform at the time, but the shoes were worn by soldiers. The shoes became a part of the soldier uniform and essentially became a symbol of freedom for Eritreans. These shoes had many benefits such as its flexibility and many openings for the feet to breathe. As well, repairs were very easy. Whenever the shoe ripped, soldier burned the plastic pieces of the shoes together. The shoes were used again by soldiers during the 1998 war against Ethiopia. Now the shoes are popular amongst society as a fashion staple and historic symbol. There is a Shida statue located in Asmara dedicated to the soldiers who have fought for Eritrea’s independence. As an Eritrean, I believe it is important to know the significance of the shoes, especially since Western Society may not understand the importance. These shoes are a reminder of our Eritrean independence and struggles made. Unfortunately, Western Society has their own alteration of the shoes called “jellies” and lack historical significance and cultural appropriation.

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