Today on Stylish Gwin Africa, we feature the KANGA style from the KANGA Fabric a famous African Fabric from East Africa used for proverbs clothing.
Proverb cloths, called leso, kanga (khanga), or lamba hoany, are used and worn throughout coastal East Africa and Madagascar. Often worn in pairs, these lightweight cloths make a lasting impression not only for their brightly colored designs, but also for the messages that are emblazoned upon them.
Kangas are incredibly versatile and are often worn as traditional African clothing but also to sleep in, wear around the house when cooking and cleaning and for carrying babies in. They can also be used as curtains, mops, towels, aprons, tablecloths and are really handy to take to the beach.
The cloth is also worn by guests, or the bride, at Swahili weddings (people from the coast). The traditional ‘wedding’ kanga (called ‘kisutu’ in Swahili) is white, black and red in colour.
Kangas are very popular in Tanzania and Kenya. However, similar types of printed cloth can also be found in nearby countries including Mozambique and Madagascar where men usually wear them instead.
Swahili proverbs were added to kanga designs at the beginning of this century. Some examples include:
- Usinisumbue (don’t bother me)
- Adui mpende (love your enemy)
- Akili ni mali (wits are wealth)
- Mtaka yote hukosa yote (one who wants all, usually loses all)
- Kulekeza si kufuma (to aim is not to hit)
- Sina siri nina jibu (I have no secrets but I have an answer)
Women will wear a specific kanga to communicate a non-verbal message to their community. This form of communication, often between women, can be about personal feelings, relationships, politics, education, health or religion.
How to wear Kanga
There are numerous ways of wearing a kanga. They can be worn as a top, skirt, shawl, cape, belt, headpiece or even a swimsuit. The most common style is the traditional dress, which is worn like a towel or a skirt, wrapped around your hips. It is common to wear more than one kanga at a time.
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