A Kanga Story...

Arts & Culture

Different patterns and colours on the kangas also have meaning

Bright blues, ruby strong reds and majestic greens break up the Tanzanian landscape as local women show off their brightly coloured cloths known as Kangas.

East African women generally wear these cloths over their dresses and often to cover their heads. Coming in pairs, the Kanga is a pattern-frame of ornate rectangle fabric, measuring about 3 x 5 feet each.

Today, these vibrant cloths developed over many years have become the single most popular cultural garment for women. All kangas have a message or proverb on it and are sometimes used for non-confrontational communication. The different patterns and colours on the kangas also have meaning. Kangas have significance in every major event in a Swahili women’s life from childhood to marriage to motherhood and more.

It’s a good thing to know what your kanga says because the message can be strong. For instance a message may say, “I may be ugly, but I’m not for sale”. So make sure you check it’s meaning before buying!

Named after the guinea fowl whose dark feathers with white spots reminded people of the busy patterns of local cloth, kangas are thought to have originally come from Portuguese handkerchiefs - six-sewn together.

Available on many street corners, kangas are a beautiful and original gift for friends and family back at home. Within the last ten years, many tailors have become creative with the kanga, taking the gorgeous pieces of fabrics to new heights. From bags to stylish tops, to quilt covers and divine dresses, these pieces of wearable art are more then just a piece of fabric.