Kanga Textile and Culture

Colorful, beautiful, expressive! I’ve always wanted to learn more about Kanga; who wears it, why are they wearing it?

The name comes from the pattern resemblance to a bird – the guinea-fowl (‘Kanga’ in Kiswahili).

After slavery was abolished in East Africa (1897) and more goods were being imported such as kangas, they became a sign of wealth and social status.

And as the British Museum website puts it: ‘Today, kangas are worn by women of all faiths among the Swahili speaking peoples and play a major role in all the major life cycle ceremonies in a Swahili woman’s life – birth, puberty, marriage and death –  yet they may also be used for the most mundane of functions. It is this ambivalence which makes kanga cloth almost emblematic of multi-faceted Swahili society.’


Come to a Kanga Exhibition and Sharing event as part of the programme for Africa Writes Festival 2017 on the 1st of July in London for FREE!



If you would like to read more:

British Museum website

British Museum and African textiles expert Chris Spring on the importance of kangas in East Africa and the knack of wearing one correctly

The Unspoken Language of Textiles Article 



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