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“Habit is a skin” – Swahili proverb
The History of the Kanga Cloth
There is a common Swahili proverb that says, “a woman can’t be happy until she has a thousand Kangas.” Kangas are very popular in most East African countries as the fabric represents a channel through which an independent and collective identity is preserved.
It can be used to accomplish the most mundane of tasks to performing a crucial role in major rite of passage ceremonies such as birth, marriage and death.
Description of the Kanga Fabric
The Kanga is a rectangular piece of textile that is made up of three parts:
1. The pindo or border: usually made up of vibrant colors and intricate designs.
2. The mji: the central part of the kanga and usually differs dramatically from the border.
3. The jina: this is the most interesting part of the Kanga and is therefore the most attractive to buyers. Proverbs, riddles, slogans, metaphors or aphorisms, written in local languages/dialects, make up the jina. This message can be one of love, comfort, knowledge or gratitude. Even though the writings on the kanga differ, the placement of these writings are typically found in the same position on every design.