A Wife Is a Fruit to Take Well Care Of

A wife is a fruit to take well care of.

This is only one of many proverbs originating from the cultural heritage of the Swahili people which one find printed on  Kangas when visiting Tanzania.

kitenge 4a

A Kanga is a rectangle of pure cotton cloth with a border all around it, printed in bold designs and bright colours. It usually has a proverb such as the one above printed on the border . Kangas are often given as a gift at special occasions to the women of Tanzania with the proverb  having a special meaning fitting to the occasion.

Kanga 2 Kangas originated in the mid 19th century when legend has it that women on Zanzibar first  bought six squares of material intended to be used as shawls. They cut each square in two pieces, which were sewn together to form new and interesting patterns.The new cloth was  used as a garment with one piece covering the body and the other the head.

The men called the new cloth a Kanga as the patterns reminded them of the patterns on the feathers of a guinea fowl, kanga in Swahili.

On the last day of our recent visit to Tanzania my daughter took us to the Kanga and Kitenge ducas (small shops belonging to locals) as we wanted to buy some of these colourful fabrics to bring back home. After many adventures through the busy city,  read about it in this blogpost  Rule no. 1 to Survive Living in Africa: Panic Slowly  http://wp.me/p2BDQm-1ca  we arrived at what seemed from the street, like one small shop.

Kanga en Kitenge shop However a great surprise awaited us.

As we entered we were overwhelmed by a display of colourful fabrics, in small shops, barely big enough for the owner to turn a round in.We walked  along a dark narrow walkway flanked by small shops, which spilled us out onto the next city block.

Kitenge shop Kangas and Kitenge displayed in a bewildering abundance of colour and  patterns made it extremely difficult to choose. Add to that eager sellers vying with one another for business and it became a moment of sensory overload.

Kitenge (vitenge in plural) is a different kind of kind of textile from Kanga.  It is of a thicker quality and usually has an edging  along one side only or not at all.  Even Kitenge is sold in lengths sufficient to cover one’s body. Specific patterns are designed for national holidays and political events.

While Kangas  are unique to Tanzania, Kitenge is found in other East African countries such as Kenya too.

Information from :http://www.glcom.com/hassan/kanga_history.html

Kitenge 1 The use of Kanga and Kitenge is becoming increasingly popular and it is used in a variety of ways, incorporated in design of handbags, clothing and even jewelery.

kitenge handbag 2 Handbag by casanovagallery.com luvxo 1 Earrings by Luvxo handmade jewelry http://luvxo.wordpress.com/category/handmade-jewelry/

These East African fabrics reflect a rich cultural and creative  heritage.

To my mind it is like a wife,  a fruit to take well care of.