Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wrap yourself in poetry

When I was in Malawi I discovered the wonderful world of kanga textiles. These are the cloths that women tie round their waists for everyday wear in several countries across East Africa. The word kanga is a Swahili word, in Chichewa, the first language of Malawi a kanga is known as a chitenje (plural zitenje). Kanga traditionally have proverbs printed on them, usually in Swahili. Given that Swahili isn't spoken in Malawi, I never worked out what most of my zitenje say! (Most zitenje are printed in Swahili, though some, commemorating national events are printed in Chichewa).

I have several zitenje, which I use nowadays mostly as tablecloths (see photo).

I recently found this wonderful article about kanga. You may also like this video of women modelling the kanga and reciting some of the proverbs from kanga.

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