Kanga (African garment)

Kanga (African Garment)

Kanga (African garment)

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The kanga (or khanga) which comes from the old Bantu (Kiswahili) verb ku-kanga to wrap or close, is a colourful garment similar to kitenge, worn by women and occasionally by men throughout Eastern Africa. It is a piece of printed cotton fabric, about 1.5m by 1m, often with a border along all four sides (called pindo in Swahili), and a central part (mji) which differs in design from the borders. Kangas are usually very colorful.


Kangas have for as long as is known been a traditional type of dress amongst women in central/east Africa. In the East African countries phrases in Kiswahili are traditional, while in Central Africa phrases in both Kiswahili and Lingala are popular.

Communication vehicle

One of the longer edges of the mji features a strip which contains a message in Swahili, or less commonly in Arabic or Comorian. Other countries which produce their own Kangas write the Kanga messages/names in their main languages: in Madagascar (Malagasy Republic) where they are known as lambas, they feature ohabolana, traditional proverbs written in Malagasy; they are also produced in Zambia and Malawi. This message is called the jina (literally 'name') of the kanga. Messages are often in the form of riddles or proverbs. Some examples:
  • Majivuno hayafai — Greed is never useful
  • Mkipendana mambo huwa sawa — Everything is all right if you love each other
  • Japo sipati tamaa sikati......
  • ...

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