Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stories in history

Is that a kanga?
1927 around Nairobi?
Photo credits: "Old Africa" and the Block collection.

The use of the Kanga is varied through out East Africa, Mozambique, Oman, Coromos Islands, Mali, Angola, Japan......among the African disaporia in the UK, Switzerland, US, France, and more......its history begins at least 100 years ago. Stories of a kanga like cloth of colorful designs began appearing in texts as early as the mid 1800's and are tied to textile production and slave trade across Africa. The most notable early use of the kanga was among the Swahili culture on the coast of Kenya and Tanzania and on the islands of Pemba and Kilifi, major trading ports in the mid-1800's. It is more difficult to establish exactly when the kanga came in-land. Stories are told of wives of slave traders bringing colorful cloths with them from the Congo basin. Less colorful cloths which were worn in Africa from the 1700's were replaced with color and design with wealth and status.

A review of english and swahili literature shows gaps and contradictions concerning the kanga following are several of the more interesting stories.....please add your comments on the history of this cloth!

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