Sunday, September 13, 2009

Printing of the Kanga

Kangas have been printed and designed in many countries including, Holland which printed textiles for the African market begining in the 1800's with the Katenge. Kanga designs like the one above were printed in the 40's and 50's and shipped to the Mombasa shop of Mali Y Abdullah.
Department of Cultural Heritage researchers explore
urban stories of the kanga....

Stories in history......Is it a Lenco or a Leso?

The kanga also called leso may trace its roots to the handerchiefs embroderied by Portugese girls and given to their lovers before they set sail from the Portugese Island of Maderia, as early as......... The handerchief is in use today and called lenco. Early stories from the kenyan coast describe these squares later printed on large pieces of cloth and used by Swahili women in the traditional Swahili fashion of two pieces nguo mbili, or two cloths.

Sample of the printed square and of the traditional Swahili use of the printed textile called the leso

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!