Showing posts with label Kilimanjaro Tanzania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kilimanjaro Tanzania. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Khanga - The Wonder Fabric

The word Khanga is a Swahili word for guinea fowl, which are common in Tanzania. Originally Khanga were designed and printed in two colours.  According to my research, Khanga did not have borders then the two borders were introduced on the shorter sides.  The face of Khanga then evolved as time went by before reaching this present stage.

Growing up with Khanga, without being told, I understood that there is more to this magnificent piece than meets the eye.  Khanga is a way of life in East Africa but mostly in Tanzania.  The cloth  speaks a culture of silence.  The government and institutions use Khanga in all sorts of campaigns, be it political, educational , health or  romance.  These campaigns are usually in forms of images and illustrations; messages are portrayed in writings and in proverbs.

Here I am talking about the Khanga to London's AILTV in 2006.

Of all Tanzania's traditional fabrics, Khanga is the most versatile.  Its uses range from  wraps, shawls, skirts, loin cloths, baby diapers, bed spreads, wall hangings, aprons, not to forget the main Swahili use which is medium of communication.  Indeed Khanga is a wonder fabric, it represents art and beauty ; it is a Swahili custom and is almost mythical.


Tanzania is  on the East coast of Africa and borders the Indian Ocean on the east side, with the Zanzibar Islands as part of her east region.  The inhabitants of this coastal area are known as Waswahili.
Khanga was invented on the East coast of Tanzania, then known as Tanganyika in the early 1800's. The idea  came from  handkerchiefs that were brought  by Portuguese traders sailing on the East African coast stopping in Dar-es-Salaam and then Zazibar harbours. At that time Zanzibar was the dominant port in the region.  Portuguese traders brought handkerchiefs as part of their merchandise.  These handkerchiefs, also known as Leso, were very colourful.  The local women bought them, sewed them together to form Khanga.  Prior to Khanga, women wore black cotton cloth almost the same measurements as the Khanga.  Called Kaniki, this cloth was used as a form of attire.

Stylish Swahili Women in Khanga Wear (1800s)

A strong and everlasting history of Khanga, its prestige and value, is known almost world wide. The word has even been adapted in Brazil where Khangas are essentially beach wear. Khanga has indeed given East Africans a  strong identity and pride.  
As a Swahili woman myself, I am proud to highlight or just scrape the surface of this subject.  (To be continued)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Static Vogue!

The Maasai 

If someone ask you very quickly to mention a popular tribe from Africa, I bet the Maasai will definitely be one of the answers.  Yes, the Maasai are among the most well known of African ethnic groups, due to their distinctive customs, exquisite and exotic style.  In my own words I call their style 'Static Vogue', simply because it is fashionable and timeless.  

This tribe is partly located in Northern Tanzania, in Arusha region (also known as the land of  Mount Kilimanjaro) and in southern Kenya.

The Maasai have been without a doubt a source of inspiration to the fashion industry from magazine covers, to fashion photo shoots. 

 The Masai inspiration is seen on runways across the world with well known fashion designers, like Mathew Williamson, John Galliano, Thacoon and many others.  Their traditional off shoulder cloaks and wraps defines the word vogue to me, not to mention their use of vibrant colours of red, blue and all sorts of stripy and checked woven fabrics.

The young lady in blue, only requires a pair of heels and she's set for the runway!

Thacoon autumn/winter collection 2011

Maasai are also best known for their beautiful beadwork which plays an essential element in the ornamentation of their body both men and women

Smiling Masai women and their lovely beads!
Mathew Williamson's beaded waist coat at the Design Museum London, Summer 2008
Photograph:  Anna Luks
Mathew Williamson's spring 2008 ethnic inspired collection (

In 1997, Galliano took classic Dior themes and spun them together with exotic African Maasai tribal forms to create silk evening dresses accented with colourful beaded 

Christian Dior haute couture, Galiano's first spring/summer collection 1997. Model wearing a beaded choker neck less