Showing posts sorted by relevance for query khanga the wonder fabric. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query khanga the wonder fabric. Sort by date 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 was 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 form of images and illustrations; messages are portrayed in writings and in proverbs.

Of all Tanzania's traditional fabrics, Khanga is the most versatile.  Its uses range from wraps, shawls, skirts, loincloths, baby diapers, bedspreads, wall hangings, aprons, not to forget the main Swahili use which is a 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 Zanzibar 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 worldwide. The word has even been adapted in Brazil where Khangas are essentially beachwear. 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)

Sunday 20 October 2013

Swahili Chic SS14 in Utilitarian Style!

A touch of the 60's
I always loved the idea of having zips,  I have done so in most of my garments.  It is indeed one of the strong elements in my label.
I was contemplating this look for a while, but did not know how to put pen to paper to describe it!  The look totally depends on how you accessorize it.  Depending on how one styles it, you can give it a business or playful look!  
Street Luks SS12
 Most of my clothing has one thing in common, the continuous use of "zips".   The zip-it coat dresses have been the signature of most of the Anna Luks labels, all the way into my current collection of SS14 called Swahili Chic! 
Born and bred in the Swahili Land (Dar-es-Salaam) in East Africa, the Swahili Chic is a fusion of the native fabric with the Anna Luks touch.  In this collection, I continued to make use of my native fabric Khanga to bring out a simple but chic urban look.  
I have spoken about the Swahili culture several times in my earlier posts. This fabric has a rich history which I did point out a few here. 
The Masculine Style
The utilitarian feel of this collection has been adopted and made feminine.  The simple silhouette is halved by chunky zips, which makes it look masculine yet feminine and attractive.   The cut has a sophisticated looseness totally inspired by the 1960's elegance with its focus on its high alluring neckline that gives it a raw urban look.  The look is adaptable, can be worn as a dress or layered with shorts, trousers, be it baggy or skinny, long or short skirts depending on the style you want for the day. 
Binzari AW13
The look is completely versatile can be dressed up or down and still keep the chic anytime, reminiscent of Twiggy!
Fabrics used in this collection, naturally, are cotton, printed and plain, light and heavy, silk linen, jersey, and spandex.

 Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek
Swahili Chic SS 2014

Model:  Angelica Valenzuela de Brown
Hair & Makeup:  Violet Zeng
Photographed: John Hylton

Friday 5 August 2011


It's a Hair Thang!

What is there not to like about this photo!  It is a masterpiece, a piece of art that I would display somewhere in my house. It is simply dynamic.  Al Green, one of my childhood idols!
When I saw this photo, it inspired me so much that I thought I would do some research on African hair (Afro Hair). 

The term Afro hair automatically refers to black kinky hair.  It can be bushy, spring-like, spongy, or woolly if you like when you feel it.   I'm talking about virgin African hair that hasn't been processed.

I remember starting to hear the term Afro in the very early 70, I didn't give a hoot about it, I just knew it was some kind of hairstyle that only stylish people wore.  Then, later on, I came to understand it originated from America.  We had lots of African American family friends in my country (Tanzania) and yes, the younger ones all had   'The Afro hair do' (as they called it).  This trend was then picked up by the younger generation of that era and it was considered to be cool to have an Afro hairdo at that time. 

 Thinking back, as I once wrote about my native fabric, The Khanga being a media of communication, African hair was also a mode of communication.    Just by looking at a particular hairstyle and how it was groomed, it determined the identity, gender, age, even ethnicity.  You would see all sorts of creativity in terms of cuts, shaves, braids, colour, and styles.   For instance, in some tribes, there will be a significant hairstyle on a young girl who just had their first period and is a virgin or a bride-to-be.  Likewise, on a man, you would be able to determine if that person is a chief, a warrior, or if the family is in mourning.  Hairstyles can also establish what region or country the person is from.

For women, grooming each other's hair brought unity and built a loving society amongst families.  Braiding each other's hair was like a social event and a way of getting to know each other.  Women proved their artistic skills in creating different kinds of styles and this tradition was passed on for generations. 
Swahili women wearing Khanga braiding away

 In East Africa, coconut oil was very popular for hair and scalp and was  mostly used by coastal natives.  It was believed that coconut oil made hair manageable and healthy and also good for scalp. I personally couldn't stand the smell of it but I saw loads of lovely and healthy hair especially those who were using this particular oil.  I know in West Africa Shea Butter is also very popular up to now.
  I could go on about hair, but will stop here for today.  Enjoy the images I have put together for you.

Having a comb stuck on your Fro (Afro) was once an 'in thing', it was considered cool for some, although I thought it just looked ridiculous, just like wearing pants half way on ones bottoms.

(Say It Loud!)
James Brown and Michael Jackson looking good with their Fros

Mhh ..... stunning Masai warrior getting his hair twisted.  Hair twisting takes as long as 2 to 6 hrs depending on the size of the twist and the hair style. On this image this cool dude is getting his hair twisted with clay and red ocher, a type of soil found in volcanic regions. It has been said that this is where the journey of dreadlocks started!

Pretty African girl, totally unaware how stylish and amazing she looks!

Amazing African hair do's! I wonder if this is where the Punks got their inspirations from!

This elegant hair style has been twisted using  black thread. I believe the use of the thread twisting style originates from Central Africa.   It was very much in fashion during the 70's/80's.
I am definitely going back to this very soon, I think it is just super.

Another stylish Swahili woman, half corn row, half combed and brushed kinky hair (evidence of coconut oils).  Exquisite!

I think I will be right to say the commercialisation of Afro hair started in the 21st Century, new hair products, different hair styles, hair accessories, were soon in the market.  The black hair Industry is without a doubt a multimillion industry world wide.  African women around the world were bombarded by TV adverts and magazines enticing them to buy hair care products.  The native Masai people are in the city providing the best salon in twisting hair in East Africa, and the business now is expanding worldwide.
  Gone were the days of braiding each others hair with laughter without paying a penny.  

Question; What will happen if majority of us decide to go natural, is it a wishful thinking? Will we ever decide to that? It will be dooms day for the hair industry I reckon.

I am welcoming any additional (positive) comments regarding African hair!  I would like to read your point of views.