I leaned out of an open lorry and saw long stretches of cinnamon colored paths winding over the lush mountainside. Dotting the path were brightly colored sarongs swaying on women’s hips, the companion piece of cloth wrapped around their heads, or tied over a shoulder, or billowing like a curtain against the hot African sun. Kangas, purchased in pairs, are the swish of color in the landscape worn on proud women, each one brandishing a different pithy proverb in Swahili. So every gal has a secret bit of wisdom up her leg should she ever need guidance through the day.
I collected kanga 30 years ago during long lovely weeks in Kenya. I love the Swahili proverbs and their earthy simplicity. I love the prints and the cotton, the simple wrap - and I still have them thrown around my house, all soft and worn and faded the way they look best.
Some clever gals named Jules and Kate saw the possibilities of kanga to connect. Childhood friends, these two, they set up a network of women who went out into remote villages across East Africa and asked women if they’d like to sell their old kanga. No, not those hard, crunchy new ones, but the ones that have swathed babies and gone to market and lived a good life. The ones with holes and places rubbed bare.
And to the hilarity of the rural women, good money was given for these old kanga which then went off happily in bundles to other women who cleaned and patched them with some fun, fancy stitch work. And voila! The happy Swahili proverbs are yours. You don’t have to spend 30 years like I did to get them oh so soft and faded and casually chic. You can just waltz right into ibu and look instantly like you’ve spent months in the bush.
Dunia Sio Maskani: The world is not just a place to hangout
Come see our hand-patched proverb scarves with morsels of wisdom like this. Wear them around your neck, your head, your waist. Know that a woman in Kenya is wearing the other one of your pair. KangaConnect. WomenUnite. . Let’s tie up this deal with some swish.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker