February 12, 2009

Hongera Barack Obama

I meant to post this back at the end of January when I first saw it. It's a kanga from Kenya, printed just after Obama's election. Kangas are what every woman wears in East Africa around their waists as skirts. They also double as baby carriers, backpacks, kleenex, etc. They are sold in twos (one wrapped around each side of your waist for modesty's sake and so that you have an extra useful piece of fabric literally hanging around if you should need it). Every kanga has a border, a decoration on it and a phrase on the bottom that often is something like a quote or proverb. Sometimes people choose to wear snarky sayings on their kangas if they're trying to teach someone a lesson. Some make no sense (like the one below). When I was in Tanzania, I chose mine based on the design and figured out the meanings later. The one above says "Congratulations Barack Obama" (Hongera Barack Obama) "God has bestowed love and peace upon us" (Upendo na amani ametujalia mungu).

Kanga, translated, means guinea-fowl, after which the fabric kangas were named back in the day when they all came in black and white (looking, I suppose, like a guinea hen). When they started making the kangas in color, they retained the name kanga. Kitenge are the similar but slightly more upscale pieces of fabric that don't have sayings across the bottom.

I love kangas. My friends and I would have "kanga fashion shows" to see how many ways we could make the kanga fit. Kinda like this. I wish I still had those photos.

UPDATE: I found one of those photos!

1 comment:

Tiffanie said...

you left the door open so the cat ate the doughnut. i love stuff like that ~ not necessarily on a kanga, but ways other cultures translate english and what that says about their own language and/or culture. i wanted to save my chopstick wrapper the other day and forgot. it said something like, chopstick: utensil of grand beauty and culture china.
i think it's awesome they are celebrating obama.
and, of course, i love the kangas.
i think in a former life i lived in such a culture: where your pretty skirt is your napkin is your hat.