Kanga from East Africa

Kanga, a traditional East African garment, is primarily worn by women along the East African coastline, extending to the Comoro Islands. Made of 100% cotton, it features a rectangular shape with a brightly coloured decorative border and a Swahili proverb, such as “Mtaka yote hukosa yote” (one who wants all, usually loses all) or “Kulekeza si kufuma” (to aim is not to hit).

Typically bought in pairs, Kangas need to be separated by cutting and sewing along the raw edge before wearing. They are popular gifts for occasions like birthdays, weddings, and even bereavements. Kangas have been a part of East African culture since the mid-19th century.

In the 1870s, Muslim women in Zanzibar and Mombasa sewed together colourful bandanas imported by Portuguese traders, creating a unique cloth for modest wear. This practice led traders along the Swahili coast to stamp designs onto locally woven cloth using carved wooden blocks, replacing the smaller squares previously sewn together.

Kangas are incredibly versatile, used not only as clothing but also for various purposes like sleeping, household chores, carrying babies, curtains, towels, and more. They hold cultural significance and are worn at Swahili weddings, with the traditional ‘wedding’ kanga, called ‘Kisutu,’ being white, black, and red.

Mombasa serves as a hub for shops selling Kangas, with prominent establishments like Bara Bara Leso (Leso Street) and Duka La Abdulla Brothers (Shop of Abdulla Brothers).

We are excited to announce that the famous Kisutu in all colours will be available at the Sema Jambo Shop.

It’s said that every woman should own a thousand Kangas—embrace the cultural richness and versatility of Kangas from East Africa today!