Monday, 25 May 2015

A fabric exchange

Something a bit different today - with not a bit of sewing involved! I think I've mentioned before that I love kangas, the rectangular printed cloths with borders that are worn by women in East Africa. I adore their bright colours and bold patterns, and the sayings that are an essential feature of the design. When I was growing up, my mum had a beautiful kanga which she liked to use as a tablecloth. The Kiswahili writing on it was fascinatingly exotic, and frustratingly untranslatable in those pre-internet days. Years later in South Africa I managed to buy myself a few kangas here and there, as well as some similar-sized cloths that are worn by Swazi women. And when my husband and I were married, we used a bright green kanga as our wedding canopy (The saying, translated, read: 'Don't be jealous of me, I have been patient', which I thought very appropriate).

I had never met anyone who shared my love of kangas until I came across Sarah's blog, Kabati la Kanga, in which she documents kangas she buys from her current home in Tanzania (in a town at the foot of Kilimanjaro, no less!). After a bit of correspondence, we decided to do a kanga exchange: I would send her a South African 'kanga', and she would send me the real thing from Tanzania.

Well, it was very exciting to receive a parcel a few days ago, covered in lovely Tanzanian stamps and containing not one, not two, but THREE beautiful kangas, all of them doubles (kangas traditionally being sold in pairs).

Sarah provided translations of the mottos, which are, from top to bottom: 'Lord bless us and give us blessings'; 'A house filled with love is not without blessings' and 'Give trouble to others, not me'. I love, love, love all three kangas, but am particularly taken by the red one, given that I collect enamel teapots and love the way they evoke cosiness and domesticity. 

Sarah's parcel hasn't reached her yet, so I can't show what I sent her. Let's just say it was a traditional Swazi cloth and an unusual kanga from my Cape Town days. I hope she enjoys them!


  1. I worked in Zambia for a few months quite a few years ago, and bought quite a few. I've still got various left - they feel too precious to cut into, and remind me of the colours of the markets and the people.

    1. Lucky you! They are definitely to be treasured - I don't think I could cut one up, either.