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The Kitenge Fashion of East Africa

The World of Fashion

The Kitenge Fashion of East Africa

Kitenge or chitenge is an East African, West African and Central African fabric similar to sarong, often worn by women and wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling. Kitenges are colourful pieces of fabric. In the Coastal area of Kenya, and in Tanzania, Kitenges often have Swahili sayings written on them.

Photo: Esty / Modern Kitenge baby sling

Kitenges are similar to kangas and kikoy, but are of a thicker cloth and have an edging on only a long side. The kanga, is a colourful fabric similar to kitenge, but lighter, worn by women and occasionally by men throughout the African Great Lakesregion. It is a piece of printed cottonfabric, about 1.5 m by 1 m, often with a border along all four sides (called pindo in Swahili), and a central part (mji) which differs in design from the borders. They are sold in pairs, which can then be cut and hemmed to be used as a set.

Photo: Couture Crib / Kitenge design

The Kitenge is also similar or can easily pass for an Ankara another African fabric. Ankara unlike Kitenge is wholly African. It is an imitation of indonesian batik design by Java. It is known as Dutch wax.

Photo: Tuko / Kitenge designs

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo are some of the African countries where kitenge is worn.

Photo: Fashion4 / Kitenge designs for plus size ladies

Chitenges can be used on occasions and in many ways either symbolically or for practical reasons. Chitenges are used in different settings to convey messages. The following list demonstrates uses of the cloths.

  • In Malawi, Chitenjes are customary for women at funerals.
  • They are used as a sling to hold a baby across the back of a mother. They can hold the baby at the front as well, particularly when breast feeding.
  • Chitenges are given as gifts to young women.
  • They are sometimes tied together and used as decorative pieces at dinner tables.
  • When women go to the beach, often the Chitenge is wrapped around the bathing suit for modesty or to shield cold air.
  • Chitenges can be framed or otherwise hung up on the wall as a decorative batik artwork.
Photo: nionefashion.com / Mikazi Kitenge Laptop bag

Kitenges have also become very popular as fashion statements in urban pop culture with youth in Africa. Kitenges are incorporated in clothing items such as hoodies, trousers, and accessories such as bags.

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Customs slams N165,000 Duty on traveler for designer bag
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The Nigerian Customs Service has reacted to a traveler's claim of being maltreated by its officers because of her tribe and gender.  In a statement released by Customs' spokesperson Joseph Attah, the woman identified as Mrs. Udensi Adaeze Nwagboliwe who arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport onboard a British […]