We all know that messaging apps are hot, but how about a cloth that delivers a message? In the African context, textiles have various roles including a role as a medium to deliver a message. A kanga cloth is one example that delivers a message rather explicitly. The kanga is a type of textile popular in East Africa, especially in Kenya and Tanzania. It is a rectangular-shaped cotton cloth that is about the size of a beach towel, and is usually worn by women (but sometimes men). As the Alis explain at Swahili Language and Culture, "[a]lthough the kanga design might differ slightly, a typical kanga in East Africa consists of a wider border (Swahili: pindo), the central motif (Swahili: mji), and the writing (Swahili: ujumbe or jina)." A typical kanga looks like the one in the photo below.
The writing is the unique and distinctive part of kanga. Usually written in Swahili, the writing can be common Swahili proverbs, but many are messages that the kanga wearers want to send. The role of the kanga cloth may be something similar to the one of greeting cards or graphic T-shirts. The message can be about love, encouragement, caution, or simply form of a self-expression. The message can also be educational or political. The kanga below has an inscription in Kiswahili written in the Roman script: SINA SIRI NINA JIBU - " I have no secrets but I have an answer". This particular kanga carries a political message and was commissioned by a politician seeking election in Kenya.
We also think that the central motif plays an important role in delivering a message. It is often true that images are much stronger and effective than words when delivering a message, and images can also facilitate verbal communication. Visual information directly connects to people's feelings, and it can trigger responses and inspiration.
At Maki & Mpho, we believe in creating unique and unforgettable designs that inspire people. And our designs can be the first step to explore the unique taste of African designs and to discover more about the unseen Africa.