September 19, 2019

The return of Khanga in modern culture

By Sylvia Karimi- Jamhuri News

Photo: Rineezarts

With western civilization reaching Africa, most of our culture flew out the window. Out went our way of dressing, the way of life and to a certain extent; our identity.

However, the last few years have been revolutionary. We are going back to our roots.

Away with the fake Brazilian hair and western way of dress. While there is nothing wrong with borrowing a leaf, a blend of cultures and a tribute to our roots can be appreciated in this era. We are starting to embrace our traditions and culture. This can be seen with the return of natural hair, the khanga, kitenge, dashiki and native jewelry such as shells and Maasai beads.

Photo: Courtesy

The khanga represents many things. With a wide range of uses in Africa, the colored fabric is as versatile as an egg. It is used to carry children, as a head wrap, blanket, shawl, skirt just to name a few.

Photo: Courtesy

For many years, the unique fabric has been associated with motherhood. Memories of my mother, grandmother, and aunts flood my mind when I think of the khanga. The simple-patterned fabric is used in many traditional ceremonies including dowry. I remember seeing my cousins covered in similar khangas at an event. Her soon-to-be husband had to pick out his bride from a parade of ladies, all in similar khangas that covered them from head to toe. It is such memories that make the khanga sentimental and in a way, traditional.

This decade has seen to it that most of this ‘traditional’ garments have a special place to play in modern fashion. The return of the khanga comes at a time when the runaway was getting a bit stale with ridiculous clothing such as male rompers and onesies. The Maasai shuka makes a debut.

The kitenge returns with a bang. We have colorful fabrics dotting our streets today. Our local dress makers are to thank for these stylish, yet fiercely African pieces of clothing. Skirts, rompers, dresses, coats are now even more fashionable. The best part about the khanga is that it comes in pairs, is pure cotton and can be quite cheap especially if sourced from the Kenyan coast, DRC or Tanzania.

Photo: needleplus

The modern khanga no longer serves as a shawl or baby carrier. It has been used extensively in the past few years to adorn jewelry, clothing, bags, and shoes. Fashion has never been bigger or bolder than with these intricate pieces of cotton fabric. Besides its significant role in brightening our dull streets, the khanga has been used in home décor as well. There are plenty of décor pieces and wall hangings making use of the khanga to bring life to dull spaces. Most of the African music videos also feature the vibrant khanga to represent our heritage.

Whether it is the beautiful blend of colors, the funny or sentimental messages written on the fabric or its texture, the khanga is here to stay. The fashion-forward fabric has made its way to the runway and into our hearts with its bold, beautiful and unique designs.

About the Author: Sylvia is a Bachelor of laws, LLB graduate from Kabarak University, and an author at Jamhuri News