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Kanga made in Kenya
This piece of fabric is called kanga. Our kanga was made in Kenya in the mid- to late-20th century. The Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen has around 70 different kangas in its collection. This one caught my special attention, and it is through this specific kanga that I would like to introduce the way kangas communicate meaning.
The word ‘kanga’ is interesting in itself. I came across two compelling theories concerning the origin of the name of the cloth. Kanga in Swahili means guinea fowl, which is a big bird found in sub-Saharan Africa (Figure 4). One theory states that the first kangas were similar to guinea fowls’ feather coats - white spots on a dark background. Another theory suggests that the name derives from the similarity of a group of women to a flock of birds, as they strut and chatter relentlessly.