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This is a list of Swahili-English translations which match the images included on LanguageBox.
Kangas with messages giving general advice on day to day life (and death). A document giving translations is also available alongside the images.
Politicians often seek popularity using this type of kanga; making special prints to give away during election campaigns. However, in rare cases, popular leaders might have no choice in this, and people make kangas on their behalf to celebrate their success. For example, this is demonstrated by the kanga labeled 'Obama' that expresses sentiments of most Africans in last US presidential elections; and thus the map of Africa in its main design. It was believed that Obama's paternal origins in Kenya were of great spiritual significance, and thus the religious message 'Love and Peace God has Granted Us.' As is evident, this particular kanga was produced in 2008, when president Barack Obama (the 44th president of the USA) won the presidential elections and came to power as the first ever black president of the United States of America.
These kangas are ideal for either dropping romantic hints or stating such feelings directly.A document with translations is included.
This kanga displays the Girl Guides motto 'Be Prepared.' It also shows the three finger salute. It also has a the clover logo.
These could be used in a variety of ways. The kanga without a message is for aesthetics purposes only.
These kangas express gratitude. A document including translations is also included.
These could be used in a variety of ways, for example as wall hangings or table-cloths or throws. There is a document of translations included.
These kangas are also called visutu (plural)or kisutu (plural) and those I have found on Lamu island shops in Kenya are typically with no messages and have a unique design as demonstrated here. They are often worn for ceremonies to do with marriage, and sometimes used for spiritual events. It is interesting to note that while the original colours were black red and white,touristic demands have changed this; while the design remains the same. The light blue/white kanga shown here sends a message wishing for a happy wedding, but it is not a kisutu. A translation document is included.
These kangas carry messages that drop hints about social relationships. They also aim criticisms at particular individuals. A translation document is also included.
The kanga is a piece of cotton fabric originally worn by women of the East African coast. It is disputed among scholars whether the cloth is named after the spotted guinea fowl, represented by spots on each kanga; or indeed, if the name is just a coincidence. The word kanga is also synonymous with kisutu and leso. Having said that, in the 80s in Mwembe Tayari Market in Mombasa, there used to be a stall selling only 2nd hand kangas it referred to as Lesos interestingly and not kangas or visutu. When I asked the owner the reason for this she said Leso for her meant 2nd hand. More intriguingly for me these cost a 3rd more than new ones and did not have to be sold in pairs either. Therefore, the author would appreciate any comments on this from readers. Its main cultural significance (apart from being an item of clothing), is to spread messages. These depict day to day real life situations. For example these could be polite or impolite; real or imagined; happy or sad; religious or political; celebratory or general; romantic or spiteful and clever or witty. Also, Kangas often portray a general message in the overall design which may or may not be supported by a written message. It is for this reason that kangas without scripted messages are known as kanga bubu, or speechless kangas. Which cannot be strictly true if we understand that the aesthetic message underlies the kanga and also that cultural interpretations do not have to be vocalised. However, current usage of the kanga, is diverse. Men women and children wear them, either in full or cut into items of clothing like hats shirts and trousers. For example, the Maasai men use the fabric as a wrap/shuka because of the colourfulness. And the Barotse of Zambia prefer the softness of the kangas to make the liziba suits. These are worn during the Kwomboka ceremony. In both cases just mentioned, the Maasai and the Barotse do not necessarily pay much attention to the messages of the kangas. The messages were originally in Arabic script and this continues to be the case in the Arabian Peninsula but in East Africa these days the kangas are usually in the Roman script. While most kangas are written in Swahili some kangas portray touristic sentiments in English (usually for the purpose of being used as souvenirs). For example, 'From Africa with Love' as seen elsewhere in Languagebox, where I have attempted to group the kangas under relevant general topics. This said, it is virtually impossible to give just one meaning to each saying on a kanga or to place sayings under strict topics. This flexibility in turn provides for a wider sense of interpretation.