I absolutely love the textiles here in Tanzania. They are rich with colors and come in so many varieties.

I've become fabric wasted and my wardrobe has definitely been influenced. You all back in the States will soon see.

There are three very popular, main types of textiles commonly seen here in Tanzania: Khanga, Kitenge, and Kikoy.

Khanga is a traditional Tanzanian cloth. At the History Museum in Zanzibar, I learned that cloths were orginally given by leaders to followers as as way to show allegience. They included special messages and images to commmerate special occasions such as a marriage or birth of a child. Today, Khanga is sold as a two-part thin printed fabric. Women wear them as wraps over clothing – one worn at the waist and the other over the head and/or shoulders or used to carry babies on their backs. Each piece is a framed patterned block about 60 inches wide about about a meter/yard long.

Khangas are distinguished by the other cloths by a its unique phrase written on each block. Because of their bright colors, bold patterns and large size, khangas are often re-purposed as wall coverings, table cloths as well as re-fashioned into dresses and skirts.

Me, wearing a khanga

Kitenge is printed fabric, made of cotton. It’s a heavy fabric. Sometimes it has a wax layer. Kitenge comes in bulk – 4-10 meters of continuous fabric that can be purchased at market. Kitenge includes very bold, continuous repetitive images – many are animal, plant, and geometric shapes. This cloth is often used to make outfits and fancy dress styles for men, women, and children.

Kikoy is a woven fabric, very rich in color. Originally it was the traditional man's wrap-around for Maasai. Now, it is a very popular women's wrap and free-style scarf, about 1.5 meter/yards across by a little less than a meter/yard long. It comes is so many beautiful colors, it makes the perfect shawl for an evening out.

I'm bringing several fabrics home as souvenirs and gifts to family and friends back home. My luggage will be filled with textiles for everyone wanting some of this beautiful cloth.

What about you? Are you interested?