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An East African Fabric Called Kitenge

Kitenge is an East African cotton fabric printed in various colours and distinctive patterns. It has its origin from Kiswahili kitengele. Kitenge is sometimes worn as sarong by women, or as a baby sling. Some of the African countries where kitenge is worn are Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Sudan. It is an informal and inexpensive fabric with a distinctive border and political slogans.

In Swahili the plural form is ‘vitenge’ while in Tonga it is ‘zitenge’. It forms an important part of the East African culture. Kitenge fabric has a long history and gives the Eastern African region an identity. Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, Kim Kardashian and Solange are some of the celebrities that have been spotted on the red carpet wearing Kitenge designs.

In Kenya the Kitenge festival is a popular event held periodically and is meant to highlight the varied uses of Kitenge fabric. This vibrant cotton fabric is wax printed, using rotary printing machines. Most often it’s a multicolored, dark wax print on a lighter background. The printing on the cloth is done by a traditional batik technique. (more…)

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