If you thought that a sarong, pareo, or kitenge – rectangular piece of cloth you can wrap yourself in – has only one or two functions, than this post is for you. We’ll tell you about at least 5 curious ways of using this piece of traditional clothing. The African kitenge is a very common and very handy item worn by women in West, East, and Central Africa. It’s dyed with cheerful traditional prints or can even have Swahili sayings or political slogans (that’s a modern invention) written on it, so it’s no wonder people love it and are proud of such a heritage piece.
A kitenge (chitenge, vitenge, zitenge, chitenje) is a rectangular piece of cloth traditional for Africa. It’s traditionally worn in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, and some other countries. This item is typically batik printed with African patterns. In the past, the prints were hand-dyed but today, the fabric is industrially-made.
Most often, a kitenge is used as clothing – it can be wrapped around the waist as a skirt, around the chest as a dress or top, or around the head as a head tie. But this is by far not the only way to use this cloth.
Here are the top 5 curious ways of using a kitenge:
#5 Sarong or pareo at the beach
Women wrap themselves in a kitenge at the beach for modesty and warmth if needed.
#4 Baby sling
This cloth is the perfect baby sling. Women carry babies on their backs or turn a sling to the front to breast feed the little one.
#3 Wall décor
A kitenge serves not only as clothes. African women often hang beautifully-printed kitenges on the wall as a decorative batik artwork.
A kitenge can also be a wonderful eye-catching tablecloth or dinner table decoration. Some people fully cover the table with a patterned kitenge or place a narrow piece of cloth in the middle of the table or just decorate the table itself or the table centerpiece with a smaller piece of fabric printed with kitenge motifs.
#1 Funeral dress
Ladies in Malawi traditionally wear kitenges for funerals. By the way, a funeral kitenge doesn’t have to be black – African funeral wear can be white, black&white, or even patterned. And definitely not a modest dress that looks like a sack – African ladies have style and know how to accentuate their curves even when going to a funeral.