Kitenge

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A typical kitenge pattern.
Lady carrying a baby on the back using a kitenge.

Kitenge or chitenge is an African garment similar to sarong, often worn by women wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling.

Kitenges are similar to kangas and kikoy, but are of a thicker cloth and have an edging only on a long side. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudan are some of the African countries where kitenge is worn.[citation needed] In Malawi, Namibia and Zambia, kitenge is known as Chitenge. They are sometimes worn by men around the waist in hot weather. In some countries like Malawi, Chitenges are never worn by men.

Kitenges (plural vitenge in Swahili; zitenge in Tonga) serve as an inexpensive, informal piece of clothing that is often decorated with a huge variety of colors, patterns and even political slogans.

The printing on the cloth is done by a traditional batik technique. Many of the designs have a meaning. A large variety of religious and political designs is found as well as traditional tribal patterns. The cloth is used as material for dresses as well.

Uses[edit]

Chitenges can be used on occasions and in many ways either symbolically or for practical reasons. Chitenges are used in different settings to convey messages. The following list demonstrates uses of the cloths.

  • In Malawi, Chitenjes are customary at funerals for women.
  • They are used as a sling to hold a baby across the back of a mother. They can hold the baby at the front as well, particularly when breast feeding.
  • Chitenges are given as gifts to young women.
  • They are sometimes tied together and used as decorative pieces at dinner tables.
  • When women go to the beach, often the Chitenge is wrapped around the bathing suit for modesty or to shield cold air.
  • Chitenges can be framed or otherwise hang up on the wall as a decorative batik artwork.

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