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. In Malawi, Namibia and Zambia, kitenge is known as Chitenge. They are also sometimes worn by men around the waist in hot weather. In some countries like Malawi, Chitenges are never worn by men.
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 of Chitenges
Chitenges can be used in various occasions and in various ways either symbolically or for practical reasons. The following list demonstrates various uses of the cloths.
- Chitenges are used in different settings to convey various messages.
- In Malawi, Chitenjes are customary at funerals for women.
- They are also used as a sling to hold a baby across the back of a mother. They can be used to hold the baby at the front as well. Particularly in 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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