Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The blessing of a kanga.

You are probably wondering what in the world is a kanga?! Here is the definition from Wikipedia: The kanga which comes from the old Bantu (Kiswahili) verb ku-kanga to wrap or close, is a colorful garment similar to kitenge, worn by women and occasionally by men throughout Eastern Africa. It is a piece of printed cotton fabric, about 1.5m by 1m, often with a border along all four sides (called pindo in Swahili), and a central part (mji) which differs in design from the borders. Kangas are usually very colorful.

I LOVE to wear a kanga! It is just so practical - especially for life here. I often wear one when someone comes to the house and I'm not quite dressed for company. I wear it to the village when I need to protect my clothing. I bring it to church on cool mornings to wrap around my shoulders. And those are just a few of the reasons I wear it. It doesn't even begin to hit on why African women wear them!

Apart from the usefullness of a kanga, there are also sayings (jina) on the bottom of the cloth. These sayings have a wide range of meanings. Some of them are blessings, and some are warnings. Here are a few examples:

Chokochoko si njema mchague la kusema
Provocation is not good, you should choose what to say
A warning against those who use their tongues to incite chaos and misunderstanding between people.

Hodi hodi naikome mwaka ujao naolewa
Knock, knock, should stop, as I'm getting married next year
The lady doesn't want any more (male) visitors who drop by her house trying to win her as she has already been engaged and she is actually getting married very soon.

Kama ni ubaya ulianza wewe
If you think I'm bad then you started it!
I'm just giving you the taste of your own bitter pill!

Mke mwema pambo la nyumba
A good wife is a home's adornment
A wife full of love lights up the home with her compassion.

A couple of days ago I got a visit from two pastor's wives. They had heard I was not doing well due to a neck injury so they asked to come by. To be honest I was hurting and not really up to visitors, but I knew it was important for them to extend their get-well wishes and for me to be inviting and appreciative. They arrived late - very typical, and stayed for about an hour or so. They were both so kind and encouraging. Before they left they prayed for me and gave me a gift. Let me just say that this is very unusual.  When I opened the gift I found a kanga. As I've mentioned above, it's not just the kanga that is the gift, but the saying (jina) at the bottom.  What a blessing to read: "Nikulipe nini? Kwa wema ulionitendea" which means, "How do I repay you for the good you've done for me?" You know what? I REALLY needed that encouragement that day! The Lord knew exactly what I needed as I struggled through the pain of this neck injury. Those ladies wamenitia moyo (encouraged my heart) through their visit and gift. Thank you Lord!! 


  1. Would love to hear about why the Africans wear them.

    Hope you are feeling better. Praying for you.

  2. I am SO glad they did that for you! What a precious show of love and appreciation!

  3. What a blessing to find your blogs! I will definitely be following them. I am so glad I got to meet you at the Ladies Retreat. Wish I knew Swahili like you do!

  4. Jessi, I was wondering if I could get in touch with you. I need to ask you something. I tried to hit your EMAIL button on your blog, but it takes me to Outlook and I don't have an Outlook acct. Thanks.