Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Colourful khangas and Soulful Saris...

I love bright colours, this is apparent in the outrages colours I can't resist at the beauty salon. Every time I go I promise myself to make a responsible choice, naturally nude or obviously aubergine. But who can resist Royal Flush Blush or Miami Beet so I find myself walking out with a fabulous Tipsy Tartpedicure and manicure that will probably not match 80% of my wardrobe.
Thus my fascination with the beautiful khangas and kitenges of Tanzania makes sense. The bright colours and beautiful designs attract me like the Miami Beet at the salon I just can't resist.
Each country or culture has its own traditional fabrics and designs but its only recently in South Africa that the sweswe pattern has been made fashionable again. This is not the case in Tanzania. The lack of any clothing manufacturing industry and the ridiculous import duties on clothes coupled with a burgeoning cotton trade have kept the khanga and kitenge fabric alive and well. Anywhere you go in Tanzania you can see woman wrapped in colourful khangas or dressed in beautifully taylored kitenge dresses.

Buying these fabrics in town is an experience, town is an experience! Uhuru street is a bustling hub of wholesalers and individuals all vying for your attention 'Dada, dada angalia!'(Sister, sister come see). Here you can smell Africa in the cooking fires and the rotting garbage, feel it in the dust between your toes and the sweat dripping down you back and see it in the beautiful patterns on these fabrics. I always go with a promise to myself not to buy more than I can carry but at tsh 5000(R27) a khanga and tsh 6000(R32) n kitenge who can resist.
Tanzania is a melting pot of different cultures; Chagga, Massai, Indian, Arab, Europeans and Chinese. It is no surprise to find a vintage sari shop hidden away in a dilapidated building where shelves and shelves of carefully hand stitched and beaded vintage saris in silks, organza and cotton are stored. A short friendly greying Indian man urges you to touch the 100% organza with hand beaded patterns and feel the vintage pure silks on your skin.

So Saturday I walked away with arms full of treasures to be turned into tablecloths, napkins, curtains and cushions to remind me of this beautifully diverse country I called home for three years.


  1. I know what you mean about colour! I'm coming to open a new spa and salon called Pure and yesterday I ordered the polish colours and had to limit myself to 24 colours. It was a very difficult afternoon.

  2. Hey Holly

    That sounds very exciting!
    How did you decide on Dar es Salaam?! We would love to hear more about your salon!
    Check out the piece Desert Rose did on Spa's in Dar! Think you might enjoy it! ;-) Think it was in March this year...