The kanga is the traditional dress of women in Kenya and Tanzania, though it is thought to have originated in Zanzibar via influences from Portuguese-imported textiles. The kanga is approximately 3 feet and 3 inches by 5 feet in size and is made of lightweight cotton. The patterns vary greatly in design and meaning, but all have a border and most have a slogan or proverb printed on them. Kangas can be worn in a variety of styles such as a headdress, skirt, shawl or baby carrier.
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Fold the kanga in half lengthwise three or four times depending on how large you want the headdress to be.
Wrap the headdress around your hand repeatedly until it is all wound up either loosely if you want a large headdress or tightly if you want a small headdress that more closely resembles a hat. Tuck the end into the wrapping.
Place the headdress on your head.
Hold the kanga by two adjacent corners along the length. Hold it behind you at waist level so it hangs almost to the floor.
Take the corner in your right hand around your waist to your left hip, and hold it there.
Take the corner in your left hand around your waist to your right hip. Tuck this corner into the kanga to secure it in place.
Hold the kanga by two adjacent corners along the length. Hold it behind you at shoulder level so that it hangs down to your waist.
Hang it over your shoulders, and release the left corner so the left side of the kanga dangles.
Take the right corner and wrap the kanga around your front so the right corner ends up over your left shoulder.
Lean forward at the waist. Place your baby on your back facing you, and hold him in place with one arm. Drape the kanga over the baby with your other hand so the baby is in the centre of the kanga. Let the ends of the kanga dangle down as you make sure the centre of the kanga is wrapped around the baby by tucking it under his bottom and pulled across his shoulders.
Put the right side of the kanga over your right shoulder and the left side under your left arm.
Pull the kanga snugly across your chest, and tie it tightly near your right shoulder.
Tips and warnings
- African women use this headdress wrap to help balance items they wish to carry on their heads such as a pail of water.
- Kangas may not meet US safety standards for baby gear. Use as a baby carrier at your own risk.
- Make sure the baby's head is not covered by the kanga when it is on your back to reduce risk of suffocation.
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