The African Roots of Boldly Printed Kanga Cloths in the Diaspora: Displaying Fashion, Frustration, and Favor

Maureen K. Porter (Institute for International Studies in Education, University fof Pittsburgh)

A deeply rooted practice in East Africa is wearing boldly printed cloth wraps, or kangas. Designs proclaim familial, political, or recreational affiliations. Along one edge the obligatory—and often witty—Swahili proverb adds layered nuance to the overall message. As Swahili speakers have formed global diasporas, putting down new roots, they have brought with them a vibrant folklife that includes kangas strategically worn as texts, celebratory statements, warnings, and festive adornment. This interactive presentation wraps audience members of all genders in a multi-sensory experience of the subtle art of choosing and communicating via “the cloth that speaks Swahili.”

Part of 07-11 Media: Documenting African American Culture, Saturday, November 04, 8:30 am–10:00 am