Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Love is Like a Cough" and other Swahili Valentines

Love is like a cough, it cannot be hidden

Kanga, the wrapped garments worn mostly by women in East Africa, are more than colorful cloths. In addition to a printed pattern engineered for the standard 1-meter by 1.5-meter length of cotton, each kanga carries an inscription, often in the form of a riddle or proverb. The messages evolved as a means for women to communicate what might at one time, have been considered unacceptable to speak out loud. Subjects cover everything from condolences to gratitude, to wishes of good luck and admonishments for gossiping. Kangas are often given as gifts. They have many uses and it is not uncommon for a woman to have a collection of them, so as to don the appropriate message for every occasion.

Many of the images here are from the Erie Art Museum, which mounted a show about Kanga in 2009. Others are from an exhibition at Arkansas State University.

So for this Valentine’s Day, during Fashion Week, within Black History Month post, here are some of the many Kanga messages around the topic of love.

When two are in love, their enemies can’t harm them

Let's be patient with one another and not fight over small things

He has promised to love me, I won’t let him down

There is somebody in the world to love for everybody

Give Us Peace So We Can Love Each Other (source)

What Are You Holding On For? He Doesn't Want You! Leave Him!
(Kanga version of “He’s just not that into you”)
Photo by Amanda Lichtenstein

Let us love each other until people ask themselves (about our love)

Love Me So I Can Calm Down Already
Photo by Amanda Lichtenstein

You can poison romance with too many words

It is no secret, you are my one and only


  1. It would have been a great post if the Kiswahili would have also been written under the photos that are too darned small to read.


Related Posts with Thumbnails