Speaking Through Fashion

Khanga as Mediator of Women’s Knowledge System
  • Elinami Veraeli Swai


The above saying is among the many proverbs one can see in khanga in East Africa. The saying “Hakuna kama mama” is among many that have made people stop and think. Whether read on a khanga worn by a woman, or written on a khanga given or received as a gift, such sayings create in the wearer, the giver, the receiver, or a bystander what is known as “epistemic contradictions and transformations” (Vygotsky 1997b, 292). That is, it creates in the obsever, ideas, insights and emotional feelings. This is to say that, sayings in khanga are fashions and texts with powerful messages to change one’s perspective about the people and the world in which they live. They touch a special place, not only the mind, but also emotion. For example, the word, mama, which means mother, is considered to be the pillar of society. She is an “essential building block of social relationships, identities, and indeed society” (Oyewumi 2003, p. 1). Whether this is true or not, when proclaimed in a khanga, it has power to make people think.1 In the section that follows, I would like to point out how khangas have functioned as fashion and important inventories of knowledge as well as archives of social and political commentary.


Knowledge Construction Political Commentary Young Wife Essential Building Block Female Artist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Elinami Veraeli Swai 2010

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  • Elinami Veraeli Swai

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