March 4, 2010
I can’t believe I forgot to post this here last week! There are a bunch of beautiful East African Kangas on ** you don’t have permission to see this link ** right now (with more to come). We really got the cream of the crop with this bunch, trying to find out-of-the-ordinary colors to fill requests. These are perfect for wrap skirts, sundresses, girls’ dresses and more.
Hop on over to ** you don’t have permission to see this link ** to check them out!
May 26, 2013
You know what . . . . we are studying Myanmar and I just learned of the longyi and have absolutely fallen in love. When I saw your Kangas on eBay before learning of this forum I bookmarked and thought how perfect for some longyis! Now, if they sell out before I can save up is this something you will regularly have or what? I’ve already fallen head over heels but I may be able to pull myself back emo if I must. Love ‘em, Jennie. Keep them coming, PLEASE.
You rock, girl.
October 31, 2012
Just a teeny tiny little warning. I posted this on my Facebook, and some African-Ameriacn friends of mine took a lot of offense to their cultural fabrics being reappropriated for caucasian Americans. I know it sounds at first like a case of “grow a thicker skin,” but to them their families were already taken from their ancestral home to serve white masters in America, so for some of them, this is just something else belonging to their heritage being taken away. You’re probably not going to get an African-American in America coming up to you on the street saying anything to you, but just be aware that this might cause some people really upset. I was going to bid on a couple that are pretty, but the comfort of my friends trumps that, and if they feel this is their culture, then I’m not going to take it any more than I’d put on a feathered Native-American style headdress or a faux-Navajo jacket. So just a heads up, and I know I’m stepping in risky territory by even saying this, but the responses and hurt it caused in my friends is enough that I don’t feel right not saying something.
Jane, this fabric is actually Indian in origin. When the Indians came here in the 19th century, they began printing bright handkerchiefs, six to a sheet. Instead of cutting them apart, ladies started making them into wrap skirts, dresses and shawls. They are worn all over Kenya by women of all backgrounds–African, European, Asian, etc. The sayings were added to the panels about a hundred years ago to make appropriate wedding and baby shower gifts…and then to make statements about life in general.
There are dozens of fashion houses in East Africa that make and export garments from Kanga fabric, and they are a huge hit all over the world with fans in Japan, Australia, Germany, the US. I’ve gotten so many compliments on my skirts and dresses while in the UK and the US…and asked where to find them.
So I wouldn’t stress too much about these gorgeous fabrics being read wrong. I’ve never run into anyone offended by them, and I’m always happy to answer questions when someone wants to know what the Jina says or where the fabric was printed. And the reaction has always positive and delighted.
All the best,
October 31, 2012
I’ve been debating sharing my friend’s responses since they’re very angry, but what it boils down to is offense over not understanding that African-owned companies exporting to ethnic stores in the US for African-Americans to connect with their heritage isn’t the same as a non-African exporting the culture for others who aren’t of that culture. They feel it’s exploitation. You and I aren’t their culture, and they feel it’s wrong for us to make money off of what is theirs, what is sent here by others who belong to their culture not for this stuff to be put into Target and Old Navy, but to shops catering to others sharing their heritage.
As for wearing kangas while in Africa, it’s seen as embracing the local culture while you’re there. There are a lot of places where clothing we wear changes to reflect the sensibilities, cultures, and laws, that we wouldn’t wear while in the US.
I’m going to respect my African-American friends’ wishes and leave aspects of their culture that they see as nearly sacred to them instead of coopting it when there are many other bright and beautiful fabrics I can choose from. Risking the emotional hurt of anyone just isn’t worth a skirt.
Mrs. Chancey has already responded to your concern. There are many traditions that are shared around the world, and using Kanga fabric is just one of them. I have often seen designers use embroidered silks from China. I have seen tiles used in kitchens with Mexican motifs. You are free not to use these sorts of things since your friends are apparently very sensitive. But I think that if people enjoy the beauty of the Kanga fabric, they should be free to use it.
View my blog! http://inthegardeninawhitedress.blogspot.com/
March 4, 2010
And one last point here that’s important before we close this topic: We purchase these fabrics from widows and single mothers in Nairobi and have become a part of helping them earn a living. If we stop buying and sending them home, that dries up a good source of money for these ladies and their children. There are a lot of groups over here purchasing raw materials and ready-made items from Kenyan women and selling them in Asia, Europe, and the US as a way to give them a regular market for their goods. We pay their asking price and do not bargain them down, and they come back with more Kangas and lots of smiles and thanks for helping them sell beyond the borders of Kenya.
If anyone wants to take offense at others helping women in need in the developing world and has a better way of going about it, I would strongly recommend they put their money to better use by coming over here and doing something productive. Getting angry about small groups that are actively working in the slums of Nairobi to give women a better life is truly mind-boggling.
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