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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:If the cap fits: Kanga names and women's voice in Swahili society
Author:Yahya-Othman, Saida
Periodical:Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere: Schriftenreihe des Kölner Instituts für Afrikanistik
Geographic terms:Tanzania
Subjects:female dress
Swahili language
Abstract:The messages that appear on 'kangas' (pieces of printed cotton fabric, worn by women in East and parts of Central Africa) are viewed as a uniquely female form of communication, and women in Zanzibar, the area covered by this study, have been making increasingly use of them as an additional strategy which allows them to make strong statements about their concerns, while at the same time avoiding any direct conflict which may arise from their individual actions. Kanga messages (often in the form of riddles or proverbs) play a significant role in the marital sphere; they allow (married) women to make their feelings known to both specific individuals (their husbands) and the wider public. This paper examines the significance of kanga inscriptions or names as manifestations of both resistance and indirectness within the lives of Swahili women. Questionnaires were administered to 36 women in Zanzibar town, asking them about the importance of kanga names as a method of communication, and why they preferred these indirect routes. Three cases of the use of kanga names are discussed extensively. Bibliogr., notes, ref.