Felistas Richard Mahonge


This paper examines the kanga dress as communicative clothing in the Tanzania context. Using observation of various situations and interpretation of texts in kanga, it examines the significance of the kanga dress particularly in Shambaa wedding ceremonies. The sample of the wedding ceremonies is determined by the writer’s knowledge of the culture and traditions of Shambaa ethnic group. The paper analyses how the kanga dress in Shambaa offers women and the community a communication means. It argues that kanga is an essential part of ritual and social activities in Shambaa culture. Employing examples of the kanga worn in wedding ceremonies, the paper contends that there is a relationship between the occasions and types of kanga worn by women. This relationship also exists between occasions and the sayings inscribed on the kanga women wear for particular occasions. In fact, the kanga texts communication facilitates the understanding of the Shambaa culture.


Article visualizations:

Hit counter



kanga dress, communicative cloth, culture, tradition, contemporary

Full Text:



Allwood, J. (2002). Bodily communication dimensions of expression and content. Multimodality in Language and Speech Systems. Springer Netherlands.7-26

Barnard, M. (2002). Fashion as Communication, London and New York: Routledge.

Beck, R.M. (2001). “Ambiguous signs: The role of the kanga as a medium of communication.” Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere (68) 157-169.

Berg, B. L. (2001). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. California State University. Allyn and Bacon Long Beach.

Borgatti, J. (1983). Cloth as Metaphor: Nigerian Textiles Museum of Cultural History. UCLA. No. 20.

Cunningham, P. A. and Voso, S. L. “Understanding Dress and Popular Culture” in Dress and Popular Culture, Eds. Patricia A. Cunningham and Susan Voso Lab. Bowling: Green State University Popular Press. 1991:5-18.

Frey, L., Botan, C., & Kreps, G. (1999). Investigating communication: An introduction to research methods. (2nd ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hamid, M. A. (1996). “Reflection from East Africa, Kanga: It is More Than What Meets the Eye — A Medium of Communication”. African Journal of Political Science New Series (1):103-109 (2018) 13/6/2018

Kaiser, S., (1997). The Social Psychology of Clothing, 2nd ed., New York: Fairchild Publications.

Larsson, S. Park. (2014). Do You See What I See?: A Cross-Cultural Study on Interpretation of Clothing as a Non-Verbal Signal. University of Gothenburg Department of Applied Information Technology Gothenburg, Sweden.

Linnebuhr, E. (1992). “Kanga: Popular cloths with messages.” in Sokomoko: Popular Culture in East Africa (Matatu No. 9), Ed. Werner Graebner. Atlanta, GA: Rodopi. 81-90.

Lurie, A., (1992), The Language of Clothes, London: Bloomsbury.

Mack, N., Woodsong, C., MacQueen, K.M, Guest, G. and Namey, E. (2005). Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide. Carolina: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

McCracken, G. (1998). “Clothing as Language: an Object Lesson in the Study of the Expressive Properties of Material Culture.” in Culture and Consumption, Ed. Grant McCracken. Bloomington. IN. Indiana UP.

Peirce, C. S. (1998). The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings. Peirce Edition Project, (eds.) (Vol.2, 1893 – 1913). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Raunio, A-M. (1982). “Favorite clothes – a look at individuals’ experience of clothing. In, Clothing and Its Social Psychological, Cultural and Environmental”, Suojanenen 22 U, 179-194, University of Helsinki Dept. of Teacher Education, Research Report No. 161.

Shemsanga, E. N. (2013). The culture of "silent sexuality" amongst the Shambala of Tanzania: towards an intercultural approach in the pastoral ministry. Thesis (PhD). Stellenbosch University.

Vanderstoep, S. W. and Johnston, D. D. (2009). Research Methods for Everyday Life: Blending Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. CA. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint.

Yahya-Othman, Saida. (1997). “If the cap fits: Kanga names and women’s voice in Swahili society”. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere. 51: 135-149.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Felistas Richard Mahonge

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The research works published in this journal are free to be accessed. They can be shared (copied and redistributed in any medium or format) and\or adapted (remixed, transformed, and built upon the material for any purpose, commercially and\or not commercially) under the following terms: attribution (appropriate credit must be given indicating original authors, research work name and publication name mentioning if changes were made) and without adding additional restrictions (without restricting others from doing anything the actual license permits). Authors retain the full copyright of their published research works and cannot revoke these freedoms as long as the license terms are followed.

Copyright © 2017-2023. European Journal of Literature, Language and Linguistics Studies (ISSN 2559 - 7914 / ISSN-L 2559 - 7914). All rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library. All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms. All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and standards formulated by Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (2003) and  Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003) and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Copyrights of the published research works are retained by authors.