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Traditional women who have not yet adopted western style clothing are
wrapped from head to foot in two or three pieces of "khanga" cloth, a
locally produced vibrant cloth in brilliant colors with patterns
edged in black. The motifs are generally repeat patterns borrowed
from Indian style motifs with animals, samovars, or designs created
from stamps. They all have repeat patterns in borders. Each piece has
a saying in kiswahili printed into the border. A woman's
wealth is based on the number of khanga cloths she has. You can
purchase them on the open market; two cut pieces sell for $2.
I am using them currently for coverings in my apartment and as
examples when we begin our African story cloth project.
Percussion instruments are the norm - drums and bells. There is a
local trumpet corps which practices once a week across the street
usually in preparation for a wedding. The group stands in an open air
truck playing a stanza over and over again with varying degrees of
repetition, leading a procession of cars honking their horns behind
the newlyweds. Other local music on the radio is what you may
identify as eletrified (West) African music, lively with a call and
response in the chorus. Local non music sounds have to do with work -
cutting plant material; or the manual labor building or digging. It
is cheaper to hire people than purchase machines, so a human assemby
line forms any endeavor, whether it is loading and unloading a truck
with goods that are travelling to a duka (store); digging out a well;
constructing a building; etc. There are the sounds of people calling
to each other and exchanging "the news" - a daily ritual with a
complicated set of norms about who, how and what, started by one
person and repeated by the other, going back and forth down a list of
things from self, work, and family. Family has a much broader sense
here - my sister's children would be considered my children and so
"the news" would discuss "my children" whether they were mine by
birth or blood. This is true of "father" and "mother" - someone's
"father" can pass away many times in a family, not just "once." Your
"help" are considered family as well, so when there is an illness or
a death or a birth, you are expected to take part. My friend just
bought her driver a cow because his wife passed away and with two
children left to raise...that was what he needed locally to "get"
There are many Masai people locally althought they are not native
Tanzanians. They are elegant, beautiful people, wrapped in a piece of
bright cloth without any motif. They usually carry a spear that they
use to prop themselves up with and stand on one leg like cranes.
Their hair is pulled back in long braids with beads woven into the
pattern and beaded neck collars adorn both men and women. Arm bands
although larger collars are worn by women and necklaces are worn more
by men. They have arm and leg bands with contrasting white beads with
patterns, absolutely goregous, stoic people.
Thanks for your interest.