Quick Overview of Kitenge and Uses

Quick Overview of Kitenge and Uses


Kitenge, also called chitenge (pl. vitenge) is a West African, East African, and Central African fabric comparable to a sarong. Women frequently wear it over the chest or waist, as a headscarf, or as a baby sling. Kitenges are brightly colored cloth pieces with a range of patterns and styles. Swahili sayings are frequently written on Kitenges in Tanzania and Kenya’s coastal region.

Comparisons and Locations Used

Kitenges are comparable to kikoy and kangas, but they are made of heavier fabric and have only one long side edge. Kitenge is worn in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Rwanda, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among other African countries.

Kitenge is known as Chitenje in Malawi and chitenge in Namibia and some portions of Zambia. In hot temperatures, they are sometimes worn around the waist by men. In some countries, such as Malawi, Kitenges were never worn by men until recently, when the president urged public servants to buy Malawian merchandise by donning one on Fridays.

Kitenges (plural zitenge in Tonga; vitenge in Swahili language) are a low-cost, casual garment that can be customized with a wide range of colors, patterns, and even political messages.

A traditional batik process is used to print the cloth. The design, which is as vivid and detailed on the cloth’s obverse side, is also known as wax prints. Wax prints are now commercially produced and almost entirely roller printed on the obverse side, with fewer vibrant designs. Many of the patterns have a deeper meaning. Traditional tribal motifs, as well as religious and political designs, can be found. The fabric is used to make blouses, dresses, and pants.


African Kitenge Clothes Exhibition
African Kitenge Clothes Exhibition

Kitenges can be used for a variety of purposes, both symbolically and practically. Kitenges are used to transmit messages in a variety of circumstances.

Some examples of how the cloth can be used:

  • In Malawi, ladies are expected to wear kitenges at funerals.
  • They’re utilized as a sling to carry a baby over a mother’s back. They can also hold the infant in the front, which is helpful for breastfeeding.
  • Kitenges are presented to young women as gifts.
  • They’re sometimes knotted together and used as dinner table decorations.
  • When ladies travel to the beach, they often wrap the kitenge around their bathing suits for modesty or to keep the chilly air out.
  • Kitenges are ornamental batik artwork that can be framed or displayed on the wall.
  • Kitenges are also becoming popular among African youth as fashion styles in contemporary pop culture. Kitenges are used in apparel such as hoodies and pants and accessories like purses or bags.

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