Art @ Rohrbach – Khangas

by Dale Bond

The “Bold Mamas and Audacious Entrepreneurs” exhibit


Focusing in on: Khangas


Get ready to learn about another display within the exhibit, “Bold Mamas and Audacious Entrepreneurs” at KU’s Rohrbach Library!

So what exactly is a khanga? If you’ve never heard of such a thing, then you probably have heard of a sarong. They’re pretty similar items of clothing. Khangas (also spelled “kanga”) are very colorful tapestry-like spans of fabric, which are often worn by African women in a variety of ways. You could wear your khanga around your chest or waist, as a headscarf or as a baby sling.

What’s special about the khangas is that they will generally have a unique border going around the outside of the garment, with a special design on the inside, along with a phrase or message, referred to as the khanga’s jina, or name. The phrase will often be a sort of virtue or moral to guide one through life. For example, one of the khangas on display reads, “rhadi ya mama ni bora kuliko mali,” which translates to “the blessings of the Mother are better than wealth;” this essentially describes the overall attitude towards mothers in most parts of Africa.

The khangas on display at Rohrbach Library are located throughout the main and ground floors of the library. Check out the brochure for the exhibit here, or grab a printed copy from the front desk in the library to guide you through the colorful display, and to learn exactly all those phrases mean!


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