Many fashion designers from across Africa are investing in creating a wide range of modernized styles and designs from the Kitenge fabric. Kitenge, or wax print fabric is a popular cultural fabric in East, West and Central Africa. In the past, the Kitenge was often worn by women wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling.
The Kitenge is similar to kanga and kikoy, but is thicker and has an edging only on the side. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo are some of the African countries where kitenge is worn. In Malawi, Namibia and Zambia, kitenge is known as Chitenge. It is sometimes worn by men around the waist in hot weather.
Kitenge serves as an inexpensive, informal piece of clothing that is often decorated with a huge variety of colors, patterns and even political slogans. In the past, the printing on the cloth was done by a traditional batik technique. These are known as wax prints and the design is equally as bright and detailed on the obverse side of the fabric. These days wax prints are commercially made and are almost completely roller printed. Fancy prints are roller printed with the designs being less colorful or detailed on the obverse side. Many of the designs have a meaning. A large variety of religious and political designs are found as well as traditional tribal patterns.
Designers have diversified the use of this fabric that now caters for both young and older generations, creating a sense of modernity while still preserving its cultural aspect. We now have clothing, bags, shoes and even accessories made from the kitenge. Here at Adele Dejak, we use kitenge primarily to line our bags.
People across the globe are embracing this African fabric and designs, we have even seen celebrities like Beyonce and Lupita Nyong’o grace the red carpet dressed in kitenge. Isn’t Africa a blessed continent?