Friday, October 31, 2008

Kuleya mimba si kazi

I like kanga's. Not only because it is a unifying piece of cloth as they are being worn throughout Kenya as skirts, shawls, baby carriers, etc., but also because they often have these interesting Swahili sayings printed on them. Some classic ones include the following:
  • Kuleya mimba si kazi: Kazi ni kuleya mwana.
  • Mtaka yote hukosa yote.
  • Njia mwongo fupi.
Although kanga's have been in existence since the middle of the 19th century, and Swahili sayings have been added to the design since the beginning of the 20th century, I feel that some of these messages seem even more relevant in our Kenya of today than ever before. Take for example:
  • Acha kukuna makovu ya mende. (in the amnesty or justice debate)
  • Adui mpende. (decaying political parties, new alliances being formed)
  • Shemeji zima taa. (because the electricity bills are too high to leave the lights on anyway)
And others are - unfortunately, after so many years - still not very relevant in Kenya:
  • Akili ni mali.
  • Amani, Upendo, Umoja.
  • Baada ya dhiki, faraja.
And you, do you have a favorite Kanga saying? Or a funny one you have come across?


Shiko-Msa said...

Sina Siri nina jibu

Kazi iendelee

Pride of Kenya

Utamaliza visigino kwa safari za umbea - Loosely translated You'll wear out your heels going to gossip.

Asante Mama kwa yako mema malezi

Pokea yangu zawadi kwa yako mema matendo

Hunilishi Ninivishi wala nimibabaishi - you don't feed me you don't clothe me and so you can go to hell.

Not you Rafiki or your readers lol. This last one is a scathing and sarcastic message to a rival.

Japo kidogo pokea kutoka moyoni mwangu - when you're giving someone a gift.

Rafiki said...

lol shiko, so funny you made my day!
Kazi iendelee??? Did it ever start?
I didn't know you had a rival, you don't look like the kind of person to ever get a rival.

Shiko said...

Your article is a good one. It hit home because I live in Khanga land.

Rafiki kazi never started!

Pride of Kenya is very beautiful and perfect for tourists both local and international.

Si you know the first one was for some campaigns at Mvita for Sharrif Nassir and Najib Balala? It means Not Nassir but Najib. Sina Siri nina Jibu.

Not my rival Rafiki Lol. But some ladies of coastal origin are known to ask for this particular one or something along those lines when they've had a feud with a neighbor or co-wife. Since they all understand the whole words in the khanga thing, they wear it to be read and the rival for sure will read it. And then she'll go out and purchase something in reply. The Khanga world is quite interesting.

Rafiki said...

So interesting shiko, communicating and replying through kanga's! May be a better alternative than blogging, emailing, chatting and sms-ing.
BTW, what is the right spelling: kanga or khanga? I think both are okay.

Shiko-Msa said...

Should be Khanga but people tend to use both. Kanga is a bird. A guinea fowl if I'm not wrong. In the village we used to call it nganga.

The Khanga/Leso communication world is quite big here by the way. The coastal woman takes pride in the khangas she has. There are some that are used by married women to send enticing messages to their husbands. Other than domestic use, weddings, funerals and such other gatherings often have a particular uniform khanga for all the women in attendance and for just that purpose. The words are chosen for that occasion. Some like for funerals are difficult to use again.

The organizers pick a khanga and ask participating members to buy. some buy and distribute for free depending.

Rafiki said...

Exciting khanga/leso communication! Most urban youths now find them old-fashioned though. I think khanga's are cool and sexy.
Any Obama khanga's out there?

Busokelo said...

We have some Barack Obama khangas at

Rafiki said...

@ Busokelo: Thanks for the link. Now we have something to wear on January 20 in Washington.
Nice site you have there. How is it doing?