Shairi (Poem): Tuzibebe Kanga Zetu

Funeral customs in Tanzania and the kanga

Kanga or khanga (pl. kangas/khangas) is a printed cotton fabric worn by women in East Africa, notably Tanzania and Kenya. It has many purposes and uses, as well as meaning. Kanga can be used to convey a message subtly. For some, it is a respectful cloth. Historically, when worn, it indicated that a slave is now a free person.

Kanga is worn to mark a special event or memory like weddings, political victories, religious occasions, and funerals. During a funeral, women wear kangas. For a dead woman, sometimes her favourite kanga is used to wrap her body for burial. Women lay kangas on the road for the funeral procession as a sign of respect to the dead person.

This poem recited in Kiswahili language calls fellow women to bring our kangas for the funeral of the late President John Magufuli of Tanzania.

If you are interested to learn more about this beautiful piece of cloth, I recommend the book ‘Kanga Collection’ by Chieko Orimoto.

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