A Decade of Design: The Global Invention of the Kanga , 1876–1886

by MacKenzie Moon Ryan


This article examines the early development of printed and manufactured cotton kanga textiles, worn popularly throughout East Africa by women as wrappers. Using archival, pictorial, and object collections, I suggest that the decade from 1876 to 1886 was crucial for design. The bold colour and graphics of East African women’s cloth printing, Indonesian batik motifs, European-printed handkerchief-style borders, and the inclusion of text combined by 1886 to form the now standard composition of kanga cloth.

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