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

by MacKenzie Moon Ryan

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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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