KITENGE, KIKOI, SHUKA: A brief description of other East African Textiles

In a similar fashion to kanga, the women of northern Tanzania also wear another type of textile, kitenge. (Plural in Swahili is vitenge) Vitenge differ from kanga mostly because they have no border and no words. Also, vitenge are made and worn in different parts  of Africa, while the kanga is only popular in East Africa. Another difference is that kanga are usually sold in pairs, while vitenge are often sold as three or more pieces.

One example of a kitenge

One example of a kitenge

Kikoi (plural vikoi and also sometimes spelled kikoy) is a colorful, rectangular piece of cotton from the East African coast, with fringes on the two ends. Unlike the kanga or kitenge, it is not common to see them in other areas of northern Tanzania. When seen around Moshi, they are usually used as a shawl or wrapped around the waist. They are sold as one piece and can be found in many of the tourist shops.

An orange kikoi with the type of stripes commonly seen on kikoi

An orange kikoi with the type of stripes commonly seen on kikoi

A less common type of kikoi with a batik style

A less common type of kikoi with a batik style

The Maasai shuka is another type of cloth that is used here in northern Tanzania. They are usually checkered or plaid, although some designs are striped. They are brightly colored, with red being the most popular color. Heavier and thicker than kanga, kitenge or kikoi, they are usually made from acrylic rather than cotton.  They Maasai men wear them draped over one shoulder or wrapped around their waists. They are also used as shawls, blankets and table clothes, among other things.

Black and red Maasai shuka

Black and red Maasai shuka