In June 2014 Alessia Lombardo, Amanda Lichtenstein and Pernille Bærendtsen met for coffee at Café Foro in Forodhani Garden in Stone Town in Zanzibar. This meeting turned into a longer session going through Alessia's extensive kanga collection at her home. We talked about our kangas, obsession with kangas, and the fact that we haven't yet found a comprehensive and contemporary book about kangas which would present the diversity and the context the kanga exists in.
Things may not change fast in Tanzania, but things do change. Kangas do however appear to remain rather 'unchangeable'. From Lake Tanganyika to Zanzibar, it is worn by women today as it has been worn in centuries.
One may even say that kanga is a kind of social media, refined before social media even was a thing. A kanga can in fact be like a tweet or a Facebook update, sharing statements with the world which the sender doesn't express face to face. The kanga is a very important part of Tanzanian heritage. But - how come the kanga is still relevant, and how come it still manages to mesmerize us?
The nuances of the kanga are many, and we would like to make a book to express this diversity, meaning first of all it covering the fundamentals of the kanga, while also seeking to explore the less known angles and the more curious parts. Such as for instance the kanga moko dance in Dar es Salaam, or the relationship between men and kanga.
On top, it should do so through different contributors who have relationships with kangas, making the book varied in style and presentation (interviews, vox pops, articles and/or essays). Additionally the book should obviously be packed with great, colourful photos and illustrations. What we may be aiming for should be a coffee table book, which is both educational, creative, entertaining and aesthically interesting.
We are all three busy people, and The Kanga Book is a gradual process. We will need help from others, and we are also curious what other people think. Hence, we have started a Facebook page here. We are not yet working on the actual book production., but with other related activities.