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East Africa

Sandra Klopper and Rehema Nchimbi

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The production of textiles in East Africa has a long and varied history. In countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, which now form part of the East African Community, cotton garments were comparatively uncommon prior to the introduction of imported cloth in the course of the nineteenth century. Although cotton weaving techniques were probably first introduced to this region by Persian invaders who settled on the East African coast in 975 c.e. to form the Zeji Empire, centered

Tanzania

Sandra Klopper and Rehema Nchimbi

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Tanzania, situated in East Africa and bordering eight countries, contains more than 120 ethnic groups, and many nationalities have played significant roles in its history. Modern Tanzanian dress and decoration reflect its history as a hub for international trade. Imported cloth from Arab traders was widely worn from the nineteenth century onward. Further influences were nineteenth-century Christian missionaries, who imposed European dress codes, and severe poaching laws introduced by the postcolo

Kenya

Corinne A. Kratz

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Kenya’s archaeological sites offer rich evidence of personal adornment, revealing ancient trade links. Modern Kenya contains over forty African ethnic groups, the result of early migrations involving Cushitic, Nilotic, and Bantu speakers. Ruled successively by the Portuguese and Arabs, Kenya became a British colony in 1920, gaining independence in 1963. This complex history is reflected in Kenyan dress and adornment, which may be associated with linguistic identity, region, religion, or ritual. T

Madagascar

John Mack

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Madagascar is by far the largest of the islands lying off the coast of Africa, yet its traditions of dress and personal decoration are distinctively different from what is found even on adjacent parts of the continent. They also show considerable differentiation within the island itself. Clothing is adapted both to extremes of heat and, in the center of the island, to cold, especially at night. Banana tree fiber, bark, hemp, and indigenous silkworms have all been exploited in making textiles, and

Uganda

Venny Nakazibwe and Sylvia Nannyonga-Tamusuza

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Uganda is located along the equator, bordered in the north by Sudan, in the east by Kenya, in the south by Tanzania and Rwanda, and in the west by Democratic Republic of Congo. Covering an area equivalent to 91,076 square miles (235,886 square kilometers), Uganda is bisected by many rivers, swamps, lakes, and forests—all of which enable an agricultural economy and a rich diversity of wildlife that provided, until the early twentieth century, materials for dress. With a population of 26.8 million

Kanga

Thadeus Shio

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

A popular textile development of the late nineteenth century that spread relatively quickly to the hinterland of the East African coast is the kanga (also written as khanga), known and used by people from all walks of life—rich and poor, urban and rural, Muslims and Christians, and even lawyers, engineers, and doctors. Worn by men but most often by women, it serves as both a garment and as a nonverbal, often literate, means of communication. A kanga is a rectangular piece of cotton cloth approxim

Archaeological Evidence

Fred T. Smith

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

In Africa, the human body has always been a focus for creative expression. Each culture has evolved its own patterns of dress and associated symbolic system, yet cross-cultural influences and change have constantly occurred. A society’s political structure and religious institutions can determine the type of dress used. Societies with a centralized organization often have elaborate, even grandiose programs of visual culture associated with leadership. The ruler or an elite group often reserves th

Rwanda and Burundi

Michele D. Wagner

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Africa 2010

Encyclopedia entry

External appearance has played an important role in the modern history of Rwanda and Burundi, and within this history, by a twist of fate, fashion has been surprisingly well recorded for more than a century. This record of clothing, ornaments, charms, and hairstyles shows that, although the material basis of dress has changed a great deal—especially with the shift away from bark cloth and animal skins—certain forms, such as the togalike umwitero, have persisted over time.

Fashioning Postcolonial Identities in Kenya

Leslie W. Rabine

Source: The Global Circulation of African Fashion 2002

Book chapter

As African fashion circulates from West Africa to urban central Kenya in East Africa, it enters a mode of meaning production resting, paradoxically, on a multiple rupture with the past. Signifying the desire of Kikuyu (as well as urban Luo and Luhya) informants to heal this break with pre-colonial culture, African fashion also, inevitably, conjures up the very separation and loss it aims to overcome. By incorporating these opposed meanings, African fashion of urban central Kenya differs from Sene

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