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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Ambiguous signs: the role of the 'kanga' as a medium of communication
Author:Beck, Rose MarieISNI
Periodical:Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere: Schriftenreihe des Kölner Instituts für Afrikanistik
Geographic term:East Africa
female dress
Swahili language
Abstract:The 'kanga' is a printed cotton cloth frequently used as a dress by women all over East Africa. The cloth measures about 110 cm in height and 150 cm in length. It is defined by a border ('pindo') and a central field ('mji') and usually contains on the lower third a printed, proverbial inscription ('jinja'). This article deals with the communicative uses of the 'kanga'. Starting from the hypothesis that the 'kanga' indeed has communicative potential, communication is understood as social interaction, whereby the focus is not solely on meaning in a pragmatic or semantic sense, but rather on social meaning, i.e. the negotiation of relationships between the interactants in an area of tension between individual, social and cultural interests. This is shown in the first part of the analysis. The second part of the analysis describes and explains the role of the medium 'kanga' within this process of ambiguity. The article is based on material collected during two fieldwork periods in 1994/1995 and 1996 in Mombasa (Kenya) and, from 1995 onwards, in various archives in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Bibliogr., notes, ref.