Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chitenges

Before you even start reading this post, know that I just laughed out loud when I was reading it over because it reads like a middle school essay on Chitenges or something. I'm sorry about that. It's just that people always ask me about them, so I thought I'd provide some facts! Sorry if you're bored to tears after reading my term paper. :)

One of my favorite parts of Zambian culture is the use of chitenges. Most every African nation has a form of a chitenge. It's a 2 meter strip of fabric, sometimes nylon, polyester, or cotton, that serves so many purposes.

It would be impossible to find a Zambian woman who doesn't own at least one, but most women usually have more in the neighborhood of 4 to 8.       .  

The primary use for a chitenge is as clothing. It covers the under layer of clothing and protects those from becoming dirty or wet. If you are a thin woman, it can be wrapped and tied around your waist. If you aren't that thin, it is tucked, but not tied. Some women even have strings sewn in so it's able to tie more easily. 
Chitenges are both casual and fancy (but not at the same time!). They are sometimes filthy and ratty from years of wear and tear. But they are also made into suits and worn to the most special of occasions, like weddings or graduations. 

They also play a part in funerals. It would be uncommon for a woman to not wear a chitenge to a funeral here. 

The second main use, and my primary use, for a chitenge is for carrying babies on your back. From the time a baby's cord falls off until they are 3 or 3 1/2 years old, babies are worn on their mamas' backs. Occasionally you'll see a desperate father wearing his baby, but it's a rare sight! Even babies chitenge babies, little girls only 4 years of age. 
It's interesting to me that although every child in Zambia grows up being worn in a chitenge, Zambians place little, if any, sentimental value into particular chitenges. In America, we keep baby blankets and stuffed animals and things that remind us of certain times in our lives, but here once it's worn out, it's used for rags until it can't be used anymore.

We use chitenges for so much more than just wearing, though. They're made into quilts, curtains, nappy liners, bags, table cloths, decorations, picnic blankets, and more.
Aaron and his auntie
Aunties all wearing short chitenges so they could still play volleyball!
Milika snuggled up under a chitenge quilt
Chitenge curtains

Chitenge pillows in the background

I hope you all are having a great day! 

No comments:

Post a Comment