Traditional Carriers: African Kanga

on October 13, 2012

The traditional African Kanga is a beauty behold. These sarongs (as a kanga has a multidude of uses) originated from the slave trade of the late 1800s where black dyed kaniki were worn to identify the lowly status of the wearer. When freed, the former slaves rejoiced in their freedom by wearing colourful sarongs made from cotton – a fiber that was generally only worn by the rich.

From here the Kanga evolved had has become a significant culture piece. It can be used as a communication piece, conveying messages to family and community. Traditionally, a first time mother is presented with a kanga from her husband to celebrate her fertility and her baby is wrapped in a soft cotton kanga.

The Kanga is very versitile and is used for a multitude of purposes including as a baby carrier utilising a torso back carry (the baby is never carried on front). The baby is supported by the upper body of the wearer rather than the shoulders, the weight being distributed across the middle of the back and onto the hips.

Simply a rectangular piece of fabric, when used as a carrier the Kanga is a quick carry to adopt with practice, but can be a little tricky to start with…so practice, practice, practice (on either a soft surface and/or with a support person).


This video was shot in Tobre (Benin) before an immunization session.