Chitenge fabric

A Namibian fabric designer Leah Misika is in the country to showcase some of her designs to fellow print art makers at the Bulawayo Gallery.

Misika said there is more to a piece of fabric than what merely the eye can see.

Her fabrics which are called ‘Chitenge’ requires one to know the hidden meanings printed on the fabric in order for one to understand some of her pieces.

“Many times we are found in search of various fabric, with certain prints and pattern and I observed through research that patterns and prints carry meanings such as narratives of the past and the present which reflect on the society,” said Misika.

Chitenge fabric is mainly from the East, West and Central Africa.

The fabric is similar to Sarong, which is often worn by women and wrapped around the chest or waist.

They (fabrics) are also used as headscarf, or a baby sling.

The colourful pieces of fabric are often decorated with a variety of colors, patterns and wax prints.

In the Namibian culture, when a baby is born it is wrapped in a Chitenge as soon as it is delivered.

Similarly, when someone dies they too are enveloped in their favourite Chitenge material to take with them to the grave.