What is chitenge?
In American culture we cover the top parts of our body but show our legs and thighs in short skirts. In the Zambian culture breastfeeding openly is not an issue but if you are female you must keep everything covered from your midriff down to below your thighs. In Zambia this area of the body is seen as the erotic area and shouldn’t be shown, not even in trousers.
In order to preserve their modesty then, Zambian women, in rural areas especially, wear something called a chitenge. A chitenge is a piece of cloth, 2 yards or meters in length that women wrap around their body. The width of the cloth is long enough to cover you more or less from your waist to your ankles.
Go to a village in Zambia or the comounds in the city of Lusaka and it would be very unusual to find a woman not wearing a chitenge. It is a practical item too, it covers your clothes which can become dirty quite quickly in the dust and charcoal stoves, it can be used to cover your hair so you don’t smell of smoke from cooking and it can be coiled onto the crown of the head as padding when you fetch water and they are essential for carrying your baby.
The patterns and colours are immensely varied and I have seen chitenges with pictures of politicians on them, light bulbs, even mobile phones. There are some incredibly beautiful patterns and colors and I am obsessed with them. These days, I think all things are better with a little chitenge on it. So I in my life of no Hobby Lobby or Michaels or really any access to art supplies I have been using chitenge for everything. I use it for wrapping gifts, decorating the girls rooms, pillows and art! I have found it a good substitute for the cute scrapbooking papers I used to use in the states for some of my artwork!
This is a piece that I did for a girl whe was here in Zambia for Camp LIFE. I think it turned out really cute! Let me knoe if you want one!