Chitenge, Chitenge!

Timepo’s son peaking out from his chitenge wrap

Timepo’s son peaking out from his chitenge wrap

I can’t believe time has flown by so quickly but the final weeks of my stay in Joel are upon me! Aside from busy exam week preparations, I’ve had a bit of souvenir shopping to do. I spent last Saturday wandering around the market and shops of Katete picking out chitenge fabrics to bring back home with me. I plan on using fabrics I bought to make tablecloths, a quilt or two, and decorative pillowcases to give friends and family as gifts from my stay.

A decorated crocodile Nyau

A decorated crocodile Nyau

Days here are brightened by women and girls wearing beautiful swaths of brightly colored fabrics. The chitenge is a multipurpose piece of material- typically two meters long and waxed so that it can be tucked in and worn as a skirt. The chitenge can be wrapped around the back or front and used to carry children or items purchased in the market. I’ve even seen some mothers carrying one child on their back and one on their front! The chitenge can also be worn as a shawl when it’s cool out. The Nyau, a secret society of traditional Zambian performers, are decorated with bits of chitenge fabric alongside the grass and animal skin they wear. Strips of chitenge fabric can be woven into rugs and sewn into patchwork quilts. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of material! You’ll see women wearing a chitenge over their jeans or slacks as it is considered a sign of respect towards the community elders. Among the bright prints and patterns, you’ll see the face of Edgar C. Lungu, the president of Zambia, and his party, the Patriotic Front. They serve as a way of showing political and religious beliefs, Zambian pride, and even the staple crop in Zambia- maize. Chitenge fabric comes from all over Africa and usually has a mark with the pattern number and place of origin. The fabric can range from polyester/cotton, pure cotton, or even a silk blend. They range from 15 kwacha ($1.50) to 45 kwacha ($4.50).

Chitenge chairs on the banks of South Luangwa  

Chitenge chairs on the banks of South Luangwa  

 Tons of patterns and colors from the Handover Ceremony

 Tons of patterns and colors from the Handover Ceremony

My pack home is going to be a bit heavy from all of these!

My pack home is going to be a bit heavy from all of these!

While at the market I practiced my haggling skills- something I picked up while living here! I window shopped for a little while- there are hundreds of patterns and you may not see the same pattern twice. I’m excited to start sewing which I’ll do as soon as I’m back in the States. I’m sure I’ll think of Joel Village and life in Zambia every time I see them!