Mothers of Somaliland

Writing in The Trans-African in 2016, Ndinda Kioko describes how after the death of grandmother, she and her cousins gathered to divide between themselves pieces of her grandmother’s khanga collection:” Of these objects that hold the memories of my mothers, the khanga remains the most intimate. There is something haunting about inheriting the objects of the dead ‒ the painful reminders of their absence. But there is also something comforting. These are rituals of death, but these are also the rituals of a continued life.”

The khanga, similar to but not the same as the kitenge, sometimes called the leso, sometimes the kishutu, is a hallmark of East Africa’s feminine memory. In villages and cities along the Indian Ocean Coast and inland, it is worn by women, sometimes by men, but mostly by women in their work and play and lives, and is a strand that connects motherhoods and womanhoods in different localities. In South Africa, during the 2006 rape trial of Jacob Zuma, his accuser, Khwezi, wore a khanga throughout the course of the trial. In West Africa, Nana Benz is a term that refers to a group of women who grew rich by trading in khanga-like textiles, rich enough to buy Mercedes Benzes. And in Somaliland, the khanga has, because of centuries of interaction with the Swahili down the Indian Ocean coast, become a popular fashion for the women and mothers.

About the Photographer:
Adnan Muhammad is a photographer from Hargeisa, Somaliland.