Sunday, December 3, 2017

Halan'olo fa tian-janahary

This is a piece of printed cotton fabric I've had for years, someone gave it to me when I lived in Ottawa. It is about six feet by four. A friend went to Madagascar for several years and gave this to me as a souvenir.  When I first got this the internet did not really exist in its present form, you couldn't look up stuff on it as easily as you can now. But every once in a while I'd try to find out what the words on it meant by entering them in the browser search field, my latest effort rendered a translation of "Humility is a natural idea".

In my most recent issue of Aramco World there is an article on kangas, and it turns out that that is what this is, a kanga. It is an East African piece of clothing, women often wear them in pairs: one piece covers the body from the armpits down, the other is draped over the head and shoulders. They are usually very colourful. Men wear them too, often just draped over their shoulders.

A kanga has three main features: a central pattern, a border pattern, and a saying along the lower border edge, usually in Swahili. This one is in Malagash, the language of Madagascar. Malagasy people like the central pattern to be a picture of some kind, often a pastoral scene. This one is obviously not pastoral, but very striking.

I used to think that the words on this piece of fabric were somehow related to the picture, but it turns out that they are not. In fact if the translation is true it seems to me almost antithetical, there is nothing humble about this seascape.


Wisewebwoman said...

What a lovely piece, what are you planning for it? It could be displayed.


Annie said...

Hi WWW, It has hung on walls across Canada since I got it. Generally avoid sunny walls as it is fading. No other plans for it.