This week I have had conversations with the Tanzanian ladies I work with about what is suitable to wear in Tanzania, and what is not. And they have been very funny conversations.
In Tanzania it is polite to have from the waist down covered. These days lots of women wear jeans and skirts that sit just below the knee in the big towns, but not so much in the less built up areas. Showing any legs above the knees is really a big no no, and so wearing short pants would be equated with walking around topless in other Western countries.
A lot of Tanzanian women, even if they wear jeans, will often wear a kanga tied around their waist over the top when out in public - especially if they are doing tasks that require bending over, like cooking or cleaning.
As Magdalena stated when discussing the covering of a lady's thighs and bottom, "No one really wants to see the geography of your body."
Today I ventured into the main market area in Arusha town and bought myself two kangas. I know I paid the mzungu price for them, but was really happy to in the end.
The black and white kanga says something along the lines of:
Obey God you will be blessed,
and the blue one,
Give a blessing.
I also purchased this book in a book shop in town. I bought it mainly to show the ladies at work - it does contain some amusing diagrams and uses for the kanga.
Each kanga has a saying printed on it. When you choose a kanga you need to do so carefully. Tanzanian's use kangas as a way of communicating messages and are taken quite seriously. They often say things that can't be said directly to others.
Here and here are some popular messages written on kangas.