The Meaning of ‘Kanga’ in the Kenya Kanga Mystery Series

Fowl Murder is the first book in the Kenya Kanga mystery series. Where does the title for this series come from?

Photograph of a single Blue Helmeted Guinea Fowl
A Blue-Wattled Helmeted Guinea Fowl

‘Kanga’ has two meanings in Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya.

The first is ‘guinea fowl’. Most commonly seen in Kenya are flocks of red or blue-wattled helmeted guinea fowl, with white spots on black feathers, and a helmet-shaped protrusion on their heads. 

The vulture guinea fowl is larger, has a bald head (which gives it a look not dissimilar to a vulture, hence the name) and swathes of black and white striped feathers over a royal blue feathered breast.

Vulture Guinea Fowl

Guinea fowl are hardy birds adapting to many environments, and flocks of up to thirty birds are often spotted on the savanna, dry bush, or areas on the edge of forests. 

They roost in trees at night for safety.  During the day they scratch at the ground seeking seeds, insects, tubers and occasionally a small snake as food. 

Some people who keep these semi-domestic birds claim they make excellent guard-birds, notifying the presence of intruders with their high-pitched call.

Flared Kanga Skirt – Kenya Kanga Collection

The second meaning of ‘Kanga’ is a brightly coloured cotton material.  It is thought that the spotted patterns of some designs reminded people of guinea fowl feathers, which gave rise to the name Kanga. 

It is impossible to drive down a Kenyan street, particularly at the coast, without seeing ladies with a brightly coloured Kangas wrapped around their waists as skirts.

A kanga is a piece of printed cotton fabric one and a half metres long by one metre wide with a wide border pattern, known as a pindo, and a separate central pattern.  In the early twentieth century it became common to include a saying or proverb, known as a jina, in the cloth.

There are many ways to wear or use a kanga: a toga style dress, a headdress, or a baby carrier where the cloth is wrapped around the baby on its mother’s back, and securely tied across the mother’s front.  Double or even quadruple pieces of Kanga can be found stretched between poles to create a sail style sun-shade.

Book 1 in the Kenya Kanga Mystery Series

Fowl Murder, book 1 in the Kenya Kanga Mystery series is available in eBook, Print and Large Print format from Amazon: Buy Here.

It is also available from all major online retailers: Buy Here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *