The Chitenge

The common uniform of most local women here is the chitenge, a piece of fabric used as a skirt, a baby carrier, a bag, a tablecloth — you name it.  Here is our neighbor, Mr. Phiri, showing a chitenge of his wife’s.

When my son was a baby we had a “snugli” and a backpack.  I remember always having the baby positioned in his carrier before I put the carrier on.  Here, they use the chitenge as a baby carrier and the baby is on the back.  I always wondered how they got the baby back there.  Mrs. Phiri was kind enough to demonstrate for me with little Margaret.

First, they bend over at the waist and basically fling the baby on their backs and balance them (seriously, she just tossed her up there).

Then, she throws the chitenge over her back and positions it like a rectangle around the baby (usually the husband is nowhere in sight).

After she’s sure it’s positioned right (both fabric both above and below the baby)…

…she gathers up the loose ends over one shoulder and under the other shoulder…

…and ties them in a firm knot.

Voila! African baby snugli.  Oh, and notice she’s wearing another chitenge as her skirt too.


About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine.
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3 Responses to The Chitenge

  1. Lisa Murray-Johnson says:

    Okay, love Mr and Mrs. Phiri–what wonderful neighbors to share all of these tricks, and ways of making life happen. We go out and buy separate things for everything and what we need is more of these all in one, seemingly magical, items. We’d have a lot less waste in America, and the chitenge is just so practical on so many levels!

  2. Jeff Johnson says:

    Lisa- subtle hint noted that you might like one for Mother’s Day. I’m picturing you with papers slung on your back. Imagine the confusion if the Phiris ever saw a Snuggie.

  3. Christy says:

    I loved watching the women “suit up” 😉 Does Mrs Phiri’s skirt chitenge have coffee cups on it? I WISH I had seen fabric like that in Kalomo!

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