Earlier this summer, the art teacher from Billingshurst Primary School in West Sussex, UK, got in touch with us. She planned to carry out African fabric printing classes for 90, Year 2 pupils and was looking for materials for inspiration.
Kitenge recycles all offcuts from our tailors’ workshop floors in Tanzania, East Africa, which reduces waste and prevents it from going to landfill. We upcycle the fabrics by making smaller items including hair accessories, bunting and bags. This helps to empower our tailors to improve their livelihoods.
Betty (centre) who runs her own business in Tanzania with her employees Lucy and Levina holding some kitenge hair clips handmade using our recycled offcuts
We had some spare offcuts so were delighted to bring some back from Tanzania with us and send them to the school to help inspire the children’s artwork. They had already learnt about printing in year 1 so the art teacher’s aim was to extend the children’s understanding of the process.
In their first lesson, the children watched a BBC Africa video clip about ‘Kitenge Fridays’ including information about the colourful fabrics origin, history and why Kenyan’s love to wear traditional African clothing.
After learning about how kitenge fabric is valued and worn by East Africans, the children took a closer look at the colours and patterns. They then discussed how the fabrics could have been made. After exploring the fabrics the children copied or created 8 different patterns in their sketchbooks.
They then chose their favourite pattern, which they printed with polystyrene tiles, small wooden wheels (with wool glued on) and printing ink. They also learnt to layer up the printing process by using 2 or 3 different tiles to create a multi-patterned print.
The aim was to produce a large art installation of all the children’s prints using white, double bed sheets and the results were fabulous!
As well as printing, the children also drew patterns in their sketchbooks with white crayons and painted over them with watercolours to create a ‘batik’ style of art. They also coloured in their kitenge designs that they had sketched and created their own kitenge inspired outfits.
In industry, African print clothing fabrics are produced using melted wax (resin) to create the pattern and 2 or 3 colours are printed onto the cloth one at a time. The children learnt the basics principles of batik while using their own imagination and creativity.
“We have had an incredible term learning all about kitenge. The children absolutely loved looking at the offcuts, they found the colours and patterns truly inspiring. Thanks again for sharing the fabric with us, I don’t think our artistic endeavours would have been anywhere near as fantastic if we didn’t have such a great material to inspire us.”
We were so pleased to see that the children really enjoyed learning about Kitenge and were inspired by all the vibrant colours and different designs. They looked like they had great fun creating the prints too.
If you have any ideas of how we can upcycle our offcuts or if you are interested to get hold of some for schools, charities or crafts please do get in touch. We love to hear from you with any suggestions or ideas that you may have.
While you are here, please do take a look around our African boutique online especially our blog, which is packed full of interesting articles including behind the scenes footage and interviews with our talented team of tailors in Tanzania.
The Complete Beginners’ Guide to African Print Clothing
African Wax Print Clothing – The Story Behind The Fabric
Traditional African Clothing: A Guide to Kanga From East Africa
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