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Women, Kanga and Political Movements in Zanzibar, 1958-1964

Amina Ameir Issa


Zanzibar Island, which comprises of two sister islands – Unguja and Pemba – located in the East African coast, is a dominant Muslim region with over ninety seven percent of its population Muslims. Kizimkazi Mosque, a twelfth century mosque in Unguja South with Kufic inscriptions peculiar in the region, indicates the presence of Muslim communities during that time. The arrival of more Muslim communities from Asia and the eastern African coast took place in the early decades of the nineteenth century when Zanzibar Town became a commercial center in East Africa receiving from and importing merchandises to India, Europe and America. Muslim women were part and parcel of the religious developments on the islands, and they attained Islamic education through Quranic schools and brotherhood movements. From the early 1950s, with the growth of nationalist movements and the emergence of political parties in Zanzibar, women were initiators of political transformation. They adopted various methods, some of which were common to many African countries while others were locally designed by them. This article examines the contributions made by the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) women during the nationalist struggles. It trains on their creativeness and use of feminine attires to convey political messages. I argue that, the wearing of the kanga became instrumental in shaping women’s political activism.


muslim women; kanga; political movements

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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