This is Mr. Kithusi. He lives in Mulundi, Kenya, a few miles from the market town of Kitui.
Here he is walking in the courtyard of his compound. My son and I stayed with him and his family on two trips to the village in 2011 and 2012. My son also lived with the family for three months when he graduated college, teaching at a near-by secondary school.
Don’t let the rust fool you, this is a relatively wealthy family and the compound is quite well kept. They have quite a bit of farmland and own a flock of goats and a milk cow.
Khanga, lesos are what they are called in other places, are an important part of Kenyan attire. I have a book of 100 uses for a khanga. Everything from a simple wrap around skirt to improvised baby carrier.
When Mrs. Kithusi came to the USA to visit her daughter, she gave her khanga (leso) to the woman who was going to milk the cow while she was away, so it would feel comfortable with her.
I will spare you a photo of me. Here in Palm Springs it is sunny, and hot. I have been estivating (the spell checker didn’t like the word but it is a real thing), but I decided that I needed to leave my dark, air-conditioned room for at least a little while. So I drove to an indoor parking garage, had lunch and walked a bit.
I was wearing gym shorts, the short ones, and a tank top, I added a khanga (aka leso). This is a very thin piece of cloth , so it blows around and doesn’t heat me up too much while
shading my legs from the sun
preventing me from sticking to chairs
beautifying the world by leaving a little more to the imagination.
I also carried a sun umbrella that I picked up in a supermarket in China last year to provide shade to my upper half while allowing air flow. Add to that my wide brimmed straw hat and…well let’s just say that no one else was quite so…me. Too bad I didn’t have a teenager along to embarrass!
It was not an elegant coordinated outfit but I managed to walk about 8 to 10 blocks which gave me a break from hiding in a dark room trying to make phone calls on a phone that doesn’t work. I reloaded my cell phone with minutes so now maybe I can get some answers. For all the information available on the internet I find that I need to interact with humans to get specific information surprisingly often.
Any way this thought occurred to me: both the khanga and the sun umbrella are very practical and, if properly coordinated, could be very attractive fashion pieces. Why are there so many pencil skirts and stiletto heels in the world? You can carry your groceries home, or a jerrycan of water, or your child with a khanga. Try doing that with a pencil skirt!