Learn Swahili: 21 Inspirational Kanga Sayings

By National Museums of Kenya

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

Kenyan identity: the kanga and Swahili sayings


The Kanga (Leso) has deep cultural, historical and economic significance throughout the Indian Ocean region and, for more than 100 years, it has remained one of the most popular of all cultural items across East Africa.


Within Kenya, the Kanga is a common thread that links and unites cultures – the young and older people, men and women, rich and poor, and locals and foreigners – in the colourful, dynamic world of its design.


Originally, the Kanga was a product of the Swahili coastal communities. The Swahili text inscribed on the Kanga is used to pass on various messages, including those which are social, political, religious, or health or development related. The first sayings were inscribed in Arabic, but with time the writing changed to Swahili. The Swahili women in particular use them to convey personal messages to their friends, husbands, and families.


Here are 21 inspirational sayings...

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

1: Makali ya jicho yashinda wembe


The sharpness of the eye is greater than the razor.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

2: Mwenye radhi hasumbuki


He who is blessed is not disturbed.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

3: Duniani kuna pepo, wawili wapendanapo


In the world, there are spirits, when two are in love.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

4: Subira ina Malipo


Patience pays.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

5: Umekuja Na Lako Usichunguze La Mwenzako


You have your share, do not criticize your neighbour.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

6: Bahati Ikikukataa Hata Kwa Mganga Haitaifaa


If luck isn't on your side, even if you went to a witch doctor it won't work.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

7: Lisilo budi hutendwa


Whatever should be done has to be done.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

8: Heri pancha ya pajaro kuliko rafiki mwenye kero


It is better to have a flat tyre on your pajero than have a troublesome friend.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

9: Nimechoka kutangatanga,hapa taitia nanga


I am tired of rowing, I will put my anchor here.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

10: Bahati haiji mara mbili


Luck comes only once.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

11: Kinolewacho hupata


Whatever is sharpened cuts.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

12: Pendo ni kitu cha hiari


Love is out of choice.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

13: Ya kale hayapo, zingatia uliyonayo


The past isn't there, reflect on what you have.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

14: Wachemshe haohao kwangu utapoa


Let those who are with me be healed

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

15: Umpendaye mfuate na akufaaye na akufaaye usimwache


Follow whom you love and do not forsake he who suits you.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

16: Wambea hawana shule,huteta popote pale


Gossipers have no school they speak wherever.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

17: Umpendaye mfuate na akufaaye na akufaaye usimwache


Follow whom you love and do not forsake he who suits you.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

18: Thamani ya taa ni giza kiingiapo


The value of light is noticed when night falls.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

19: Heri matamshi mazuri kuliko zawadi


A good verdict is better than a present.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

20: Huba inaondoa unyonge


Love removes misery.

KangaNational Museums of Kenya

21: Mungu akupe kheri daima


God Bless you always.

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