Leso /Khanga a Cultural work of art; The Kenyan Coast jewel

Leso or Khanga is a common cloth at the Kenyan Coast. It’s a beautiful cotton clothing with patterns or flowers of different designs and colours that add a feminine touch to it.
Lesos commonly have a border along all four corners. The patterns on the border are different from the central part. A very important part of the Khanga is the Swahili proverb which expresses emotion, power, feminity and beauty.

Leso/Khanga structure

The leso is loved for so many reasons. The following are its benefits to society.

Why lesos?🤷‍♀️

A leso is a very important part of the culture of the Swahili people. It symbolises freedom. When the Kenyan Coast was being colonised, slaves wore purely white lesos. However, after independence, the Coastal women added their feminine touch and creativity to the clothing. They could now express themselves freely which was depicted on Khanga.

A young lady in a leso

Leso is worn by women Inorder to send a message. Khangas contain some messages or proverbs hence when worn everyone that passes by can read and get the message. For instance, when one wants to warn or intimidate a rival.

Khangas, as stated earlier, are made of cotton, very good for baby’s skin. These clothes are used as baby carriers, Swaddlers and napkins for children.

A mother carrying her baby in a leso

Women love fashion and trends, especially at the Coast Leso, have been in existence way back in the midth 19th century. Khangas are beautiful, carefully crafted work of art. They are fashionable and trendy. They come as a pair hence one can be wrapped around the waist and the other as headgear or stitch an outfit from it It’s a preferred gift for mothers, wives or grandmothers.

A designer dress from a leso

Khanga is a symbol of wealth or insurance for women. When a lady gets married in the Swahili culture they are advised to procure lesos. These khangas would be insurance in case of a divorce or the husband dies. It would help them be independent and able to provide for their needs.

Leso is loved for its convenience. It can be used as a coverup, towel, bedding, curtain, handkerchief, shawl, scarf something to brighten up or style up a dull room or outfit

A leso headgear


The Khanga or leso is a very vital component of the Coastal culture . It plays a very important role in women’s life. It gives them identity, freedom, fashion and convenience.

They should be passed on to the next generation and tales about these beautiful pieces told.

When heading down to the coast get your sister, mom, daughter or grandmother a leso. This is a valuable souvenir 👌.

Published by The Eco-traveller

I am a champion for sustainable tourism and conservation practices.I highlight tourism operators who operate under the principles of sustainable development.Let's travel,be responsible and have fun

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