The leso is a rectangular piece of material made of pure cotton. It measures approximately 150 x 110 cm, and is wide enough to cover a person from the neck to knees or from breast to toe. All lesos have fairly broad borders (pindo) all around and are printed in bold designs and bright colours. Lesos are bought in pairs – a pair is known as a gora – and are most attractive and useful as a pair. A gora of lesos is joined along the width of the fabric when bought. The buyer then cuts along the width and hems each of the two pieces of lesos to prevent fraying of the sides of the fabric. The leso is also known as the Khanga – the names are interchangeable. – Duka Ya Abdalla
The saying is the crucial part of the leso, it sends a message, and it tells a story to others. Others are made for gifts to newlyweds, to new parents and etc. Once you step into the shop you look for two things in the leso- the saying and colour patterns of the leso. Choosing a name depends on the occasion of the purchase of the leso. If it is for a newlywed, one with beautiful colours and congratulatory words will be ideal. A tradition that used to be common in Mombasa is when neighbors quarrel they just argue through sayings of the leso, one will wear a Leso with a saying that indicates hate to the other. Duka Ya Abdalla gets the sayings from anyone who gives them suggestion, they accept from the general public.
So if you are in Mombasa, take a walk to Biashara street to Duka ya Abdalla shop and peruse through the different patterns and colours of the lesos showcased.
In the meantime here are some samples from my visit to Duka ya Abdalla shop.