The capulana is a fabric full of personality that has the ability to draw attention wherever it goes.
History tells us that the capulana arrived in Africa for the first time in the 19th century. IX to X, through commercial exchanges between Persian Arabs and peoples who lived along the coast. Kenya, Mombasa and the Island of Mozambique appear in the records as the first places that had distant contacts in the history of the use of this fabric on the continent.
Each capulana is made with 100% cotton fabric, and the prints are made using the traditional batik or waxprint process.
IN AN INITIAL PHASE, THE CAPULANA EMERGES AS A CURRENCY OF EXCHANGE BETWEEN PEOPLE.
Monarchs used capulanas as a symbol of power representation. In the Mwenemutapa empire (c. XV to XVIII), only the Mambo (king) and his three main wives used the capulana as a symbol of ostentation and representation of tradition.
Used to cover women's bodies, this fabric has evolved over the years in terms of texture, colors and even its use.
Capulana is used in African countries in different ways. In Mozambique, for example, women use it in their daily lives and mainly in traditional ceremonies (funerals, weddings, initiation rituals, etc.).
Also called "cloth" in Angola, "kitenge" or "chitengue" in Zambia, Namibia and "canga" in Brazil.
It is used by women to carry their children on their backs, to carry what is needed and for countless other functions, such as a towel, curtain, etc.
In the most important ceremonies, older women tie the capulana, or "mucume ni vemba", and offer brides on their wedding day a special capulana in the size of three of the fabrics, trimmed with white lace, to demonstrate that also happens to be an adult woman and housewife.
Don't think it's just a fabric, the affection and care with which women treat this fabric is distinct. Each of them may have several stories to tell. From the capulana who carried her first child, the one who married her daughter, the one who carried the harvest of year x, etc.
Did you know that capulanas follow their own fashion trends?
When there is a new design on the market, it is locally baptized with meanings. There are thematic capulanas that mark the importance of an event and are also used in this way to tell stories.
Remember Pope Francis' visit to Mozambique in 2019?
So it is! A capulana was created in his honor.
IT'S AN IDENTITY AFFIRMATION
In some locations in northern Mozambique, the way a woman ties her capulana determines her marital status.
In Maputo, Mozambique there is a house selling capulanas that has been in existence since 1919. Its owners are of Indian origin and for 97 years they have been dedicated to the sale of fabrics and capulanas.
The management of the house saw a huge potential in the capulana, which made the store become a house specialized in the fabric, since for some time now, the capulana has become much more than a fabric and starts to represent the symbol of the Mozambican woman, forming part of the country's culture and identity.
ELEPHANT HOUSE, A CAPULANAS EMPIRE
In the last century, most capulanas were made locally, but after the civil war and globalization many began to be imported. Most capulanas come from Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, but also from some African countries such as Tanzania.
The most traditional are the plaid capulanas, which are by far the preference of older ladies, while young people prefer the more modern capulanas to make dresses and other pieces of clothing. Currently at Casa Elefante, the most popular capulanas are the most colorful, and most of the capulanas in this store have their own designs from Mozambique.
As it is a very old house, Casa Elefante has become a reference and has a huge variety of quality capulanas. This empire of capulanas is located near the Maputo Central Market, which is a tourist attraction in the Mozambican capital.
After several centuries, the capulana follows the course of social dynamics as a piece of history with a thousand and one functions, it does not lose shape, value or power, it evolves with society and is modernized.