The kanzu is popular at customary weddings among most Bantu tribes in Uganda and significant days in the Muslim community. The latter can possibly be explained by the origin of the tunic as it has always been referred to, from the era of coastal trade by Arabs.
However today one can say that a Kanzu is arguably the national dress for men in Uganda. The Ugandan tunic has a unique embroidery around the collar called Omuleera that sets it apart from other tunics.
With the exception of customary weddings (kwanjulas) and other formal functions where the Kanzu is worn as the formal attire for the men, the kanzu can be worn as demands the occasion. According to Kamadha Muyingo, a kanzu tailor at Kiyembe Lane, “Ekanzu teboola” which literally means that the kanzu is multi-purpose. One can thus wear it while at home, while at work or during a wedding. In the case of Kwanjula, the Groom (Omuko) must always have his kanzu with a jacket on, however in cases of mourning or last funeral rights, one can wear the kanzu bare.
How to wear a Kanzu
Being an ankle length garment, however, a kanzu should never touch the ground. “One’s shoes do not have to step on the kanzu while they are wearing it,” says Muyingo. Muyingo also advises that a vest or undershirt must be worn as undergarment. However, the colour of the undershirt should preferably be white since the kanzu is translucent.
One can comfortably match the kanzu with any colour of a jacket or suit that they prefer. “However one should never wear a kanzu with jeans,” warns Muyingo. Another caution is that a kanzu should not be body-hugging. It must be made to be comfortable by being loose-fitting.
Black shoes usually complement in case of white kanzus, however brown shoes can be worn if one opts for a cream kanzu. Though renowned hip-hop artiste Navio a.k.a Daniel Kigozi pulled it off with a purple kanzu, it is rare to find a Kanzu in another colour apart from white or cream.
The kanzu is made from about four main fabrics. These are silk, linen and cotton. These are usually referred to as Daffa, silk, Kakuubo, Katimba, Kasweater, Morocco and Cotton in the traders language.
It would be cheaper to buy a readily made one than buy material and then pay for the knitter’s workmanship plus waiting for a couple of days.
In case one is buying readily made kanzus which are in plenty at Kiyembe Lane; a silk Kanzu goes for around Shs20,000 while the Daffa kanzus go for almost Shs 40,000. Daffa makes the best kanzus and it is mainly the reason why it is more expensive than other fabrics. A metre of Daffa (gold) goes for about Shs70,000-Shs 120,000. Silk is sold at Shs 20,000, cotton at Shs 18,000, kakuubo(linen) at Shs 30,000, Katimba at Shs 40,000 while Kasweater is at Shs50,000.