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Tanga, a Portuguese word of African origin; it comes from the Quimbundo term ntanga, which means "cloth covering tied to the waist." This clothing was characteristic of Africa. Slaves arrived in Brazil wearing a strip of cloth they called tanga. The term is also used in other former Portuguese territories to mean "little skirt." It came to designate a kind of apron used by some indigenous peoples in Brazil to cover the belly and thighs. Used mainly by women to cover their private parts, the tanga can be made of cords or woven with cotton thread and may contain seeds or glass beads. It is triangular and can vary in pattern and decoration.


Karasch, Mary C. Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Mattoso, Katia M. de Queirós. To Be a Slave in Brazil, 1550–1888. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

                                   Charlotte Emmerich