The Symbol Of African Clothing - Things You Need To Know About African Ankara Wax Print

The Symbol Of African Clothing - Things You Need To Know About African Ankara Wax Print



A fast Google search for the word Ankara is likely to show results to the Turkish capital. With wonderful people, Turkey is a beautiful part of the country. That is why the country of Turkey may come to mind when many hear the word Ankara, because Ankara is Turkey 's capital. The Ankara that we are going to discuss here, however, is a nod to the popular fabric that people of Africa often wear.

Ankara is a 100% cotton texture with vivid patterns, generally known as "Ankara prints", "African prints", "African wax prints" and "Holland wax." It is typically a rather colourful material and, on account of its tribal-like designs and themes, is essentially associated with Africa. West African nations like Ghana , Nigeria and Senegal have made the Ankara fabric very famous.

What is Ankara?

The cloth used to manufacture African prints is known as the Ankara fabric, sometimes referred to as the fabric of African wax prints, Holland wax, or Dutch wax. Compared with other printed textiles that fade easily, one of the best things about Ankara fabric is the intensity of its African prints does not shift. This is attributable to the "wax resistant" technique used in textile printing.

It is also a very durable fabric and, to name a few, many things such as hats, earrings, blazers, and shoes can be made from it. Fashion brands and fabric manufacturers have made ankara prints onfabrics such as chiffon, silk, spandex for clothes such as kaftans, iro and bubas, bathing suits, sports bars, leggings & socks to make ankara an even more versatile fabric.

The nonverbal messages, special titles, and tales associated with particular designs are one of the most impressive aspects of the African wax cloth, apart from the rich colours. While not conventional, over the years, African women attached particular meanings to some prints, turning the textile into a lasting cultural treasure.

The lack of differentiation in the colour strength of the front and back sides is one characteristic of these products. Due to the processes of production, the wax fabric can be sorted into quality groups.

"Typically, fabrics are sold as a" full piece "or 6 yards (5.5 m) as a" half piece "in lengths of 12 yards (11 m). The colours are compatible with the customers' local tastes. Clothing for celebrations is usually made from this fabric.

Why is it called Ankara?

After independence, high quality textiles from many nations flooded African markets, including the Nigerian market. In Europe, most wax prints sold in Africa were made without African input. Different grades of Dutch wax were on the market, with Hollandaise prevailing at an exorbitant price, unaffordable for the poor. The name Ankara originated from a girl called Ankara and was given by the Turks to the cheaper variant of the Dutch Wax that was affordable for the poor and was considered indigenous because of its vivid color and motif.

Over the years, Dutch wax has been replaced by African printing with the construction of textile mills and the continuous development of patterns that represent African culture and each culture with its own preference for color and design.

Where is it popular?

This may come as a shock to you, but Ankara 's roots are not entirely African. In African culture, these popular prints were adopted and the texture never originated in Africa. It may sound weird, but it is real.

West African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal have traditionally popularised the Ankara fabric. African prints can be handmade or created on a large-scale textile machine in the Ankara cloth. If you want a special African print, go for Ankara, which is handmade, where no two designs are the same. Machine-made Ankara, on the other hand, usually has imperfections or a "crackling" sound.

Especially in Nigeria, different clothes for different places and events are available. Typically made of fine fabric such as Aso-oke, Lace and Batik, clothing for formal wearsis. The Dutch were seen as the 'well-meaning' trader with Africans during the colonial era, since most West African nations were under the rule of either English or French rule, this and also the fact that the texture of the cloth is acceptable for the African environment rendered their prints part of their culture to be embraced and assimilated by the Africans.

During this time, the prints were very costly and unaffordable for the poor, but a lot of people could afford it when the cheaper version of it was produced, so the fabric was called 'fabric of the poor.' It was not known to be a fabric for occasions or special events due to the cheapness of the fabric at this period, but was used as clothing for regular wear, then used in sewing wrapper and loose blouse (iro and buba). The revival of Ankara was triggered by the ban imposed in 2003 by the former president of Nigeria, President Obasanjo, on imports of textiles in an effort to grow the non-oil market, thus reducing the burden of reliance on the oil sector.

These textiles have a sales volume of 2.1 billion yards annually in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated cost of production of $2.6 billion and a retail value of $4 billion.

Ankara History

The print gained its success in global fashion in 2010, but has been in existence for many years. The Dutch originally produced Ankara for the Indonesian textile market, but because of the tribal-like designs, the prints gained significantly more interest in West African countries. Ankara was formerly known by the African Print Dutch Company Vlisco as a Dutch wax print.

The roots of ankara prints can be traced to Indonesia, as discussed earlier. There was a high demand for printed cotton in 1846, so the Dutch businessman Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen mechanised the technique used to produce batik prints, a common cloth worn in Indonesia. Initially, the wax printing process is affected by batik, an Indonesian (Javanese) method of dyeing cloth using wax-resistant techniques.

Also, Batik 's earliest existence dates back to the 4th century BC Egypt, where it was used in the mummification process (almost all began in Africa if you look back far enough). However, it is the most highly developed in Java , Indonesia, to date.

Wax is melted for batik and then patterned over the blank fabric. The fabric is covered in dye from there, which stops the wax from covering the whole cloth. The wax-and-soak process is replicated with new patterns if additional colours are needed.

During Indonesia's Dutch colonisation, the batik technique became common to Dutch merchants and administrators. Thanks to this touch, by the 1850s, if not before, the owners of textile factories in the Netherlands, such as Jean Baptiste Theodore Prévinaire and Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen, obtained examples of batik textiles and began to build processes for machine printing that could mimic batik. Without all the labor-intensive work needed to produce the real thing, they hoped that these much cheaper machine-made imitations could outcompete the original batiks on the Indonesian market, affecting the look of batik.

These men, some of whom were slaves and hired soldiers, took these things back to their countries of origin. The Indonesian batik suddenly got on with various individuals in West Africa after bringing it around.

In the meantime, the Europeans were also beginning to come up with methods to build their own specific version of batik. Their goal was to improve the Indonesian market with its own unique machine-made edition, which would obviously be less costly than the high-quality ones in Indonesia that are handmade.

They eventually accomplish this after serval trials at the end of the nineteenth century when a Belgian printer built up a technique for adding resin to a cotton material on both sides.

It was originally intended for the Indonesian market, but the machine-made versions produced a few blemishes that did not satisfy the Indonesian market, but now it has found its way to a more energetic West African market, where it has advanced towards being icons of traditional and superb design. This texture has spread from West Africa to various parts of Africa and all over the world.

This was how the Indonesian influenced fabrics were adopted as their own by West Africans. Women bought the fabric with different new patterns in their numbers, designed to show their increasing taste for the cloth.

Other producers, including Scottish, English, and Swiss producers, were motivated to enter the market by the success of trade in West Africa.

The Dutch wax prints, often under names such as "Veritable Dutch Hollandais," and "Wax Hollandais," rapidly incorporated themselves into African clothing. The fabrics were used by women as a communication and speech form, with some patterns being used as a common language, with meanings commonly understood. Several patterns started earning catchy titles. Over time, by the mid-twentieth century, the prints became more African-inspired and African-owned. Leaders, diplomats, and the affluent populace also started to use them as formal wear.

There are currently West-African produced Ankara fabrics and Chinese-made fabrics in West Africa and beyound today, which are usually less costly, many people in West Africa still put a premium on European-made ones because they think it is of better quality.

Cultural Acceptance

On daily bases, these Ankara textures are still acquired in large quantities and used to make dresses and suits, some people wear it as a kind of uniform for unusual occasions, such as birthday events, weddings, and so on.

Relatives and associates usually spruce up for a unique event in comparable garments made of Ankara fabrics. It is often used as a kind of gift and as an indicator of status, as well as being extremely frequent on occasions such as weddings and so on. Many also add such fabrics to the price of a woman's bride.

Amongst several tribes in Nigeria and West Africa, this uniformity in dressing has also become a cultural staple. Asoebi, which is typically an Ankara printed cloth, is worn to celebrate and display unity at these events in many Yoruba weddings, burial ceremonies, birthday celebrations, and so on.

Wax prints are a form of African women's nonverbal communication and thus bring their messages out into the world. Some wax prints are named after characters, towns, structures, sayings, or occasions. The design is printed on the forest by the manufacturer, the name of the product and the registration number of the design, thus preserving the design and attesting to the quality of the fabric. To African people, wax fabrics constitute capital goods and are hence often kept on the basis of their perceived market value.

African’s choice for wearing on special occasions

African textiles and prints are worn with joy and it is the pride of any woman to wear an African print on an occasion. The history of African apparel, the importance of the colours and the prints are not known to many of us. African fabrics have vivid colours, idiosyncratic designs and hand-made patterns that give us a rich cultural sense. But is it important to know more about African fabrics and why?

African clothes have historically been worn for special occasions, such as family reunions, weddings and activities. For any clear purpose or significance, such fabrics will not be worn. The African cloth is a national identity and a cultural heritage emblem. Currently, there are a number of fabrics from various groups of people in Africa.

Different forms of ankara prints

To describe African fabrics, there are several words or names used, such as African wax prints, Dutch wax, batik, and the list goes on. Vibrant cotton fabrics with tribal designs are the general theme in all African prints. Although there are many ways to style Ankara fabrics, there are characteristics that most Ankara prints share. Ankara prints are usually characterised by big, bold, beautiful colours such as bright red, yellow, and green. To make the wearer stand out from the crowd and are statement fashion items, these colours are intentionally used. Some types are predominantly worn by particular ethnic groups, some are characterised by their colours and patterns, some are characterised by the form of clothing, and some are characterised by the wearing opportunity. Here is a list of some prints from Ankara.

  1. Capulana

A capulana is a type of sarong that is mainly worn in Mozambique, but also in other regions of South-East Africa. The material's length is about 2 metres by 1 metre. It can be used as a wrap-around skirt, dress, or on the back, it can become a baby carrier. It is considered to be a full piece of wear.

  1. Adire

The indigo-dyed fabric produced by Yoruba women in southwestern Nigeria is the Adire textile, using a range of resist-dyeing techniques. Adire comes from the people of the Yoruba and means 'tied and dyed' with clothing, typically a vivid colour and pattern



  1. Akwa Ocha

Akwa-Ocha is essentially an indigenous hand-woven cloth created by the Aniocha people of the Delta state, which literally means white cloth. The cloth containing decorative surface motifs and symbols is used by people for various festive occasions. The motifs and symbols of Akwa-Ocha and their roles show the culture, faith, and social behavior of the people. The making of Akwa-Ocha is different from other ankara clothes because these are not dyed and are mostly hand-woven using already colored threads.



  1. Agbadá

Agbada is one of the names for the dashiki suit-related flowing wide-sleeved robe worn by men in most of West Africa, and to a lesser degree in North Africa. Traditionally, the robe will be simple in colour, but embroidery and typical brightly coloured Ankara designs have been jazzed up in recent years. For official activities such as marriages and religious ceremonies, the robe is reserved.


  1. Dashiki The Dashiki

The Capulana is a type of fabric typically worn as a skirt or as a dress, mostly found in Mozambique, and is popular for its practicality and can be used to hold items or even babies. The Capulana was first introduced by merchants in India and Arabia to the Mozambican people. The Capulana are typically manufactured in bright colours including yellows and reds, similar to many other Ankara types.


  1. The Kente

Kente is a fabric made of interwoven cloth strips, native to southern Ghana, from a word meaning basket. With multicoloured patterns, abstract forms and bold designs, the woven strips boast. Many modern African Americans engage in a tradition called the 'donning of the Kente' known as a ceremonial cloth, where a graduate is presented with a Kente stole for their ceremony.


  1. Bologna

Bògòlanfini or bogolan is a traditionally dyed Malian cotton fabric handmade with fermented mud. In traditional Malian culture, it plays an important role and has recently become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. The fabric is exported for use in design, fine art and decoration worldwide.


  1. Smock of Ghanian

The Ghanian Smock, similar in appearance to the Dashiki, is a form of shirt worn predominantly by men in Ghana, although women can also wear the Ghanian Smock. The key distinction between the Ghanian Smock and the Dashiki, however, are the colours and designs. The Smock is typically manufactured in darker colours such as grey and black, while the Dashiki is made of bright colours and finished with plaid stitching.


  1. Habesha Kemisa Kemisa

The name Habesha Kemis comes from the Habesha ethnic women of Ethiopia and Eritrea. A dress worn for formal events such as weddings is the Habesha Kemis. The fabric is hand-woven by weavers known as Shemane, made from the traditional Ethiopian cloth called Shemma. Most dresses come in a mixture of more subtle colours such as grey, white, and black, as the Habesha Kemis are typically for formal events.


  1. Kanga a Kanga

The Kanga is a colourful patterned fabric worn mainly by females, having many similarities to other wax print fabrics. The Kanga resembles the Dashiki or the Kitnege, but is for casual wear only. As the fabric can be used for clothes, home décor, and much more, the Kanga is also very versatile.


  1. Korhogogo's

The Korhogo cloth is produced by the Ivory Coast Senufo people. The Korhogo cloth is more like the Bògòlanfini with more subtle earthy colours such as grey and black, not as popular as some of the other prints. The most distinctive thing about the Korhogo is that the prints are hand-painted through the mud-based paint on the cloth, bringing some earthier colours to the designs. The prints are typically of animals and personified objects, rather than patterns of symbolic significance in the drawings.


  1. Kuba

The Kuba cloth, which originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is another unique type of African print. Traditionally, most Kuba cloth is made of woven palm leaves known as raffia and finished to resemble velvet with an embroidery finish. The Kuba are normally coloured brown with the patterns for contrast accentuated in a darker brown.


  1. Mushanana

A lightweight skirt wrapped around the waist and draped over the shoulder is the national ceremonial dress of women from Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, the Mushanana. Usually, women don't wear the clothing in their everyday lives, but they are reserved for special events such as weddings and funerals. The Mushanana is available in a number of colours.


  1. Shweshwe Shweshwe

Another kind of dyed cloth found in South Africa is the Shweshwe. Today, with many complex patterns and designs, the fabric can be found in many colours, but it was dyed in Indigo in its early days. The name Shweshwe derives from its connexion with Lesotho 's King Moshoeshoe, who gave the fabric to French missionaries. With Da Gama Textiles regulating production, Shweshwe is a trademarked cloth. However, with cheaper imitations from Asia penetrating the market, Da Gama Textile 's hold on the market has loosened in recent years.

Future of ankara

The fashion scene of Africa has been invaded by ankara and it is taking an edge over other famous fabrics such as Guinea, Yoruba Adire, Tie and Dye, Kampala and the rest. The fabric has been engaged by celebrities in creating different fascinating styles and has also become the fashion choice of many, adapted to various innovative accessories such as bags , shoes, bracelets, phone pockets, and so on.

Keeping this in mind I have created a leggings clothing brand inspired by ankara African Prints. Ankara, being a print on cotton material, has little luster and poor elasticity. My aim is to take it to the next level by mixing some elastic materials to make stretchable leggings. These leggings will have the style of any ankara prints along with elasticity and stretchability. You can visit my leggings store web page to take a look at them.

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