History of Ankara Fabrics

Brinchie Love Nzoutsi

The Vibrant World of African Ankara Fabric: A Journey Through History and Culture

African Ankara fabric, also known as African print or wax print, is a colorful and vibrant fabric that has become a staple of African fashion and culture. This fabric has a rich history and is deeply rooted in African traditions and customs. In this article, we will explore the history and culture of African Ankara fabric and explore its importance in today's world.

Origin of African Ankara fabric

Textiles used in the manufacture of Ankara fabrics

Contrary to popular belief, African Ankara fabric does not originate in Africa. It was actually brought to the continent by Dutch traders in the 19th century. The fabric was originally made in Indonesia and was known as "batik". However, when the Dutch tried to sell the fabric in West Africa, it was not very successful. It was only when the fabric was introduced to Ghana and Nigeria that it became a success. Locals fell in love with the vibrant colors and patterns, and the fabric quickly became a symbol of African identity and pride.

Importance in African culture

African Ankara fabric is deeply rooted in African culture and is used for various purposes. It is often worn on special occasions such as weddings, funerals and festivals. The fabric is also used to make traditional clothing such as dashiki, boubou and kaftan. In some African countries, the fabric is also used to make household items such as curtains, tablecloths and bedspreads. Using African Ankara fabric is a way for Africans to celebrate their heritage and express their cultural identity.

Current popularity

In recent years, African Ankara fabric has gained popularity in the fashion world. Designers around the world have incorporated it into their collections and it has been featured on runways and in fashion magazines. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Rihanna and Lupita Nyong'o have also been spotted wearing African prints, boosting their popularity. Fabric has also become more accessible, with online retailers and local markets selling a variety of designs and styles.

Sustainability and empowerment

Model wearing Ankara fabric overall style clothing
One of the most significant aspects of African Ankara fabric is its impact on sustainability and empowerment. The fabric is often produced by small businesses and local artisans, providing them with a source of income and supporting their communities. Additionally, the fabric is made from 100% cotton, making it eco-friendly and durable. By choosing to wear African Ankara fabric, people are not only making a fashion statement but also supporting ethical and sustainable practices.


African Ankara fabric is more than just a piece of fabric; it is a representation of African culture, history and identity. Its vibrant colors and patterns have captured the hearts of people around the world, and its popularity continues to grow. By understanding the origins and meaning of African Ankara fabric, we can appreciate its beauty and celebrate its role in African culture. The next time you see someone wearing African print clothing, remember its rich history and culture.

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