The African Print Fabric is trendy, colorful, and absolutely beautiful. Each fabric has its unique story and origin. The prints are created using ancient techniques and have been passed down from generation to generation. In this post, we will explore the different types of African Print Fabric available. From the popular Ankara to the iconic Kente, to the vibrant Adire, and many more. We have covered it all. We have also shared some stories about each fabric, its origin, and its cultural significance.
So, whether you’re looking to incorporate these fabrics into your wardrobe or are simply interested in learning more about them, this post is a must-read.
Types of African Print Fabric
One of the most beloved types of African print fabric is Ankara, also known as African wax print. This type of fabric is made from 100% cotton and is easily recognized by its bold and intricate designs. Ankara originated in Indonesia and became popular in African countries as a material for clothing. Ankara fabrics come in 12-yard or 6-yard lengths and can be used to make a wide range of clothing and accessories, from dresses and head-wraps to bags and shoes. The process of making African print fabric is called batik, which involves a wax-resist dyeing technique. Apart from clothing and accessories, Ankara is also increasingly being used as a material for phone cases and shoes.
Kente is a well-known African print fabric that originated in Ghana before the 11th century. The Ashanti and Ewe ethnic groups in Ghana are still keeping the crafting tradition alive. Kente has a unique combination of vibrant colors and geometric patterns that represent different meanings. For instance, the color white signifies purification while black represents mourning.
Despite the popularity of Kente, there are other types of African print fabrics. Imibala and Bokaap are two specific styles of African print fabrics made with cotton and laminated with wax coating for a glossy finish. It’s not uncommon for those not familiar with African print fabric to unknowingly wear Kente, but it’s essential to know more about the roots and history of these beautiful prints.
Adire is a traditional Nigerian fabric that has been woven and dyed using tie and dye techniques by Yoruba women in southwestern Nigeria. The name Adire is derived from the Yoruba language, which means ‘tie and dye.’ This method of indigo-dyeing is attributed to the people of the Dogon area. It is achieved by applying cassava paste or by tying the cloth to resist the dye. The patterns created by tying, stitching, or folding the fabric before dyeing are unique, and no two pieces are exactly the same. Over time, the Europeans introduced synthetic indigo and caustic soda to this method of fabric printing. Today, Adire is highly valued as an African print fabric, and it is used to design fashionable garments and accessories.
Kikoy, also spelled Kikoi, is a traditional African print fabric that has its origins in Kenya and Tanzania. It is handcrafted from 100% cotton yarn, making it a durable textile. Kikoy is versatile and can be used for creating beach towels, skirts, head wraps, wrappers, and much more. The material has gained immense popularity over the years with its unique design and feel. Kikoy can come in different designs and colors, making it a fascinating piece of African culture.
Adire fabric is another traditional African fabric that originated from the Yoruba people of Southern Nigeria. Adire fabrics are typically made using indigo dyes and a resist-dyeing technique. The result is stunning and unique patterns that represent different symbols and life events. The fabric is often used for making dresses, shirts, and more. The Adire material has been around for a long time and is still a popular choice in modern fashion.
Isi-Agu is a distinct African print fabric that is particularly popular among the Igbo people in eastern Nigeria. It’s made either from velvet or cotton material and is a resist-dyeing process which involves using wax to create beautiful designs on the fabric. The fabric can be combined with other materials, such as silk and metallic yarn, to create beautiful patterns. A pullover shirt is the most common garment that is created from the fabric, with long or short sleeves. To demonstrate the superior status of the wearer, the robe is adorned with gold buttons and a gold chain. The Isi-Agu fabric is also known as ‘Java Print.’ It is a 100% cotton fabric with a standard size of 6 yards (5.5mtrs).
If we talk about traditional African fabrics, Aso Oke is a popular one, notably used by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. This fabric is typically handwoven with cotton, silk, and metallic yarns, making it a special and unique fabric. It is often used for traditional clothing such as Agbadas, Filas, Iro and Gele. Aso Oke is quite thick and stiff, and because of its traditional value, it is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings or royalty. However, modern fabric manufacturers now use modern techniques that have reduced the thickness of the threads to create more comfortable fabrics. The fabric comes in different colors and patterns, and the contemporary African fashion industry now offers customized patterns that include animal prints and more modern designs.
Bogolan, also known as mudcloth, is a popular African fabric print produced by the Bambara tribe in Mali. It is dyed by fermenting mud made from a mixture of roots, leaves, wild grapes, and tree barks. This traditional African print is an art of mastery, and making a single piece of bogolan takes four to seven days to complete, depending on the weather. The fabric is mostly used in clothing such as special dresses in Mali, but due to its beauty and uniqueness, it is also exported worldwide for fashion and decoration purposes. Additionally, Bogolan is also used for tablecloths, pillows, upholstery or wall decorations to showcase the rich African culture and artistry.
One of the most unique types of African print fabric is barkcloth. It is made from the fibrous inner bark of various trees belonging to the Moraceae family, including Broussonetia papyrifera, Artocarpus altilis, and Ficus natalensis. The process of making barkcloth involves beating sodden strips of the inner bark of these trees into sheets, which are then decorated with embroidery or dyed to create intricate designs. This fabric is widely used in Uganda, Cameroon, and Congo, to create traditional clothing items like embroidered gowns or crocheted feathered hats. The popular Bamileke stitched resist bark cloth is also made using barkcloth. The unique texture and patterns of barkcloth make it a popular choice among fashion designers and enthusiasts who appreciate the cultural heritage and tradition it represents.
Shweshwe is a traditional South African fabric that has gained immense popularity over the years. It is a printed and dyed cotton fabric that is often referred to as the tartan or denim of South Africa. Shweshwe fabrics are known for their unique and vibrant geometric patterns, which run through the cloth. Named Clothing’s Syli Blouse pattern makes use of Shweshwe fabrics. The fabric obtained its name from its association with Lesotho’s King Moshoeshoe I. Today, Shweshwe fabric is extremely popular across the globe and many modern fashion houses use them to design unique and elegant garments.
Kanga is a type of cotton fabric that is widely popular in East Africa. It is similar to kitenge, but it’s much lighter in weight. What makes Kanga stand out is its unique prints. They usually feature motivational messages, love notes, and Swahili proverbs. In fact, Kanga has become extremely popular in the Western world, thanks to its versatility in making clothing, home decor, baby carriers, and more.
The patterns and motifs of Kanga are created via a dye mechanism, similar to Adire Batik. The symbols and colors used to represent messages and meanings are an important symbol of wealth and power. Kanga usually comes in vibrant colors such as blue, green, or red, adding an interesting pop to any outfit or interior decor. All in all, Kanga is a beautiful and versatile African print fabric that stands out with its unique prints, vibrant colors, and meaningful symbols.
Ukara-Ekpe is a fabric with a rich history and cultural significance in African tribes. This prestigious fabric was worn only by elderly women and titled men to indicate respect. Ukara-Ekpe is a form of adire fabric, a type of indigo resist fabric that originated from the Yoruba people of Southern Nigeria. The fabric is dyed in blue, green, or red, with each color representing different emotions and life stages.
Ukara-Ekpe was produced for the elite members in society and was used to create agbadas and filas, wrappers, and head ties. This fabric can now be found in different forms and patterns in various parts of Africa. The design evolution of the Ukara-Ekpe fabric tells a story of the cultural history of the African people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Ankara material is the best?
Ankara fabrics are a popular choice for fashion-forward individuals looking to add a bold pop of color and pattern to their wardrobe. These fabrics are typically made from 100% cotton and feature intricate designs that are as striking on the front as they are on the back. Whether you’re looking to create a statement dress or a pair of stylish pants, Ankara fabrics are incredibly versatile and can be used to create a wide range of clothing and accessories. One of the standout features of Ankara fabrics is their resistance to fading, ensuring that your garments will continue to look vibrant and fresh with each wear. Additionally, these fabrics are waterproof and can be dyed in virtually any color, making them a fantastic choice for creating one-of-a-kind pieces that truly stand out. Overall, Ankara fabrics are a must-have for anyone looking to infuse their wardrobe with a touch of African-inspired style and personality.
What are the grades of Ankara?
Ankara, also known as African print, comes in different grades based on quality and price. The grades range from A to D, with A being the highest quality and most expensive. Grade A Ankara has vibrant colors, high-quality fabric, and intricate designs, while grade D is considered lower quality with fewer design options and less vibrant colors. The grade of Ankara you choose will depend on your budget and individual style preferences.
What is special about Ankara fabric?
Ankara fabric, also known as African wax print, is a type of colorful and vibrant fabric that is culturally significant in Africa. It is made using a special wax-resist dyeing technique and often features bold patterns and designs. Ankara fabric is known for its versatility, as it can be used in a variety of clothing styles, from traditional African attire to modern fashion. It has gained popularity around the world for its unique and eye-catching aesthetic.
What are the names of Ankara fabric?
Ankara fabric, known for its vibrant and bold patterns, has several names including Dutch Wax, African Wax, Deluxe Wax, and Super Wax. It’s also sometimes referred to as “wax print.” This famous fabric is mainly used to make African clothing, especially wraps. Ankara fabrics are typically made from 100% cotton which makes it not only breathable but also comfortable to wear. Manufacturers of this type of fabric include Da Viva, Vlisco, and Hi-Target. These brands have been producing Ankara fabrics for years, and they have become a staple in African fashion. As the demand for more colorful and lively clothing increases, Ankara fabrics remain a popular and enduring choice for those seeking to make a statement with their clothing.
Which one is better: ankara or other types of Turkish clothing?
However, Ankara clothing is a popular type of Turkish clothing that features vibrant, colorful patterns and designs. Other types of Turkish clothing include traditional garments like the shalvar, which is a loose-fitting pant worn with a tunic, and the yelek, which is a vest worn over other clothing. Ultimately, the choice between Ankara clothing and other types of Turkish clothing comes down to personal style and preference. Both types of clothing offer their own unique features and can be worn for a variety of occasions, from casual gatherings to formal events.
African print fabric is an embodiment of culture, fashion, and vibrancy. Each type of fabric tells a story and has its significance. Kente fabric served an important ceremonial purpose for the Ashanti Kingdom of Ghana, while the Ankara fabric’s popularity spread to other countries in West Africa, with each country adopting unique patterns and styles. Barkcloth was used for clothing and also for bedding and shelter, while the Adire fabric was named after the Yoruba word for “tie and dye.” There are so many different types of African print fabric, each with its unique history and style. If you’re interested in incorporating these beautiful fabrics into your wardrobe, speak to us now to get a quote for customizing a piece specifically for you!