I’m back with another ankara print styling post. I curate this look with 90% of Mummy LAJA’s clothing and 10% mine. It’s a blessing having an incredibly stylish (and intelligent) mother who you can permanently borrow from. This peplum top is a no brainer; the orange and black floral print are LAJA incarnate and it’s so powerful. I paired the blouse with straight legged pants because we all know (and adore) the lengthening effects it gives the legs. I finished it
The ankara fabrics that we most popularly refer to as “African prints” were not initially intended for “Africans”. When I first found out, I thought “Oh really?😕 Oya continue.” Again, Dutch colonialists imitated Javanese batik to undercut the Indonesian fabric market. Inferior quality caused them to be rejected by local Indonesians so soldiers recruited by the Dutch to Indonesia brought home these imitation fabrics and they were widely favored.
They touched base in Ghana and have been popular ever since.
Okay, so what are you saying? That “African prints” are not really “African” since they’re not made in… wait for it, “Africa”? 😩Well, yes and no.
The oldest and arguably the largest producers of of anakra prints are by Europeans (or knock offs by Chinese convo for another day) despite the majority consumer demographic being African. It’s depressing and I felt that everything I believed in/stood for was lie. Knowing the fabrics I attached much cultural value to, that the world used to define “African” culture was dictated by and fed the economy of another was mind fucking on too many levels. The beneficiaries weren’t even native to the continent. I had a headache thinking, “nahh dis tew much” 😔😖
Okay, back up but the fancy/wax prints are African since they do reflect the diverse cultures and histories. Without the people and their stories, wax/fancy prints wouldn’t exist on the scale they do today. Industrialization/capitalism is a blessing and a curse but in as much as the culture makes the people, the people also make the culture. It is messed up that the big players in the African textile industry aren’t natives but all hope isn’t lost. Ghana produces beautiful and high quality batik fabric and there are several other fabrics that exist outside ankara fabric.
They’re just yet to be talked about.
I found myself in a dilemma because I love African prints, they’re all I care about but I was being unfair. People think it’s a trend but I believe its way more. A lifestyle.
My bio says “promoting the beauty, diversity and versatility of African prints.” While I was promoting the beauty/versatility, the diversity? Not so much. African prints are more than fancy/wax prints; mud cloth, kente, ishweshwe, adire, aso oke etc. I love photography/editorials and I’ll continue w/ those but there’s so much I have to learn about this industry, I’m passionate about. Thus, as I learn, I’ll share and I hope you’ll help me too.
Shit’s about to get real lol.😅
Wax prints can be hand-washed, machine-washed (w/ cold or warm water) or dry cleaned. There’s no need to use a garment bag but you can if you please.
Fading should be minimal because of the resin (a sticky insoluble compound) added to the fabric during production hence the name, “wax” prints.
I’ve gotten some vintage pieces from Mummy LAJA, some older than me and they still look as good as new. You can’t even tell. I think, dayumm, that’s some quality right thurr.
Fancy Prints Can Be Hand-Washed Or Machine Washed (Cold Wash On Gentle) However, Do NOT Dry Clean Them Especially If It Has Gold Colouring Or Shimmery Glitter.
If You Machine Wash, Throw It In A Garment Bag Before Putting It In. The Garment Bag Reduces Abrasion & Protects The Fabric’s Shine. Fancy Prints Do Fade If You Wash Them Too Often So Don’t Treat Them Like You Would Gym Clothings. In My Experience, I Haven’t Experienced Any Extreme Fading That I Can’t Wear Them Again (Print Quality Matters Tho). So Unless I Sweat Like Mad Or There Are Visible Stains, I Mostly Air & Fold.
I Find Hand-washing To Be The Best Method So I Recommend It. For Me, Washing Is A Punishment😥 So Thank God For Washing Machines Yass! Just Be Careful✌ How Do You Care For Your Prints?
I Find Handwashing To Be The Best Method So I Reccommend It. For Me, Washing Is A Punishment😥 So Thank God For Washing Machines Yass! Just Be Careful✌
How Do You Care For Your Prints?
African fabrics have 2 distinct categories woven cloth + printed cloth. Woven cloth is woven by hand or using a loom while printed cloth has patterns printed on it. True story😯😂 Woven cloth is more time consuming so they are often available in limited quantities at high prices. Woven cloth reflects craftsmanship so the finished product is usually high quality. Pictured above is ekwa-oncha (white cloth or george), a cotton textile native to the Ika tribe. You can see the visible weave patterns. Cool stuff👽
Printed cloth (called ankara in Nigeria) is commercial and readily available. Ease of access means quality and price vary. High quality print cloth (aka wax prints) is made using a wax resist technique that prevents fading. They are usually more expensive but readily available. Pictured above is fancy print👽
Fancy print cloth on the hand, is not manufactured using the wax-resist method so quality varies from shitty to excellent. Pictured above is wax print which is printed on both sides.
Nigerian Designer Duru Olowu’s Fall 2016 Ready To Wear Collection has me questioning what I consider Fall and Winter colours. At first glance, the colour choices are rather bright; blues, greens, oranges. It’s rather surprising the lack of darks but then, the Duro Olowu Woman cares not what time of the year it is. She will wear the printed dress, cheetah tights and leopard booties with no sh*ts given. And she will wins.
A moment of silence for the BEAUTY that is the orange cape + culottes combo. I have a terribly soft spot for orange so no surprise there. Besides, the cape, my favorite piece(s) have to be the print mesh ankara vest AND the black collage dress. I love the juxtaposition between the structured vest and the breezy skirt. The collection and theme is so heavy on the eyes you feel a bit uncomfortable with many clashing prints however, Duro Olowu does tend to push the boundaries on print-on-print combo.
The leopard print tights and zebra print boots are not my favorite but anyone getting 30s silhouettes with some Victorian inspo from this collection? High-necks, tea lengths, long sleeves, lots of animal prints and even the sheep in the background? What do you think? Yay or Nay for clashing prints? Share your thoughts below.
Photo: Luis Montreio / Courtesy of Duro Olowu
I’m beginning a new series called African Print Diaries where I really share my knowledge and research about the beauty, diversity and versatility of prints. As much as I love creating editorials, I believe knowledge is power and I want LAJA to be bigger than I am. I want to educate and empower people. As I learn, I’ll share and I want to learn from you too. With that, let’s begin.
- Bògòlanfini is the Bamanan translation of mud cloth. “Bogo”= mud and “Lan”= traces of…
- Yes, there is mud in authentic mud cloth fabric.
- Mud cloth is an old traditional fabric originating from Mali, West Africa. It is most famous in the city, Timbuktu.
- It is hand-made and hand dyed with vegetable dyes dating back to the 12th century AD.
- The fabric is known for it’s earthy tones and geometric patterns.
- Mud cloth gained popularity in the 90s when native traders in the diaspora began exporting to the US and Europe. Foreigners were quick to embrace the luscious fabric due to a growing popularity for all things “natural” and “ethnic”.
- Mud cloth is used for a variety of things from clothing to home decor (pillows, bedding), CD and book covers and more.
- Mud cloth is made from locally grown cotton spun onto yarn.
- The most popular bògòlanfini cloth has white geometric prints against a dark background.
- Bògòlanfini is worn by hunters to serve as camouflage, ritual protection and a symbol of status. For women, they are wrapped in the cloth after initiation into adulthood (which sometimes includes genital cutting 😦 ) and after child bearing. It is believe the cloth has the power to absorb evil influences present under such circumstance.
I’d love to see mud cloth made first hand. LAJA loves all things hand-made so this fabric is up my alley. Looking forward to adding some to my collection!
What else you do know about mud cloth? Share in the comments below!
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Cover photo source: The Well-Appointed Catwalk