For the love of all things Ankara… and a bit of a history lesson on the origin of Ankara

For the love of all things Ankara… and a bit of a history lesson on the origin of Ankara

Background Image Credit:

And so the verdict is in!  When I asked this question, it did not even occur to me that I was actually conducting a poll.  I just needed an answer to a question that had been on my mind for years!  And my goodness, the response has been overwhelming.  Wow guys!  Thank you all so very much!

The best part of (what I would now call a survey) is that I learnt a lot!  I even discovered this new kind of fabric I never knew existed called Japanese Cotton.  It is amazing what you learn when you do a bit of research.  And the best part it, it was great connecting with people and rubbing minds with them.  I could really get used to this social media thing…

But you know what the really interesting thing is… 

The general idea is that ankara is african.  Let’s even forget the fact that it is actually produced in Holland, from my little research, it turns out that ankara is actually Indonesian in origin.  I know right?!  

Here is just a tiny peek at the article without going too deep into a history lesson…

Image from

Images from:
Photograph of Gwen Stefani by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz. Photograph of Milla Jovovich by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Marni and H&M. Photograph of Burberry Prorsum Spring/Summer by Samir Hussein/Getty Images.

 The Curious History of “Tribal” Prints 
How the Dutch peddle Indonesian-inspired designs to West Africa 
by Julia Felsenthal. 
So when we talk about these African prints, what are we really talking about?
The patterns found on Dutch wax prints. Dutch wax is a kind of resin-printed fabric that has long been manufactured in the Netherlands for a West African market. But to call these fabrics either Dutch or West African is to ignore a far more complicated set of origins. Yinka Shonibare, the well-known Nigerian artist whose work often features these prints, has made a career out of exploring the history of the designs. “The fabrics are not really authentically African the way people think,” Shonibare has said. “They prove to have a crossbred cultural background quite of their own.”
The story begins in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where locals have long used the technique of wax-resist dying—basically applying wax to a cloth, and then dying over that wax to create a pattern—to make batik. These elaborately patterned handmade textiles bear some similarities to the prints we’ve been noticing on the runways: bold, repeating, intricate motifs set against backgrounds of varying hues. So what accounts for the overlap? One prevailing theory is this: In the mid-19th century, the Dutch enlisted a bunch of West African men—both slaves and mercenaries—to beef up their army in Indonesia. While there, these men took a liking to the local handicrafts and brought batik back to their home countries. And voila: A taste emerged in West Africa for these Indonesian designs.
In the meantime, Europeans were hard at work figuring out how to manufacture their own versions of batik, with the intention of flooding the market in Indonesia with cheaper, machine-made versions of the cloths (the handmade versions were labor-intensive and expensive). Finally, at the end of the 19th century, a Belgian printer developed a method for applying resin to both sides of a cotton cloth, and the machine-made wax-print fabric was born.
But there was a problem: The machine-made version of these cloths developed a crackling effect—a series of small lines, dots, and imperfections where the resin cracked and dye seeped through—that didn’t appeal to Indonesian batik purists. In need of a market for the new textiles, the Dutch turned to West Africa. As it turned out, West Africans were actually partial to these imperfections: They appreciated the fact that no two bolts of cloth were identical. The West African fondness for this effect was so pronounced that Dutch wax manufacturers still program those imperfections into the printing process today, long after the actual mechanical limitation has been resolved.”
You can read the rest of the article here .  It is quite a long but very interesting read and it puts things into better perspective right? 
Here is also another interesting article on the history of ankara on the site “Beyond Victoriana”: #71 “African Fabrics”: The History of Dutch Wax Prints–Guest Blog by Eccentric Yoruba
Okies!  So now that we know that we don’t really own ankara, does it make us love the prints any less?!  Nope!  Not for a second!
And on that note, let’s go back to our polls!  Here are just a few snapshots of people’s responses to the question.  Such a diverse set of views on the one fabric we all love the most!  Here are a few snapshots of the responses I got:

And Kannie was kind to educate me on the Japanese cotton as well with pictures…

So there you have it!  People’s opinions.  It’s not like there is any right or wrong answer.  It just depends on the perspective you are coming from.  And of course after collating the responses, here are the results of the poll…..

Yup!  Most people said the prints made ankara “ankara”.  So the vibrance of the fabrics is definitely responsible for its mass appeal.

But you know what I think?!  I think it’s BOTH!  Why?!  Because ankara print on any other fabric is not really considered as ankara but an ankara wannabe. Lol!  So granted the print is important, but the print on the cotton makes it what it is.  

And why do we love it so much?!  Ruth could not have said it any better! 😀

Thank you all for taking the time to respond to this once again!  It is much much appreciated!
× Whatsapp Us