Most people in Nigeria believe African wax prints also known as Ankara prints is purely African.
In a piece by Melanie Brown, a Vogue writer; reveals the prints are “actually from the Netherlands”set up to compete with the local artisanal techniques. These prints opened a new market in Indonesia and Africa during colonisation and the industrial revolution era.
For every cotton wax print produced by the Dutch, it hit the Western part of Africa; Ghana first then spread throughout the West of Africa and beyond. Each of these pattern has a unique technique and a story behind its production.
For every classic African wax print some of which we are familiar with in the local markets stories most people don’t know about. Melanie Brown of Vogue Magazine shares the stories behind 8 of these prints.
The Alphabet print created in 1920:
Mainly worn by people who were literates in the colonial era. The elitist piece still serves as a symbolic piece and used by “political parties for propaganda“, Melanie writes.
Elizabeth II print created in 1956:
Shortly before Nigeria gained independence, Queen Elizabeth II visited for the first time. The print was designed to give her a “warm welcome“.
Fly Whisk created in 1950:
In Ghana, the fly whisk symbolises “power and prestige“. These brooms served as tools for hitting flies and mosquitoes perching on the Kings and chiefs of the Akan people who live in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Darling, don’t turn your back on me:
Created in 1980, this print is a message popularly known to the women in Togo. It sends a message of infidelity of some sort like when they feel their man isn’t looking or caring about them but looking at other women.
According to Melanie; the shell is one of the earliest designs and a classic print in Ghana. It shows the wings of the Indonesian Garuda bird (a national emblem). In Ghana, the design is seen as a bunch of banana while in Togo, people call the print, “snail coming out of its shell“. Wearing this print also mean you should “mind your business“.
Michelle Obama’s Handbag in 2008:
The print was named after Michelle Obama when she and Barack Obama became the President of the U.S. The African market wanted to make a connection between Michelle Obama and a bag designed by Vlisco for her. It was just to appeal to the people who can’t be Michelle or afford to carry the bag she carries but can find a connection to the wax printed version.
Violent Eyes, The Mouth Says Nothing:
Created in 2011 in the Netherlands, the interesting print is quite self explanatory. Full of sealed lips with a giant toe and polished nails; the story behind the colourful print is that women should be ‘elegant and at the same time be full of humour”.
Reproduction Fan Print in 2000:
In 1980, the electrical fans were brought to Africa and the fans on the print symbolises modernity. Still a classic but comes in new beautiful designs seen at the local market.
Find out more detailed account of the African print stories here.
Which of these Ankara prints is your current fave?