We love Ankara, don’t we folks? Vibrant and colourful, the wearer will always stand out in a crowd as undeniably, beautifully African. And it is these properties which are synonymous with modern African fashion. Beautiful bold prints in bright colours. But did you know that Ankara and Kente fabrics do not originate from Africa?
Despite these materials being deeply rooted in African Fashion history and tradition, according to the history books, the first sighting of clothes in Africa dates back to 2000 B.C.E. How true this is or not, is impossible to know. But Ankara fabric, which has a rich west African heritage, and has been popular in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal originally came from an Indonesian cloth named Batik. According to the history books, it was slaves and mercenaries recruited from West Africa to be part of the Indonesian army who took a liking to Batik and returned to West Africa with the cloth.
Then there’s the story of the West African indentured soldiers for the Dutch in Indonesia, also known as the Black Dutchmen. These black soldiers. served in Java for the Dutch army between 1810 and 1862 and many had taken Indonesian batik with them on their return home as gifts for their loved ones. That’s when local interest in the fabrics grew, in Holland and the Dutch wax prints began to be manufactured. At the same time, Europeans in Africa preferred the west African patterns more so than the original Indonesian versions and so manufacturing began in west Africa where market women had taken a liking to the materials and even made better patterns themselves.