African wax print

The surprising roots of African Wax print.

When you think of African clothing, you immediately think about color, interesting prints and special designs. You just simply can’t imagine the streets of Africa without these colorful prints. But, hate to break it to you: African wax print doesn’t have its origin in Africa! Shocker, we know, so let’s explain.

Where it all started

It was around 1800, when Indonesia was colonised by the Netherlands. While doing this, they got to know the Indonesian way of making decorated fabric by means of painting: Batik. The Dutch loved it and (greedy as they were during that time) copied the technology in order to  turn it into business themselves. Their idea was to make cheap machine-made batik print fabrics to outcompete the local handmade products. But this Dutch imitation batik had some imperfections and the Indonesians didn’t want to buy it.  

The creation of Ankara

In 1880, the Dutch were busy recruiting for their colonisation army in Indonesia. And as we all know, that didn’t go in a very humane way. Africans were brought to Indonesia as slaves to reinforce the Dutch army. When the Africans saw the ‘Dutch’ wax prints, they didn’t care about the ‘imperfections’. They took the fabrics back to their countries (among others Ghana) and made them their own: what we now know today as Ankara, the African wax prints! 

African wax prints nowadays

Today, batik inspired fabric and clothing is a well known fashion style in various parts of the world. The fabric is widely sold at open markets and stores all over West-Africa and is apart from local companies, manufactured all over the world, from China to (guess what), The Netherlands. In fact, Vlisco is located in The Netherlands. This is one of the biggest manufacturers and probably the most well known African wax print brand worldwide. However, we don’t use their fabric for our designs. The Hey Chaley fabric is bought at Central Market in Kumasi, Ghana.

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