The Origin of Ankara

June 14th, 2012

An image of ‘African fabric’ isn’t necessarily authentically [and wholly] African” – Yinka Shonibare. African print, popularly known as Ankara, has gained popularity in the global fashion scene since 2010. The material is primarily associated with Africa mainly because of the tribal-like patterns and motifs. Since it’s ascension in global fashion, much talk has focused on whether or not African fabric is authentically African given the fact that the fabric was in fact originally made in Europe.

Ankara was formerly known as Dutch wax print. It was originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market. But, by mistake or design, these prints garnered significantly more interest in West African than in Indonesia. Recognizing this opportunity, the Dutch decided to focus on West Africa. As such, the prints changed to reflect African culture and lifestyle more. African print was henceforth born. As you might suspect, this is the condensed gist of the issue. The Eccentric Yoruba can give you the main story here.

The long and short though is the universal acceptance of these prints in the West African market specifically. Ankara is one of the cheapest traditional fabrics (made even cheaper when Chinese manufacturing of the fabric became widespread). If you notice, other African fabrics like Aso Oke are reserved for special occasions, but Ankara is used for everyday wear.

But back to the authenticity of the fabric; obviously, the origins of Ankara are not at all African but rather European. However, I still see Ankara as authentic African Print because of what it represents (as opposed to where it was first made). Does the fabric represent African culture? Is Africa the first thing that comes to mind when you look at Ankara? Do Africans generally identify with the prints? I can confidently answer ‘Yes’ to these questions and as such proving the authenticity of the Print. Also, I see no reason why we can’t recognize the influence that the Dutch had on Ankara. After all, they’ve played their part but now it’s in the hands of Africans to use the fabric to promote our own culture.

Photo Credit: + Google Images

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  1. Akara prints could be from dutch, but have we considered the origin of the first set of artists that made the design for the the first sets of prints to be done? Have we considered the fact that the artist could have some afrian influence through cross boder artifacts/artworks from africa?

  2. Daniella says:

    I love this article be writing more on our african fashion

  3. I agree I encourage us to rep our swag and know our history.

  4. JeremyB says:

    Ankara clothes really rock, I love them, i regularly buy some from and it is really top stuff.

  5. […] than in Indonesia. Recognizing this opportunity, the Dutch decided to focus on West Africa. (source Muse Origins ) When taking the photos the model reminded me of the 90′s Will Smith…Hence the title […]

  6. […] as well because of the accessories, they don't require much fabric. I saw an article about the origin of Ankara and have decided to share with you. PS: I make custom outfits or accessories with your desired […]

  7. […] The event showcases emerging & established designers from the African Diaspora and their use of Ankara, an African print that has gained popularity in the global fashion scene. “The material is primarily associated with Africa mainly because of the tribal-like patterns and moti…“. […]

  8. […] answer to your question…..this link should help: . Whether this is an authentic African textile, I cannot tell as its origin is not attached. The […]

  9. […] clothing is unique and attractive. Lace, jacquard, adire, and ankara are some of the materials that are used to prepare dresses in Nigeria. Nigerian clothing for […]

  10. Right here is the right web site for everyone who wishes to find ouut about this topic.

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  11. 2'WYTH says:

    Beautiful piece of information that makes me wear ankara print with pride. 2’WYTH

  12. […] little value to society – apart from the occasional distraction of watching people twerk in ankara. Trying and failing to be concave lenses to this myopic notion is usually due to: selective […]

  13. […] in cultural and casual contexts but I have never had the confidence to try it myself using the Ankara print fabrics. Plus I was never very imaginative with mudcloth. I basically just wrapped it around […]

  14. […] pieces to bring forth an amazing street style.  She recently started a collection using original Ankara and printed fabrics to design accessories and clothing, and she sells a beautifully curated […]

  15. […] a couple sites explaining the history of the type of prints Vlisco sells: What is Ankara? and The Origin of Ankara.  I learned that these types of prints are the result of the Dutch appropriating Batik […]

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