African Fabrics 101: Part 1
With all this talk about African fashion and fabrics, we thought to have a blog describing the history and characteristics of some well known African textiles.
Ankara, also known as Chitenge or Kitenge and sometimes Dutch Wax, is one of the most popular African fabrics. Although the cloth's origins can be traced to Indonesia, it has become a part of the African way of life. It can be described as lightweight and colourful with bold, vibrant patterns. It is 100% cotton and is most popularly worn in western and southern African countries.
Kente cloth is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and can be traced back to ancient West African Kingdoms namely the Ashanti Kingdom. It is characterized by geometric patterns enveloped in vibrant colours such as yellow, gold, green, blue and red, each with its own symbolic meaning.
Aso-oke cloth originated with the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Many fibres are woven and bound together to create the cloth. Today, the cloth is made from strands of cotton, polyester, rayon, silk, lurex, and acrylic which are all merged together. Some Aso oke cloth, called "prestige cloth," has a lace-like appearance with intricate open patterns. It is most popular with the Yoruba people who tend to wear it during formal occasions, such as weddings.
Mudcloth (Bogolanfini) is a unique handmade Malian cotton fabric known for its geometric design. Narrow strips of hand-woven cotton are stitched together into a whole cloth, then painted with patterns and symbols using a variety of natural dyes, including fermented mud.