The history on the Dutch: Afro-Asian Batik and Ankara
Contrary to popular belief, West African Dutch fabric, also known as Ankara did not originate on the African continent. Ankara is unique in relation to Batik in that it is made through the Dutch wax strategy. This strategy was made by the Dutch amid their colonization of Indonesia in the 1800s, with the objective of flooding markets with shabby machine-made impersonations of Batik. Sadly for the Dutch, these impersonation wax-oppose textures did not effectively enter the Batik showcase. They did, be that as it may, encounter a solid gathering in West Africa when Dutch exchanging vessels started presenting their textiles at West African ports.
The Dutch wax prints immediately incorporated themselves into African attire. Ladies utilized the textures as a technique for correspondence and articulation, with specific examples being utilized as a mutual dialect, with generally comprehended implications. Numerous examples started accepting infectious names. With time, the prints turned out to be more African-roused, and African-claimed by the mid-1900s. They also started to be utilized as formal wear by African pioneers, representatives, and the wealthy populace.
As the fabric became more popular, local companies in different African countries began to make their own more affordable versions, which quickly spread across regions. Soon, Ankara became synonymous with Africa and African style. As European influences became more engrained in African societies, Ankara was increasingly made into skirts, blouses, and assorted matching sets to feed all the different fashion needs of the continent. Fast forward to the Afrocentric wave of 2012, which brought in numerous niche online boutiques and even high street fashion brands give into supply chain of Ankara fabric.
As a sometimes blind follower of fashion, nothing has given me greater pleasure than watching something that I felt embodied a part of my West African culture become apart of mainstream culture. I remember seeing the slow but steady integration of Ankara, also known as West African Dutch print, into the fashion scene. Soon, fashion brands such as Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, and even Louis Vuitton, sprouted their own version of the infamous of Ankara. With many, I cried outrage in seeing “traditional” cloth be so blatantly copied by European and American influencers. These designs were predominantly shown on white model, slapped with exuberant price tags, which were far from the reasonable high street and custom African tailor prices that most of us were used to. Other than the blatant appropriation, it was far more insulting to see modes of African culture be represented by every person other than those who created and continue to push the culture.
While combing through all the hate toward European and American designers, I stumbled across African designers that create pieces from the African continent without the use of Ankara. Visionaries such as Amaka Osakwe, the Nigerian designer of the fashion line Maki Oh, a line that considers itself “a womenswear brand that fuses traditional African techniques with detailed contemporary construction.” These designers have elegantly merged their African culture with less flamboyant fabrics.
A quick glance of Osakwe’s designs is enough to appreciate the clean lines of her pieces, which are influenced by traditional wrapper styles commonly worn by Nigerian women for festive occasions. The pieces are brought to life with a metallic material, mostly used for head ties, and colors that represent the vibrance of her home city of Lagos, Nigeria.
As blind as many of us, have become to fashion trends, it has become apparent that African fashion has come far from just the exclusive and elusive European created wax print, to locally sourced and produced garments, worthy of any red carpet or international fashion week. Now, all that’s left is for us to read these nutritious facts and accordingly own our African culture on a global scale.