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African Textiles You Should Explore


Africa is a continent brimming with talented artists. This inventiveness may be seen in the various types of African textiles that are available today. The fact that these textiles have been around for a long time and that they are still adaptable today is one of their most noticeable characteristics. These textiles, in particular, can be used to make any garment while yet exuding genuine Afrocentrism.

 

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How many of these African fabrics do you know? Not many?

Well, it won’t matter anymore because you’ll be more knowledgeable about the types of African textiles once you’re done with this article.

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Anyways let’s see what these textiles are.

 

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1. Ankara

 

 

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The Ankara fabric was originally produced by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market through a process called ‘Batik. It is also known as African wax print,  Kitenge/Chitenge or Dutch wax print.

 

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It is known for its colourful prints that represents the African culture. Most of the time, these prints tell different stories

 

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Furthermore, nowadays, Ankara is used to produce different clothing styles and accessories. There is virtually no excuse not to wear Ankara. This is because there’s a wide array of options for its use. That is, if you can’t wear it as clothes, wear it as shoes and earrings. You can carry it as a bag or use it as a phone casing.

2. Ukara Ekpe

 

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Ukara Ekpe is a textile woven in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state in Nigeria. It comprises a woven material usually dyed blue, sometimes green or red. To make this fabric, elderly women dye the material in secret while young men do so in public. On this textile are nsibidi symbols and motifs usually designed by male nsibidi artists in Igbo-speaking towns.

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These symbols include masks, metal rods, moons, trees, stars, feathers, hands in friendship, war and work, etc., are all embossed on this fabric. Originally, Ukara was a symbol of wealth and power given to titled men and elderly women.

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3. Kente

 

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Kente is a Ghanaian fabric made of handwoven cloth strips of silk and cotton. It gets its name from the word “kenten”, which means “basket” in the Asante dialect of Akan language.

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This fabric developed from different weaving traditions that existed in Ghana before the 11th century. Also, folklore has it that weavers invented kente by trying to replicate the patterns of the spider called Anansi. And according to history, royalty wore Kente for religious and sacred purposes. However, these days it has evolved to be a symbol of African heritage for all and sundry.

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Moreover, the colours of Kente fabric are not always in isolation as they have meanings attached to them. For instance, white stands for purification and sanctification rites while black represents mourning.

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4. Adire

 

 

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Adire styles has been blended into both tailored and ready-to-wear pieces. To illustrate, you can take this textile to your tailor to sew something for you. And you can also take your ready-made clothes to textile artists to tie and dye them into Adire.

 

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5. Isi Agu

 

The name ‘Isi-Agu’ means lion’s head in Igbo. Basically, this fabric has lion’s head prints on it. Isi Agu is often used to make a pullover tunic shirt that is either long or short-sleeved.  This shirt also called ‘Chieftaincy’ was traditionally given to a man anytime he got a chieftaincy title. The attire is usually paired with a red fez hat or the Igbo leopard cap known as Okpu Agu in Igbo language.

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6. Bogolan

 

This is otherwise called mudcloth. It is produced by the Bambara tribe of Mali. The meaning of the name of this textile in Bambara is ‘made from mud’. It is one of the types of African textiles that doesn’t have any harmful chemicals because it uses dried plants and fruits as dye.

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This fabric is traditionally dyed with fermented mud. To begin the process, Malian men usually weave cotton thread on a loom. Then they make the dyes by mixing roots, tree barks, leaves, and wild grapes together. The process of making this textile is thoroughly handmade. However, it is time-consuming and takes four to seven days depending on the weather.

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Besides clothing reasons, mudcloth is also used for art and decoration. For instance, hotels often use Bogolan as tablecloths, pillows, upholstery or as wall decorations for walls. In addition, African warriors and hunters of years ago used Bogolan as a form of camouflage.

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