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Name That Print!

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Its no secret that African print has blown up globally in the past few years. High fashion  designers such as Gucci and Burberry have used African materials and textiles in their runway designs. Meanwhile, celebrities such as Solange, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and Fergie have all been spotted making fashion statements in African print. If you're reading this, than you have most likely already caught the African fashion buzz  and love the bold and vibrant prints you see on our website and all over the web.                                                              


There is no denying that these fabrics are absolutely beautiful. But, did you know that behind the bold patterns and colours there is a great deal of symbolism?Or that most of these fabrics have a name or a unique story?  Well if you did not know, than you have come to the right place. 


Many of the African prints you see  have a strong cultural, social and economic importance. African print is the generic name given to all prints that come out of Africa. The most popular fabric out of Africa right now is called Ankara.


Ankara fabric, formerly referred to as Dutch wax print, describes the light-weight and colourful patterns worn by many West and Central African men and women. Ankara is the name that was given to the fabrics when the Turks started making a more affordable version of it.

In Ghana, we refer to African print as both ankara and ntoma. Over the years, various names have been given to the fabrics by local Ghanaians who wear them and the market women who sell them.




                                                                                                                         Outfit designed by JINAKI 

 Nsu Bra or Nsu Bura

This fabric is very popular in Ghana. It is called Nsu Bra in the Ghanaian dialect Twi and it simply means water well. When something is thrown into a water well, it creates a ripple effect. This is what inspired local fabric traders to name this pattern Nsu Bra.  


Origin of The Design

Nsu Bra pattern first appeared in African markets in 1960. It was originally called 'the Disc' and

was designed in 1936 by Mr Piet Snel, a Dutch fabric designer at Vlisco. The design was derived from a very old drawing made in 1924. Vlisco is like the couture  of African print. They are the originators of West African print (Ankara). 

photo source: Vlisco 

Sika Wo Antaban

Sika Wo Antaban means 'Money has Wings.' This fabric encourages people to make good financial investments. If one is not careful with money it will fly away like a bird.This fabric is also an original design from Vlisco. 

 photo source: Vlisco 

Angelina (Dashiki)

Photo Source: Vlisco

The Angelina print is a recurring trend. It goes away an comes back every few years. Right now this print is VERY popular and can be spotted on multiple celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Chris Brown, Jhene, Rihanna and the list goes on. TIP: NEVER THROW YOURS AWAY!

The design was created 50 years ago by Vlisco’s textile designer Toon van de Manakker , who based the design on a 19th century Ethiopian noblewoman’s tunic. The ‘Angelina’ design became iconic during the 1960’s hippie era, around the world. 

Photo Source: Zimbio

Sarah Jessica Parker rocking an Angelina top at a SJP Collection Event


Afe Bi Ye Asiane

In Ghana Afe means year.  Afe bi ye asiane simply translates to each year has its ups and downs.


Sometimes prints are purposely designed for political and historical moments. This is the case with the fabric called Nkrumah pencil (pictured below).

Nkrumah Pencil 

 The Nkrumah pencil was named after Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was known for making strong comments and speeches. He used his pen to sign deportation and detention orders as a method of controlling political opponents.  Therefore, his pen was considered mightier than the sword and a weapon to his political opponents. 


Political inspired fabric's have also become popular here in the West. In 2009, Soap Star, Victoria Rowell turned heads at the The 61st annual Emmy Awards in a strapless dress embossed with Barak Obama's face. Can you also spot the Adinkra symbol's on her dress? *wink, wink*


Life Ntoma

 Life Ntoma is a funny name that was given to fabrics that have no name. We're unsure why they're nicknamed life ntoma. If you know please comment below.


There are probably thousands of different ankara print out in the market today. If we were to sit here and name them all, you would probably need a coffee or two, or maybe even Ofcourse we wouldn't do that to you.


What is your favourite fabric? What do you know these fabrics as? Please comment below. 




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