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For this Black History Month, we will be sharing the vast array of African print names. In our previous blog, we mentioned that Ankara's origin traces from Indonesia, as far back as the 16th century. The print arrived in Africa in the 19th century. However, the Indonesian process differs from how Africans make Ankara. In this post, we explain the different African print names.


To make Ankara print fabric, a block-printing machine is needed. This applies the resin to both sides of the material. Next, the dye absorbs this, which enables it to repel the resin-covered segments of the fabric. To enhance the drawing’s colour, this process is repeated. Finally, the resin is removed by boiling the cloth. Sometimes forming cracks in the wax add uniqueness to the fabric’s print.

And each print has an individual name and meaning that documents African culture. For example, the colour red can symbolize death, as well as have a spiritual and political association. Comparatively, silver can indicate peace, joy, femininity, and the moon. Shapes are symbolic too. For example, squares can represent the earth, whilst a golden stool is a symbol of power.


Ankara prints include different types of designs. For instance, MamMaw uses a print called “Abankaba”. This translates to ‘handcuffs for prisoners’ in Twi. As a result, this piece has somewhat of a political tint to it, whilst creatively crafting ordinary banal objects into the vigorous textile.


We also use the “Ketepa” print. This means ‘good mat’, also in Twi (Ghanaian language).


On the other hand, Kente is an indigenous African cloth famously worn by the Akan people group in Ghana. This vibrant woven fabric is spun into 3- 4-inch-wide panels and is made from cotton, rayon and silk. There are more than 300 patterns of Kente.


This print literally translates to ‘gravel’ and looks like cobblestones. The pattern originates from a saying that means ‘when you get hurt by the people close to you, it hurts more than someone who is not close to you’. So true, right? We love the various versions of this print.


This print is another example of a pattern that is inspired by the everyday things in life, with snails being a popular dish in some West African countries, for example. It’s an example of how Africans have made Ankara their own by embedding their cultural experiences into designs such as this. The Igbo tribe in Nigeria also refer to the Snail print as ‘Big Bible’ and often wear it during festive seasons.


The dashiki print has been around for a long time and was made even more popular by African Americans in the 1960s & 1970s


Adire is another ancient African material. The Yoruba Tribe of Nigeria often wear this resist-dyed cloth. The procedure of creating this print uses hot liquid wax, indigo and elu leaves. Then, the dye is submerged into earthenware pots. This time duration depends on the desired hue. Motifs in Adire print vary from cassava leaves representing life to guinea corn symbolizing that ‘’the hand that feeds you never lacks.’’

The beautiful thing about fashion is that it is a way of expressing who you are to the world. We love that African styles allow you to do that and often have threaded themes (pun absolutely intended) into the prints.

If you would like to discover more African prints this black history month, have a look at our shop.

By Shantel MamMaw.