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This post is the first of our African print history series. We specialise in Ankara clothing at MamMaw. So, we thought that we would write about the print’s history. We hope you find this insightful and inspiring to explore more about African print history.


Ankara (meaning anchor in Greek) is indeed the title of Turkey’s capital. But, as well as this, it is also the name of African Wax Print. Symbolic of its inspired or original culture, this 100% cotton cloth uses various shapes and colours. You may have also heard of ‘Dutch Wax’, ‘Java’, or ‘Ntoma’, also used to reference this material.


What many may not know is that Ankara actually derives from Indonesia. There, it is called Batik. The print’s origins trace as far back as the 6th Century there! Who knew?

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the Europeans colonized Indonesia in the 18th and 19th Centuries. They took the Batik print to industrialise and merchandise it abroad. This trade modified the original Indonesian mechanizing process, which then grew prominent in West Africa. There, the Dutch and English ships sold the material on their way to Asia. As a result, the Indonesian merchants did not want that version due to the print’s significant modification.

Companies, such as the Dutch brand Vlisco, were established and imported Ankara to the enthusiastic African market by the 1840s. This developed what many know it as today- a textile widely embraced by West Africans, Nigerians in particular.

Africans came to make what we now know as Ankara their very own. By giving different print names meaning and styling the material in their own way.


Today in the 21st century, Ankara extends to an even broader scale. High-end retailers, like Stella McCartney (stay tuned for more on this later in the series), have utilised the print in their collections. This shows that Ankara latest styles are now more endorsed in mainstream spaces. What is more, established manufacturing companies producing these African prints, namely, GTP, ATL and Printex, which are all in Ghana and are also growing.


Knowledge is power, right? As the saying goes, once you know better, you do better. The more that people understand African print history, the less room there is for issues like cultural appropriation to happen. Watch this space for more on that subject later in this series!

Comment below & tell us why is Ankara print important.

Do you want to see our vast Ankara designs? Whether it’s classic or current styles you are looking for, feel free to browse through our store.

By Maxine Harrison.