African Wax Print Fabric
What is African Wax Print Fabric?
‘African Wax Print’ is the general term used to identify a category of vibrant-coloured textiles, with batik-like patterns. They are printed by machines using wax resins and dyes. The method is called wax-resist dying. The wax ‘resists’ the dye, which then cannot penetrate the entire cloth. This is how the different patterns are made.
African wax print fabrics are known by a few names, such as Super Wax, Java, and Ankara. Made using 100% cotton, (although polycotton is available) the fabrics have a slightly glossy surface, have a waxy feel, and a stiff, crisp drape.
Where is it from? A Very Brief History
Historically, African wax prints came from the Netherlands, during the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia. The Dutch set about making machinery that could mass produce prints that replicated the local batik fabrics of Indonesia. The aim was to dominate the Indonesian fabric market by flooding it with cheaper versions of the local, batik fabrics. However, the Dutch process of using machinery resulted in prints that contained flaws and imperfections, which were rejected by the Indonesian market.
In 1893, the Dutch wax print fabrics first landed in the West African Gold Coast (Ghana), where they found found their popularity. African wax print fabrics are now an integral part of African culture. Certain prints have specific names, with a story behind each print. The fabrics are worn by different cultural and religious sects in the West of Africa.
Other African Fabrics
The Dutch are not the only producers of African wax print fabrics. There are African countries producing their own prints. There are also many indigenous, African fabrics, such as:
Kanga (also called ‘Leso’)
Shoowa Raffia (Kuba)