Print culture embodies all forms of visual communication, and the development of print dates back centuries. Where fashion is concerned, prints are an extension of our fashion plate.
Contrasting and complementing colors create texture. Colour pigments and graphic symbols are used to adorn fabrics like flattened jewels and embedded brocade. Prints on silk and other luxe fabrics are a guilty treat.
Ankara print fabrics are typically made through an Indonesian wax dyeing technique called batik. I learned that Ankara prints were initially intended for the Indonesian market but found a more fervent market in West Africa and spread throughout the continent and all over the world.
Prints are part of the fabric of Africa, literally. The important stories in African culture that is passed down to teach us about our history are not as commonplace as it was before, and it is even less so for those of us that are part of the diaspora.
I recall the intriguing stories about the renowned Andikra geometric motifs purposefully stamped on cotton fabric. Typically in black, white and rust-brown, made from vegetable dye. Each symbol conveyed a specific message, often about beauty, morality and higher values.
And the prestigious Kente cloth, originating from Ghana’s Ashanti region that indicated wealth and status and worn on special occasions. These stories told us about how each pattern hand woven into the narrow strips, broken into bands, signified a historical event, person or proverb. Such truth and strength explained to us as children and made us proud to be part of such a heritage.
These stories were not only powerful but also believed in building the community, influencing the way you see yourself and each other.
All of us should be celebrated and adorned with our heritage, no matter where we are from or have ended up. And in being creatively designed, sometimes, we should reflect who we are in how we present ourselves to those around us.
Each year we see a print trend dominate a fashion season and like a fleeting moment, it is gone. No longer desirable and too noticeable to be seen in again. This is not the fate of the prints repurposed and showcased in Africa. For the print there, is almost the same as wearing a neutral palette. These prints have become part of the landscape, traditions and memories across Africa. And this piece of Africa, like its people, can transcend into the diaspora and become part of the western culture we know today.