Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Where the Ankara is rooted

The local fashion scene has been abuzz with the newest hip and trendy wear Ankara.

I was not so much into finding out what the fuss was all about until my mother, who is anything but fashion conscious, told me she wanted an Ankara outfi t for a wedding so I decided to investigate on this new fashion phenomenon.

I have seen all the beautiful designs and patterns and would not mind owning an outfi t or 2 or 3 or even 4 made from this beautiful African fabric but what I’m really interested in is where this fabric originates from – the history, the culture and how and when it was intended to be worn.

The fi rst time I saw an Ankara outfi t, I immediately compared it to our very own leteisi (German print) which is worn traditionally for weddings and many other ceremonies, mostly by women and has, over the years, evolved from the traditional and modest patterns to fit the fashion trends of that particular time.

So I decided to follow up and fi nd out exactly where the Ankara began. With the help of Google, particularly, I managed to fi nd out a bit about where this fabric originated from. The Ankara fabric, formerly referred to as Dutch Wax from Holland, only became known as Ankara when the Turks started making a cheaper version.

Back in the early 60s, Mrs. H.I.D. Awolowo was among the very fi rst to import and sell lace fabrics; the Okunowo Brothers were the primary importers of damask in the late 50s and early 60s and PZ, UAC and Zabadne and Co. were also the primary importers of Dutch Wax and, later, Ankara in the 70s. Because of the popularity of the light-weight and colorful nature of the Dutch Wax/Ankara fabric, local Nigerian manufacturers decided to try their hand at the trade of the fabric. In no time at all there was so much competition among the different companies that were importing the fabric that the demand for consumption, particularly along the West African coast forced the local production to grow at a very fast and high rate. Unfair trading and smuggling by individuals as well as companies forced the halting of local production. The Ankara was the western rival to the ‘adire’ cloth but because the dye was faster and did not stain as much, the locals abandoned
their own fabric in favour of the more colourful version from Europe. But because of forever evolving and reoccurring fashion trends, the Ankara has made a strong come back into the industry and is among the most popular cloths in the market.

They say clothes make the person, or is it a person makes the clothes? Either way, it does not matter because at least now if the clothes are what make the person you will now know the origins of the Ankara that makes you, or the Ankara that you give personality to.


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