Ankara Unique Stories; Book by Anne Grosfilley “African Wax Print Textiles

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Ankara “There are colours you would not see in other types of textiles,” Grosfilley says, citing deep blue with orange. These are also clothes with deep meaning: often, fabrics have hidden messages.

This groundbreaking book reveals the complex origins of African wax print textiles. In beautifully illustrated chapters, Anne Grosfilley traces the process of printing and dying the fabric, involving wax or indigo, to its West Indian roots. She also explores the differences of mass-produced and artisanally sourced fabrics, tracking where textiles go from the manufacturing centers to markets and cities throughout Africa and the world. Grosfilley offers the fruits of her own passionate research as she profiles a variety of individuals from rural venders to trendsetting fashionistas. This eye-opening study celebrates the enormous variety of African fabric styles and uses, and explores the complex interconnections between the continent and colonialism and between modern technology and Old World practices.African Prints

“It is everywhere but at the same time people don’t know really the story and the meanings of this textile,” says Anne Grosfilley, author of a new book, African Wax Print Textiles, published by Prestel this month

African wax prints actually came from the Netherlands. In the second half of the 19th century, fuelled by the industrial revolution and colonial expansion, new markets opened in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) as well as Africa. With the Netherlands securing its presence in Java, its textile companies began competing with the local artisanal batik techniques, producing their own cotton prints. These Dutch wax prints, however, bombed as the Dutch dyes created cracks, so new markets had to be found.African Textile

In 1893 the first Dutch wax prints landed in the African Gold Coast (now Ghana), where they became style and status symbols. During the 1950s, their appeal spread across west Africa, when the Mercedes-Benz driving female entrepreneurs (known as the Nana Benz) bought the fabrics into Togo and gave them names to add mystique.Ankara

Africa’s fight for independence in the 1960s led to wax prints being made locally. More recently, cheap Chinese copies have made wax prints more accessible to the rest of the world. Now, wax prints are worn with denim and other Western styles with men donning the print too. Here, a selection of the most intriguing wax prints and the unusual stories and meanings behind them.

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