History of African Print Fabrics and their Evolution in Bag Design

African print fabrics, introduced by Dutch merchants in the 19th century, were inspired by Indonesian designs and were adapted to African tastes. The term ‘Ankara’, a Hausa adaptation of ‘Accra ‘, the capital of Ghana, was the hub for selling these vibrant prints. This fusion of cultures and styles makes African Print Fabrics so fascinating.

The Kente fabric, a masterpiece originating from the Akan ethnic group in Ghana, is not just a fabric but is worn to celebrate traditional holidays, like New Year or Ashanti. Its patterns and colours are not mere aesthetics but a rich tapestry of symbolism. The Yellow, orange, and red stripes represent the sun, fire, and blood, embodying life’s energy. Purple, blue, and green stripes symbolize the sky, water, and fertility, reflecting the bountiful nature. The checkers represent the universe, and the square patterns are linked to the traditional burial of ancient kings, a testament to the fabric’s royal heritage. The people of Kuba in the Democratic Republic of Congo produce beautiful dying techniques, creating striking colours and stunning designs. The circle designs are linked to the sun and moon. Zigzags represent thunder, and the straight and diagonal lines represent rain, rivers, and streams, capturing the essence of nature’s power and beauty.

The Aso-oke is a type of handwoven, hand-dyed cloth native to the Yoruba ethnic group in Nigeria. It is manufactured from cotton, silk, and even lurex and is worn for special occasions such as weddings, parties, and other significant events. The aso-oke is a symbol of prestige, and the more intricate the design, the more prestigious the cloth. Mud cloth, another African fabric, is made from strips of woven cloth, which are then dyed in a solution of leaves and branches. Once dried, the cloth is painted with fermented mud collected from ponds, dried and washed to remove excess mud, and added with more mud. Finally, a bleach solution is added to make a pattern and left to dry in the sun for another week. The final outlook is a dark cloth with intricate white patterns, a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to tradition.

Africa has always been a major cotton producer for global fashion, with 37 of the 54 countries producing cotton, dating back to the days of the silk trade. This has resulted in $15.5 billion worth of textile exports annually, with a growth projection of  12.14% and an increased market share of US$10.12 billion in 2027. African fabrics have successfully become renowned in the fashion world. 

The use of African fabric in mainstream fashion items such as bags has grown with time. Some benefits of having an African print bag or purse include the uniqueness of the prints, patterns, and colours. This unique look is sure to stand out based on the vast array of designs, colours and patterns that the fabrics are made. It also gives a contemporary and trendy appeal, seeing that world-famous designers have adopted the African fabric into their creations. It is also versatile and can be used on any occasion to emphasize posh and class, and it also stands you out as a person with eclectic tastes. 

At African Gift Shop, we offer a unique range of handmade and African-themed bags. From handbags to satchel bags and backpacks, these African-themed gifts are available at the African Gift Shop (www.myafricangiftshop.com), the home of handmade and unique African-themed gift items. 

African Gift Shop is a black-owned business that sells African-themed gifts, unique African gifts, and corporate gifts. 

For your African-inspired gifts and bags, please visit us at www.myafricangiftshop.com and order your unique, bespoke and authentic gifts.

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