What is Ankara?

The name Ankara is believed to have its origin from a girl called, well, Ankara. Many stories abound.

Ankara, commonly known as “African prints” or “African wax prints”, is a 100% cotton fabric with vibrant patterns that possesses great strength with its tight weaving. African wax print fabric is a defining metaphor of African design, fashion and expression; an immediately recognisable icon throughout the world.

 Quite simply, it just says, “Africa”.

Ankara was formerly known as “Dutch wax print”. It was originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market. But, by luck or by design, these prints garnered significantly more interest in West African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, than in Indonesia. Recognizing this opportunity, the Dutch decided to focus on West Africa.

As African countries gained independence in the 20th century, they built their own textile mills and started creating designs reflecting traditional African culture.The prints have since then evolved to truly reflect African culture and lifestyle. At first, Ankara was reserved for special occasions. People felt that the fabric was too flowery and too colourful for everyday wear. There was even a time when Ankara textiles were thought of as the fabric of the poor. But today, it has undergone a transformation to become the fabric of choice for many.

To the knowing eye, the design on a textile reveals a story, often meaningful to the wearer. The colours may also provide information about the wearer’s tribal origin, social standing, age and marital status. Dress plays an important role in African society, and has even been used as a form of protest. Designs and the way they were worn often made quiet but effective commentary on the colonial establishment.

Colours in African prints have an intimate association with tribes and regions. Sepia-ochre is generally accepted across Africa as the colour used to represent earth.

Yellow is the colour of initiation in Nigeria, while the combination of yellow/red belongs to the Igbo tribe of southeastern Nigeria.

African print designs fall into fours main categories:

– Women’s lives (family, love, housework)

– Society and what it brings, good or bad (alphabet, television, money, power)

– Nature (animals, flowers)

– Rhythm (music, drums)


Motifs in traditional African print designs often convey a metaphor and the design spins a tale. Beads in designs represent the African saying, “Precious beads make no noise”, meaning a good person does not need to blow his own horn. The Nigerian Aso Ebi dress tradition encourages members of a particular social group or those attending a wedding, naming ceremony or burial to adhere to a design or colour code. On weekends, it is common to see groups of people in such “uniforms” at bus stops and churches.


NSU BRA OR NSU BURA: A very popular fabric in Ghana, Nsu Bra in the Ghanaian dialect Twi simply means “water well“. When something is thrown into a water well, it creates a ripple effect — a pattern that defines the Nsu Bra print.











SIKA WO NTABAN: Sika Wo Antaban means “money has wings or Speedbird”. This fabric encourages people to make good financial investments. If one is not careful with money, it will fly away like a bird.











DASHIKI (ANGELINA): The ‘Angelina’ became iconic during the 1960’s hippie era, around the world. It stayed quiet for a while, but like all classic designs, it is making a powerful comeback now.



AFE BI YE ASIANE: In Ghana, Afe means “year“. Afe Bi Ye Asiane simply translates to “each year has its ups and downs“. True.











NKRUMAH PENCIL: The name pays homage to Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, whose writing instrument wrote many a speech and order, and was a powerful weapon in imposing his political will.




AKYEKYDEɛ AKI:  The back of the tortoise. I bet you never knew that was shape of this print which is quite common and also one of the retro prints. This print really does resemble the back of a tortoise’s shell with its rough and oval shape taking after the housing of the land-based reptile. Would it be that anyone who wears it is like the back of a tortoise shell? Resilient and protective? Perhaps.

 Akyekydeɛ akyi



'GRAMAPHONE' Pl3te: Thats not a typo but its just how the Ga's would pronounce Gramophone and plate (pl3te) Gramophone plate is the name of this design which resembles vinyl disc used with the gramophone player to play music.

'Gramaphone' Pl3te - FABRIC