African Prints: Timeless Classics, A Complex History

African Wax Prints as popularly known are actually not originally African. Yep, The Dutch wax print was brought to Africa as a cash crop by European traders and missionaries and gained roots in Africa in the nineteenth century. The complicated fabric history was originally inspired by India batik art that spread to the Indonesian Island (Java) and Japan. Its designs and usage by the people of Indonesia served as symbol of clan identity, fertility of women, initiation and marriage.

Other designs would later be introduced that were both symbolic and some not. This was due to the influence of interactions with the Indians, Chinese and Dutch Colonialists.

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch gained full colonial control of Javanese and they imbibed the batik art of the Javanese and began the production of wax prints. While this knowledge is fascinating, the meaning of the prints shows the close cultural traits of the Javanese people to that of the African people. Not necessarily interconnected but rather in showing how culture is deeply woven in the lives of the people. Its significance is expressed both physically as seen by the meaning of various fabric prints and by the upholding of the morals they hold, their love and respect for their culture as well as the strong respect they hold for the elderly and their leaders. The designs in Africa are a proud part of the culture which is why they continue to be worn for weddings, bridal showers, baby showers and many other family functions.

Over the last century we have seen the prints continue to evolve and now with globalization, the prints are not only popular in Africa and Asia but all around the world.

Fast forward to modern day fashion designs on these African wax print fabrics, there is no limit on what designers are doing to create beautiful modern day styles while holding on to the cultural heritage of the Africa print fabrics as we know it for over a century. There are designs to honor cultural heritage as well as to fit into the current dress trends. These stylish African print not only make great out fits but can also be used to express other creative outlets. By Arts and Crafts Connoisseurs, these fabrics are used to create unique items such as quilts, throw pillows, scarfs, wall décor and so much more.

Here you will find some designs of fabric that you can find today to express your creativity and appreciation of this complex fabric that is so rich in its history and culture.


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