A BRIEF HISTORY AND REBIRTH OF AFRICAN CLOTHING
It is said that “The cradle of humanity lies in the hands of Mother Africa”. Africa is a compound social and historical entity, where the rich sense of fashion runs as deep and as colourful as the continent itself. Fashion has always been a global language; a channel through which the diversity of Africa speaks to the world.
Contrary to popular opinion, some of the world’s greatest empires originated in Africa. Therefore, it is no surprise that a beautiful world of fashion coincides with such rich history. The transformation of African clothing is difficult to trace because of the lack of historical evidence. Every textile expresses the individuality of a place in a way that is completely unique; taking us on a journey through the fascinating history of the Motherland through the clothing of our ancestors.
We highlight the origin of four (4) of our favourite African fabrics and designs.
Adire textile is a resist-dyed cloth originating from the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria. Intellectuals are of the opinion that the origin of Adire is unknown, however believe that it has been in production as early as the 12th century. Adire translates directly as tie and dye in the Yoruba language; the technique was first applied to indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist-patterns. The symbols represented on the cloth created and standardized aspects of the people’s culture, drawn from history, legends, myths, proverbs, folklores, and deep observation of their environment.
THE GRAND BOUBOU
The Boubou also known as the African kaftan was worn by people of the Takur and Ghanaian Empires during the 8th century. It was also worn by the Mali and Songhai Empires during the 13th century. These days, the boubou can be made from a range of fabrics, in all sorts of variations and worn by all peoples of different cultures and race.ADINKRA AND KENTE CLOTH
The Ashanti Empire was a pre-colonial African state that surfaced in the 17th century. The Ashanti are especially known for two types of cloth: printed Adinkra and woven Kente.
Adinkra means farewell and was originally worn during burial ceremonies. In the past, the cloth was mainly made from Cassava tubers, but is now made out of Calabash rinds. This fabric was initially reserved as the exclusive property of the King or Asantehene. Nowadays, it worn by all.
The Kente cloth was worn on ceremonial occasions during the mid-19th century. Kente is composed of narrow strips of hand-woven material sewn together to form a rectangle. The cloth is predominantly woven by men and is double-sided with the design woven into the cloth. As a print, It has become a firm associated with what is described as ‘African print’ and used widely in creating contemporary African fashion designs.
Jason Benning, in 1967, coined the modern term Dashiki. The term originates from the combination of the Yoruba word “danski,” and the Hausa phrase “dan aki,” both of which translate to shirt. The shirt revolted against the fashion at that time and provided a symbol of confirmation for blacks, indicating a return to Africa’s roots and insisting on full rights in the American society. Today, the dashiki still serves as a garment that embraces African heritage while aiming to promote black pride.
Africa has a rich history of cultural designs which are fast finding their way into the western world. With endless pool of beautiful and interesting prints and colours to draw from in which most African Attires are made. It is little wonder that global fashion giants often draw inspiration from the Motherland.