There are good numbers of traditional fabrics all through the continent of Africa. This includes popular brands like Ankara, Kente, Togho, Kitenge, Egyptian cotton and the rest of others. This article will investigate these African fabrics and subsequently highlight their origin and the respective tribes that wear them. We will also shed some light on the classification and appearance of these fabric clothing.
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African Fabrics: Country of Origin and the Tribes that Wears It
Africa is a continent notable for its diverse tribes with differing cultures. With the variance of people occupying this landmass, there is a difference in their way of dressing. This results in the numbers of different fabrics and clothing in the continent. Nonetheless, if you are looking for the full list of these fabrics and their country of origin, then the below write-up will be of help. We will outline the comprehensive list of notable African fabrics: their classification, country of origin, and the tribes that wear them. Follow with us as we encapsulate this.
Without much ado, below is the rundown of African fabrics, their originating country and their respective tribes;
Ankara is arguably the most prominent fabric in the continent. This kind of fabric was originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market. On marketing to the continent, the fabric got interest in West African countries because of the tribal-like patterns. Generally, Ankaras are worn by the most part of Nigeria, especially in the southern parts.
This is also another notable fabric in Nigeria. Aso-Oke is the prestigious hand-woven cloth originating from the Yoruba ethnic group, a major tribe in the southwest of the country. This kind of clothing is mostly used for special occasions in the Yoruba land and other parts of Nigeria.
This is a Ghanaian textile often referred as nwentoma in Akan or Kete in Ewe. It is an indigenous and traditional textile that is made of interwoven cloth strips of silk and cotton. Interestingly, Kente fabric is worn by almost every tribe in Ghana and it further represents national cultural identity. The name of the fabric ‘Kente’ comes from the word kenten, which means “basket” in the Asante dialect of Akan.
Akwete is a fabric of Igbo women of Akwete town in Abia State, Nigeria. The fabric was once referred as Cloth of the water, which means towel. Akwete is mostly weaved by the women on a vertical loom, and the clothing comes in different patterns and motifs.
Bogolan (loosely called mud cloth) is a handmade Malian cotton fabric. This kind of clothing is traditionally dyed with fermented mud. The importance of Bogolan fabrics can’t be questioned, as it has a place in traditional Malian culture and has, more recently, become a symbol of the country’s cultural identity.
Berber fabrics are hand-woven kind of African fabrics made by the Berber people in North Africa and the Sahara. The clothing come in traditional and modern designs, which are distinctive in their varying knitting patterns, dyes and fabric textures.
The Kabyle fabrics are from the Kabyle people of Algeria. These are Berber people indigenous to Kabylia in the north of the country. The fabric industry is giving way for textile and agro- alimentary in the country. Moreso, the White-faced Fabric of Kabylia, and its affinities, like the other “ Kabyle” fabrics, are wholly handmade.
Tuareg (North Africa)
The Tuareg people are part of the Berber group of people found in the North African countries of Mali, Niger, Libya, Algeria and Chad. Their most notable fabrics are the tagelmust (also known as cheich, cheche and litham). This is an indigo-dyed cotton garment, with the appearance of both a veil and a turban. This kind of clothing is mostly worn by Tuareg Berber men.
Egyptian cotton (Egypt)
This is a refined fabric made in the North African country. The Egyptian Cotton are softer, finer and last longer. Also, the weave of the fabric is significantly stronger and lasts a lot longer than regular cotton, which is due to the fact that the finer yarns mean a higher thread count.
Shema is a very popular fabric in Ethiopia, and as well as the neighboring areas. This popularity has made the clothing to be worn by almost everybody in these areas. The Shema fabrics is often worn in the form of full body wraps, dresses, shawls or sashes. Usually, the Shema is produced with a light weave used in many layers in blankets (known as Gabi) or clothing. Also, the density of the cloth depends on the weave that is used.
People in this East African country could agree to the fact that the Alindi fabrics is one of the major clothing there. With its striking decorative patterns and hard wearing quality, this Somalia traditional fabric is a very essential clothing in the country. This kind of African fabrics is available in cheap, factory-made textiles, which have flooded the local market, hence making it more appealing.
Olubugo is the local name of this African fabric. It’s an ancient craft that originates from the Baganda people of the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda. It’s mainly produced in the central and southern part of the country, where the Mutuba tree grows. The process of making barkcloth from this material existed before weaving was invented. This makes Olubugo one of the oldest textiles in history.
Kikoi is a traditional African woven cloth originating from East Africa, precisely Kenya. It is most commonly viewed as a type of sarong, and it’s a single piece of cloth which is wrapped around the waist.
Kitenge (East Africa)
Kitenge or chitenge is an East African, West African and Central African fabric often worn by women. This clothing is usually wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling. The printing on the Kitenge clothing is usually done by traditional batik techniques.
This is a traditional cotton cloth worn by African women especially in the East African countries, precisely Tanzania. The name of the fabric “kanga” is the Swahili word for guinea fowl. These African fabrics can be used as a skirt, head-wrap, apron, pot-holder, towel, and much more.
Samakaka is a fabric or clothing with symbols to show its unique appearance. Typically, this kind of African fabric originates from the Mumuila tribe in Angola.
Chitenge (East Africa)
Just like the Kitenge, the chitenge is an East African, West African and Central African fabric often worn by women. This clothing is usually wrapped around the chest or waist, over the head as a headscarf, or as a baby sling. The printing on the Chitenge clothing is usually done by traditional batik techniques.
Kuba Raffia (DR Congo)
Kuba clothing is a handwoven fabric produced by using the strands from raffia palm leaves. The raffia strands are dyed in a variety of earth tones using vegetable dyes, and followed up processes make this clothing. Kuba Raffia fabrics originated from the Kuba people who utilizes their clothes as skirts, wrappers, sleeping mats and even currency. This fabric has its origin in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Toghu is also one of the notable fabrics in Africa. Typically, this fabric has a unique appearance as it’s colourful fabric commonly done in black, gold and orange. Also, toghu is finely embroidered in different colours that form various bold patterns. All these make it very attractive and appealing.
Nowadays, African Fabrics are more in fashion and in the clothing industry. They are very conventional as both ladies and even men wear attires and accessories made of African Fabrics. Some examples of African textiles includes the: Akwete cloth – woven by Igbo people; Kitenge – dyed alluring cloth by East African people; Aso oke fabric – woven by Yoruba people; Kente cloth – woven by Ashanti and Ewe people; and a whole lot of others. This article enumerated the prominent African fabrics that are widely used in the continent.