FabAfriq Magazine

African Fabric, An Emblem of Cultural Identity and Value

Africans can be identified not only with their skin color but also with what they wear. Time immemorial, Africans have always worn loincloths or fabric as it us currently called. The incongruity lies in the fact that this loincloth, thou warn by Africans, and therefore being a cultural identification,  does not originate from the African continent. The loincloth has now become a cultural identity and value to Africans.


The loincloth originates from the contact between Europe and Africa. It is said that around 1799, Holland had many colonies in Indonesia. Due to rebellion in these colonies, the Hollands decided to recruit and train mercenaries on African coastal regions especially in the west of Africa. This is how people from Ashanti who carried out a battle with people of Borneo and Sumatra, came back with trunks of Indonesian Batik. From this moment, Africans developed methods of producing different types of fabric with colorful designs.


Traditionally, African fabric has a great value and signification. It is a way to express culture. During weddings, it is used to pay the dowry. It can also be used to reinforce unity or to identify members of a  group or cultural association. African fabric can also be used as a symbol. It is usually said that a woman is identified by the way she knots her loincloth. That is how in some African countries distinction is being made among women. A woman wearing two superposed loins is said to be married, whereas a woman wearing one loin is said to be single. Colors on these fabrics also have a special meaning. Blue represents power, white is a sign of peace, red means honesty and yellow means fertility.


 The Kejetia Market, Kumasi, Ghana

Africans have their own traditional loincloth, such as bogolan and kente. Modern designers use both the traditional African and the European loincloths to come up with beautiful designs. Today, women do no longer wear fabrics just for traditional events. Fashion designers and creators are more inspired as they give more value to the African fabric. It is worn for daily activities such as going to work,   gala parties, marriages, leading to the afro-chic or ethno-chic style.




Many companies accross the world promote and distribute African prints. VLISCO is one of the biggest distributor of African fabrics in West and Central  Africa. They promote the African culture and heritage, but also  they are involved in the creation projects with leading brand consumers in the world of fashion and design.

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