Ankara fabric is a popular type of fabric that is used to make African prints. Also referred to as African prints, African wax prints, Holland wax, or even Dutch wax, those who love this kind of fabric know it when they see it. Characterized by its colorful prints, this is what people often associate with African clothing. Here’s a look at what Ankara fabric is and how it’s used for clothing in Africa, especially in West Africa:

Information About Ankara Fabric

Ankara refers to a method that is used to create prints on fabric. It is usually printed on 100% cotton and features the bright colors and interesting patterns that often characterize African clothing. Unlike other patterned fabrics, the intensity of Ankara fabrics doesn’t change that much depending on whether or not you look at the front or the back. It’s also referred to as “wax print” because it uses a “wax resistant” technique that is also common in making the Batik prints that are popular in Indonesia. In fact, the method of creating Ankara prints is influenced by Batik.

fabricAnkara Fabric is also referred to as wax print

History of Ankara Fabric

As mentioned above, the method for creating Ankara fabric has been influenced by the Batik prints that are common in Indonesia. However, there are differences between them that usually related to the way the wax is melted and the types of patterns that are formed. There was a time when Batik was a popular choice for fabric in Africa but it was expensive. During the 1800’s, Dutch companies in Africa developed a new technique called Ankara that produced a similar result. Although this fabric, at the time, failed to compete with Batik, it eventually gained popularity and is still used today. Essentially, the method for creating Ankara that was used back then is still in use today.

No two Fabrics are the same

Today Ankara is used to make African clothing for men, women and children

Method for Creating Ankara Fabric

Because manufacturers wanted to create a type of fabric that was similar to Batik, the methods to create both Ankara and Batik are similar. Both involve spreading hot wax across the cloth before it is dyed to create interesting patterns. The wax acts as a barrier and wherever the wax was placed, dye can’t penetrate. If the pattern involves a lot of colors, the fabric is often pre-dyed before the wax is applied. However, that all depends on the pattern.

Difference between Batik and Ankara

The major difference between Batik and Ankara is the patterns that are created. Although Ankara prints can be made by hand, they are typically produced on a large scale by textile machines. Both methods produce unique patterns in their own right. Machine-made Ankara has imperfections due to a “crackling” effect that the handmade versions don’t have. However, handmade patterns are unique and no two handmade patterns are the same. Both types are in high demand.

Today, Ankara is used to create African clothing for men, women, and children as well as accessories and jewelry. You can find Ankara print jewelry, purses, belts, shirts, dresses, pants, and more. Check out our Ankara fabrics at