google-site-verification: googlecb803562c78427f3.html African Wax Fabric: Production and Use | Kingdom of Africa



Posted by Florian Cheval on


Kingdom of Africa has just launched its colorful range of African printed fabrics ! In this article we will discuss their production, patterns, and uses as well as various essential maintenance tips.


Wax, also known as fabric Kitenge or Ankara , is a colorful fabric, 100% cotton, mass produced, commonly worn and used to make clothing, decoration, accessories and many other products in Africa.

Wax fabric decoration

The method of producing the fabric is called 👉 Batik , a wax-fast dyeing technique and an ancient art form that originates from Indonesia.
The print patterns and colors are identical on the front and back of the fabric. The quality of the fabric depends on the type of cotton fabric used as well as the manufacturing processes.


When the Dutch colonized Indonesia, their traders discovered batik fabrics and brought samples back to the Netherlands. Dutch textile manufacturers developed ways to print the fabric in bulk by machine and began producing cheaper, batik-inspired imitation fabrics.

The History of Indonesian Batik

The popularity of these fabrics was largely due to West African soldiers serving in Indonesia, as they brought the batik fabrics back home. Several different manufacturers in Europe, including the British and Dutch, produced the fabric for many years before manufacturing spread to African countries. Please see our full article on the History of Wax , for more details.


There are many different styles and designs of African print fabrics, which change frequently in African markets. It can be difficult to buy the same fabric twice unless you buy from a physical store or online.

wax fabric styles and patterns - Kingdom of Africa

Some examples of printed fabric designs include: flowers, plants, animal designs (especially birds), African fabrics with tribal designs and geometric shapes.


The fabrics worn by african women are sometimes used as a method of non-verbal communication and expression due to their well-known hidden meanings. The colors and symbols used in each printed design can symbolize a tribe, a marriage and the social status of the person wearing them.

Once the fabrics are designed, printed and distributed to markets, particularly in West Africa , the women who wear them create the stories and hidden meanings behind them. This information is passed on to the manufacturer who gives the fabric a catchy new name.

African animal print fabrics

Animals are often depicted in the designs of African print fabrics, particularly birds such as chickens. Guinea fowl are generally more expensive than chickens as they are a delicacy. African designs printed on guinea fowl or peacock fabrics can be worn for special occasions like parties.

African fabrics with animal prints

They can also include: snails, fish, horses, lions, leopards and even spiders! For example, a fabric design of a turtle can symbolize patience, strength and determination.

African fabrics referring to the tribes

In Cameroon alone, there are over 282 tribes, each with their own culture, traditions, food and language. Many Africans left their villages for urban areas to find work. The towns now include a mixture of many different tribes and therefore have a wonderfully diverse culture.

Back in the villages, many traditions are still practiced while agricultural activities and livestock raising fundamentally constitute a way of life.

tribal african fabrics

African fabric printed with flowers

Floral designs are popular in many African countries. In Ghana, if women wear a certain blue-colored leaf pattern, they non-verbally communicate to others that they are pregnant. Some reasons for african fabrics printed with flowers symbolize happiness in a marriage and can be given to the bride's parents as part of a dowry.

Other floral fabric designs are believed to bring success and wealth to your family. Perhaps this is why floral designs are so popular and commonly worn.

african fabrics printed with flowers

African fabrics indicating family

As we know, the extended family is an essential part of African culture and elders are highly respected. Each family member has an individual role and they all support each other unconditionally.

Many African print fabric designs reflect family life including unity, strength, children and food including sugarcane, signifying that the wearer is loved.

African fabric with family motifs

The African print fabric design above depicts a mother hen with her chicks. Like a mother taking care of her children. It also highlights the benefits of breeding for the family. This first provides employment to many people. It is therefore vital for the economies and livelihoods of populations.

The well-known pattern below has many names in different countries, including 👉 "Nsu Bura" , which means "water well" in Ghana. When you throw a stone into a well, it creates ripples, meaning that whatever you do, it will have a positive or negative effect on your friends and family.

fabric record disk or Nsu buru or plate plate

Water is essential for survival. If you wear this design, you can show others that you have access to water and that you are healthy and confident. At Togo , the pattern reflects a hat that protects from the sun. In Nigeria, the design resembles vinyl records due to the round shape of the "disc".


We discussed the making of wax fabric in more detail in 👉 This item . But to give you an overview of the process, here are the basic steps in Ankara production:

1) The melted wax is printed by machine on both sides of the fabric

2) The fabric is put in a dye bath indigo (the dye repels wax-covered areas of the fabric)

3) A machine cracks the wax to create a marbling and bubble effect

4) Machines add two or three colors in drawing

5) The fabric is washed (boiled) to remove the wax, which is recycled and reused

6) Different finishes are applied to the fabric

dyeing wax fabric

The manufacturer can also add another color by hand printing part of the design onto the fabric. Each design may look slightly different depending on different color tones, random marbling and bubble effect.


Ankara has many uses. Firstly, it can be worn as is by wrapping it around the body like a towel. It can also be used to carry babies on the mother's back, as an apron for cooking or cleaning, and of course to make modern clothing with African motifs.

Use of wax

The fabric can also be used to make cushions, curtains, bed sheets, napkins, comforters, lampshades, home banners as well as accessories such as bags, shoes and even jewelry.

Almost anything you can think of can be made from Kitenge. It's incredibly versatile and that's also part of its beauty.


  • African print fabrics can be hand or machine washed in cold water (30 degrees preferred) with like colors.
  • Use a mild detergent or a gentle machine setting, such as "hand wash".
  • Dry outdoors out of direct sunlight as colors may fade.

Advice : If you plan to use the fabric to make clothing or cushions, it is best to pre-wash it in the machine first to prevent it from shrinking again during subsequent washes.


Ankara fabric is now available in different lengths (1 to 6 meters) on ! Discover a wide range of beautiful patterns, styles and colors. They are printed in Nigeria and West Africa, using locally grown cotton.

Collections of African Wax fabrics - Kingdom of Africa

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