This past Saturday, February 18th, I had an amazing time at “An Ankara Bazaar” at 26 Bridge in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, NY. I was instantly transported to West Africa as I walked through the doors of the Bazaar: absorbing the amazing aroma of jollof rice, feeling the deep bass of an Afrobeats song pulsate through my body, and being captivated by stunning Ankara print dresses, jackets, hand-bags, and jewelry. My senses were immediately activated and I was hooked!
Now, you may ask, what is this ankara print that captivated me so, and that has an entire Bazaar dedicated to it? Let me tell you! Ankara is commonly known as “African prints,” “African wax prints,” “Holland wax,” and “Dutch wax.” It is a 100% cotton fabric with vibrant patterns - usually a colorful cloth that is primarily associated with Africa because of its tribal-like patterns and motifs. The Indonesian wax-resist dyeing technique called batik is how ankara print fabrics are made - methods are used to “resist” the dye from reaching all the cloth, thus, creating a pattern.
Although ankara fabrics are associated with African culture, its origins are actually Dutch. Dutch wax prints started out as mass-produced imitations of Indonesian batik fabric, primarily by the Dutch company Vlisco, and were originally intended for the Indonesian market. However, a more enthusiastic market was found in West Africa, where ankara has become symbols of traditional and high quality fashion.
Ankara print spread from West Africa to other parts of Africa, and now, globally … including the DUMBO section of Brooklyn! The Ankara Bazaar, a day event highlighting African and Afrocentric creativity featuring vendors with unique and extraordinary designs in style and detail, mostly African inspired, is helping to spread ankara print throughout the United States. Ankara Bazaars will be taking place in Washington, D.C. on March 18th and in Philadelphia on April 22nd. So, if you missed the Bazaar in New York, be sure to check it out in one of the other cities so you, too, can experience traditional African food, pop-up fashion shows that showcase beautiful ankara print designs, and the live DJ spinning Afrobeat after Afrobeat! FRJ will be there soaking up ankara techniques for its pilot programming in July!
By: Chanell Hasty