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Our Ghanaian Fabric Fans | The History of African Wax Print Textiles

Our Ghanaian Fabric Fans | The History of African Wax Print Textiles

Ghanaian fabric fans are traditionally stitched with leather, however we are on a drive to make all of our products leather-free and vegan-friendly. Inspired by the sisal wrapped handles of the bolga baskets from Northern Ghana we tasked our artisans in Accra with using this natural material to stitch and wrap the fan handles in. It took them some time to get right as the stitching is particularly tough but we are so happy with the result. Perfect for Summer, each fan comes in a matching bag to keep them clean on all your adventures. They also look great displayed on a wall in colder climes.



Our fans are made with wax fabric woven in a Ghanaian mill, rather than imported imitation African Wax which threatens the local market. African textiles have a long and complex history, with many fabrics that one would typically associate with being African actually being mass-produced in huge factories in China. Amma Aboagye says "people connect with the fabric as a representation of their identity, of their culture, of a place or heritage, however, it has no economic benefit to that place." 


In Ghana, the governments started an initiative back in 2004 to encourage workers to wear African prints on Fridays in order to support the local textile industry and celebrate the national dress. However, many people in Ghana choose to boycott this tradition, arguing that most of the prints available to them aren't actually African as they were produced overseas. Many of the widely available "African" prints are produced in China where they can be made much more cheaply thus making them more accessible to a wider market. 


One of the most popular mills producing African print textiles is called GTP or Ghana Textiles Printing. Despite it's name, the mill is actually owned by a Dutch company called Vlisco. Many of the iconic African prints that we recognise today were designed in the Netherlands and really have nothing to do with Africa at all. Many African fashion designers have chosen not to use African prints, as they are known, in their lines for this very reason. Ghanaian designer Nana Kwame Adusei says he made this choice as African wax prints "are a legacy of colonialism" adding "the wax print companies have been making money for 170 years and the money doesn’t come back to us.” 



These mass-produced fabrics are cheaper to produce, making them more affordable to buy. This is leading to Ghanaian mills steadily going out of business. Despite the history of African wax prints, many African people have adopted these prints as part of their history and cultural identity. Amma Aboagye says “we recognise that wax print today is definitely a reflection of our own ideas, symbols, conversations, histories, many of the fabrics canonised important moments in our history as African countries.” She argues that the consumer is King, and the primary consumer of African wax prints are African people. 


We are passionate about preserving local crafts, and as such we only use African wax prints produced in Ghana, the same place our fans are made. Our continuous partnership with these groups of incredible Ghanaian artisans ensures a consistent income for many families within the wonderful community.


You can shop our collection of Ghanaian fabric fans here.

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