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African wax prints

African wax prints, also known as Ankara and Dutch wax prints, are omnipresent and common materials for clothing in Africa, especially West Africa. They are industrially produced, colorful cotton cloths with batik-inspired printing.[1] One feature of these materials is the lack of difference in the color intensity of the front and back sides. The wax fabric can be sorted into categories of quality due to the processes of manufacturing.

Normally, the fabrics are sold in 12 yards as “full piece” or 6 yards as “half piece”. The colors comply with the local preferences of the customers. Mainly clothing for celebrations is made out of these.

The wax prints are part of a nonverbal way of communication among African women, and hereby they carry their message out into the world. Some wax prints can be named after personalities, cities, building, sayings or occasions. The producer, name of the product and registration number of the design is printed on the selvage, protecting the design and allowing reading the quality of the fabric. The wax fabrics constitute capital goods for the African women. Therefore, they are collected depending on the financial possibilities.

In Sub-Saharan Africa these textiles have an annual sales volume of 2.1 billion yards, with an average production cost of $2.6 billion and retail value of $4 billion.[2]

Ghana has an annual consumption of textiles about 130 million yards. The three largest local manufacturers ATL, GTP and Printex produce 30 million yards. 100 million yard come from cheap and smuggled Asian imports.[3]

The Vlisco Group, with its brands Vlisco, Uniwax, Woodin and GTP, produced 58.8 million yards (53.8 million meters) of fabric in 2011. The net sales were €225 million, or $291.65 million.[4] In 2014 all of its 70 million yards of fabric (about 64 million meters) are produced in the Netherlands. In 2014 Vlisco made a turnover of 300 million euros.[5]

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