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Kitenge is more than an attire for Africans

Today Ankara is used to customize cars, tomorrow who knows?

couple of weeks ago, I was skimming through Linda ikeji‘s blog–which is the most visited in Nigeria–when I came across something rather crazy but unique: a sports car customised with Ankara fabric was recently spotted in Yenogoa, Bayelsa state. The following Friday, my colleague walked into the office wearing stilettos covered in yellow and black Ankara print, and a matching bag. This, however wasn’t surprising, it is the current trend.

Over the last five years, Ankara has gone from being  an attire perceived as unique to traditional Africa to becoming one of the most utilized materials in design and beautification. From beaded necklaces to phone cases, Ankara is gradually creeping its way into becoming an essential element of decoration across the continent, and beyond. So what do people find so fascinating about Ankara?

My colleague at the office, Tobi Eyinade, who wears Ankara-inspired outfits every Friday, told me that she loves it because they are readily available at any local market. She also explained that Ankara designs are very beautiful and versatile, allowing you to evolve with the trends either as a style statement or an accessory (pointing to her purse which is about 80 percent covered in prints).


Efe Okanigbe, who manages an accessories store in the newly-built Ikeja City Mall, Lagos, also explained that most customers are highly attracted to jewellery made from Ankara, especially to match their other print outfits. She also believes that Ankara is here to stay. “It will never grow old, although change is inevitable I think it will withstand the test of time.”


Beyond the shores of Africa, Ankara is also being embraced. With the emergence of numerous Ankara-inspired fashion shows, celebrities like Beyonce and Kerry Washington now grace red carpet eventswearing “African prints.”

This renewed attraction is helping to resuscitate Nigeria’s textile industry, which once held 175 textile mills, with a workforce of approximately one million people, and accounted for more than 60 percent of the West African market. It is further strengthening trade ties between Nigeria and China, one of the world’s biggest producers of Ankara. The growing trade relationship, however, has led to smuggling of textiles from Chinese factories, through the Niger-Nigeria border, to the major markets of Kano and Kaduna. Most of these illegal activities have been attributed to increased demand for Ankara across West Africa.


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