In Africa, we have a famous apparel which is often referred to as Chitenge or “African fabric”. Many women in Africa have this piece. To me, Chitenge was an exclusive wear worn to church, weddings and/or events, and in fact, often only by women of a certain age.
The richness of color expressed by distinct varieties of prints and patterns is one major allure to the Ankara fashion.
Nowadays, Kitenge outfits are a favorite in weddings, church, dinners and in a formal workplace. Most African prints are tailor-made to match different perspectives of our tastes as a society.
The current design is mainly centered on merging one or two pieces into accessorizing the kitenge. If you happen to wear a kitenge from head to toe it would overpower the look.
Ankara fabric from Kenya is sold at open air market, curio shops, boutiques and at glitzy malls and fashion stores in major cities. The evolution of urban African music popularised Ankara wear which was then fused into Ankara top-and-jeans combo, or all the way minimised into strips of kitenge fabric on the collar or cuffs of an otherwise “formal” shirt.
Open air markets like the Toi Market have revolutionized how ankara/kitenge is used to suit African needs-both traditional and modern. Here, you can look great for less, as fashion demands continue to rise to an all time high.
In Nairobi’s central business district, you can find Africa Fabric and Designs Mall packed with dozens of stalls, each lined from floor to ceiling with African fabrics. These fabrics are generally referred to in Kenya as kitenge, a term that usually encompasses Dutch wax print, ankara, hollandais, and other more modern takes on traditional patterns from around the continent.
According to this article, one could argue that while kitenge is not made in Kenya, it is Kenyan in that it is African – and thus it belongs to Kenyans. For Kenyans, kitenge tells a story of pan-African belonging, solidarity, and identity. Owing to the status quo, Kenyans are not victims of Anningtex’s domination but rather agents with a valid claim to ownership of their own.
Do you own an Ankara apparel? Tell me about it.