As we are starting to get some products ready I’ve had to choose some different fabrics for us to begin with. Most of the wax prints in Ghana have different names which are commonly derived from some feature of the design, but some of the names also sends a silent message to people around and people wear different patterns for different purposes. My main focus when picking the designs are the actual pattern they contain but nonetheless I thought it could be fun for the buyers of Color me Ghana products to know some of the history behind the fabrics they are wearing. This is one of my personal favorites. I’ve known it as ‘Sweeping Makola’, or Aabee Makola in Twi. Makola is the big market in Accra, and you can see how in this design the plant has the shape of a broom. When doing some research for this post I’ve encountered another name which is Nsoe hunu, and the lady in Koforidua, who I bought fabric from yesterday, also referred to it by this name. In English it translates into ‘Blunt thorns’ which is a metaphor for empty threats. Another print that I’ve picked for our first collection also appears to have two names, with more or less the same meaning though. At the shop in Makola where I bought it they told me that it’s called Sika tu dɛ anoma with the meaning that ‘Money flies like a bird’. In other instances I’ve encountered this fabric under the name Sika wo ntaban (Anoma ntu a obua da), the English translation being ‘Money has wings (if a bird doesn’t fly it sleeps hungry)’. Perhaps a bag or purse with this fabric is only for the brave, or the ones who have enough money to spend 😉 Magdalene, the designer making the clutch bags, picked a fabric called Nsu bura in Twi, ‘Waterwell’ in English. This fabric got it’s name because people associated it’s circular design with ripples on the water, the kinds that will occur if you drop something into for example a well. The design has though inspired to several different names, and in Nigeria for instance this print is called ‘Plaque-Plaque’ because it reminded people of the shape of a vinyl record. ‘Angelina’ is a popular fabric that I have encountered a lot in Ghana as well as in South Africa and Kenya. The motif is inspired by a Coptic altar cloth. In Ghana the fabric is called Angelina, allegedly because it became very popular in the 1970s at the same time as the high life band Sweet Talks had a big hit with the song Angelina, which led people to associate the two. It’s a good one! Listen to the track here:
Along with these fabrics I surely had to add some kente designs as well! For now I have opted to go for the print version but originally kente is a traditional Ghanaian, woven cloth with a long history behind it. The designs are colourful and with intricate patterns, each with it’s own meaning. With over 300 different patterns with it’s individual name and meaning I think kente deserves it’s own post in the future. This is one of the kente designs that I have picked. The lady who sold it to me said the name is Adwenasah, but she couldn’t tell me the meaning in English. To be continued…
If you’re interested in reading more about the historical background of the popular wax prints in West Africa and different designs you might find this article a good read.
The Vlisco story on Angelina can be found here.
More about Nsu Bora.