Fashion and being African go hand in hand. Africans have always added style to anything; their influence even stretches across the Atlantic to America.
Several ancient cultures have their own historic traditional and contemporary styles but the diversity on the mother continent is as numerous as the different languages we speak.
The accurate origin of cloth production in Africa is lost in time, but archaeological findings indicate some of the earliest sites. Drawings of looms can be seen in the tombs of ancient Egypt, dating back to at least 2000 B.C.
Archaeologists have found linen remnants in ancient Egypt, as well as fifth-century cotton cloth remnants in Meroe, in northern Sudan.
In West Africa, woven fiber pieces dating back to the ninth century C.E. have been found in Nigeria, and woven cotton cloth dating to the eleventh century has been recovered in Mali.
Traditions of Cloth Production and Design Bark cloth, or cloth made from tree bark, predates the development of woven textiles in most parts of Africa.
Today bark cloth is rarely used for day-to-day clothing, but some societies use it for ceremonial costumes.
The Baganda of Uganda, for example, make fabric from the inner bark of fig trees, which is worn during ceremonial dances and other occasions when ancestors are being honored. Early clothing in Africa was also made from treated animal hides, furs, and feathers.
Many African societies weave cloth from locally grown cotton. In North Africa and the Sahel, women also spin and weave camel and sheep wool.
Other sources of fiber include the raffia palm in Central and West Africa, jute and flax in West Africa and Madagascar, and silk in Nigeria, Madagascar and East Africa. All these fibers can be dyed using vegetable and mineral dyes.
Back in the days, Africans had to cover themselves from something or nothing.
African fashion started first with covering the privates and eventually to protect the skin from the sun. Ancient Africans had costumes for everything and every occasion from boys to men, getting married, to change of weather, new planting season and even burials.
Contemporary styles date far back to ancient Egypt, where the people used their flax to fashion line loincloths for men and rectangular sheaths for women. This process led to the development of the horizontal loom which is still being used today.
Additionally, weavers in North Africa and Ethiopia also use ground looms, while looms similar to those used in Southeast Asia are found in Madagascar. Although Africa’s weavers produce a wide variety of patterned, colored fabric, they also weave plain cloth.
Most designs and motifs used to decorate fabric have names. Many designs are associated with particular plants, animals, events, or proverbs, and are often used in other crafts, such as house painting, carving, and pottery.
Men and women in Africa were responsible for different stages of cloth production.
The gender division of labor, however, varies widely by region, and in many places has changed over time.