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African Fabric: Angelina – Dashiki as a symbol of black culture

By Motlagae Konyana

We all love our African fabrics and clothing. The bright colors, distinctive designs, and hand-made quality give us something truly extraordinary. That the fabrics have rich cultural meaning is a bonus. There are many fabrics in the many cultures across Africa. These fabrics have different meanings and significance from having a particular movement to sending a message. Dashiki is one of the materials that is loved across the continent.

WHAT IS A DASHIKI FABRIC?

A dashiki is a colorful print that covers the top half of the body – it is a tunic/caftan top. The word dashiki is adopted from the West African Yoruba term danshiki, which refers to a short, sleeveless tunic/caftan worn by men. A unisex fabric, the dashiki varies from a sleeveless tunic to the more common pullover shirt or caftan with short sleeves. Men wear the shirt, and women wear short or full-length dashiki dresses. Also known as the Angelina print, the dashiki cloth comes in different colours, however, the original Angelina print is the green and maroon with the gold.

It could be worn on occasions that normally would call for a a glamed up black dress. Dashiki was made in Ghana just like kente. And just like kente, there are three types of materials for dashiki. The Dashiki print is instantly recognizable as an African look and associated with African cultures. While it was worn for comfort in hot weather conditions in Nigeria and other African Countries, black Americans wore it as a political statement during the civil rights movement.

DASHIKI AS A SYMBOL OF BLACK CULTURE

The dashiki found a market in America during the civil rights movement. It went against the conventional and accepted men’s fashion in the 1960s: brightly colored instead of dull, free flowing instead of tight, worn outside the pants instead of tucked in.

In the 1960s in America, the Dashiki was worn to symbolise black pride, black unity and white counterculture movements. Pan African-leaning African Americans took on the dashiki as something else to help them feel connected to their Africa roots. After Civil Rights Act of 1964, the popularity of african derived clothing was worn with pride as an expression of cultural heritage among African Americans.

     

DASHIKI AS A FASHION STATEMENT IN 2017

From the Afro-pop group Mafikizolo to African American celebrities Beyonce, Chris Brown and Instagram models, Dashiki print has seen a resurgence as an afro-centric fashion statement in the past few years. Afropolitans across the world are turning to the fabric to express their identity though fashion. Dashikis are being worn in their original tunic form (just add jeans and sneakers) in casual ensembles or as intricately designed and tailored ensembles for occasions such as weddings and galas.

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