7 Types of Traditional African Cloth

Some very interesting cloth and textiles come from Africa. Often, they are unique to the continent, in origin and processing. Consider the following:

1. Kente Cloth

Kente cloth is a hand-woven textile that originated in west Africa. Sometimes, gold thread is woven into the fabric. Because of such embellishments, as well as the hard skilled hand work involved, kente cloth is quite expensive and has risen to the stature of a status symbol.

Many people in western Africa invest in a garment of kente cloth to be worn on special occasions.

2. Tie-and-Dye

Tie-and-Dye refers to a textiling process, originally from west Africa, in which cotton or other fabrics are tied in a tie-and-dye pattern. Originally, indigo dye was used, but colours have now been diversified. A tied-and-dyed cloth can then be designed and tailored at will.

3. Kitenge

Kitenge refers to printed cloth, often cotton, or mixed fibre. Typical colours for kitenge are deep or dark green, purple, orange, dark blue, brown and light green. Kitenge in pastel shades are rare as of the present. Kitenge cloth can be designed and tailored at will.

4. Batik

Batik refers to cloth that is waxed. Cotton, or any other textile, is processed with a wax pattern. The wax lends batik cloth a special shine, and added weight. Batik cloth should not be washed too often with water, to avoid eroding the layer of wax. Because the process of waxing is time-consuming and complicated, batik is often expensive – a fabric to be worn for special occasions.

5. Bark Cloth

Bark cloth is a textile originally from southern Uganda, from the bark of a special tree. The tree is peeled of its bark, which bark is then pounded into a uniform mass, out of which clothing was made.

Because it was rare, bark cloth was reserved for the royalty of southern Uganda. Bark cloth was traditionally brown, but can now be dyed white. Bark cloth is now used to fashion many souvenir articles for tourists visiting Uganda.

6. Animal Skin

Animal skin was used as a fabric in many parts of Africa. The Maasai, for example, still wear the treated skin of a favourite animal, such as a bull or cow, as a waist cloth or a mantle for special occasions.

The royalty of the Acoli of northern Uganda wore leopard or lion skin for special occasions, as did many other African ethnic groups. This practice has been discouraged to protect the wildlife.

7. Ethiopian Cotton

A white, light woven cotton cloth originates in Ethiopia. It is common to weave a colourful edge into the white cloth. The cloth is tailored as desired. It is ideal for hot climates, and is often worn for festive occasions.

African couture is traditionally long and loose, ideal for moving in the heat. The fabrics mentioned above are ideal for African couture.