What is KITENGE
DUTCH WAX PRINT
KITENGE, ANKARA or the DUTCH WAX PRINT are all names for the African cotton with prints. This fabric has a rich history which has a lot to do with the entrepreneurial, trading sipirit of the Dutch.
The beginning of the story lays with the colonisation of the Dutch East-Indies (Indonesia). One printing machine in Holland, family in Java, the inspiring batik technique and the ideas started flowing. The Netherlands started using the technique to introduce their own prints to the market. These became more and more popular and, following several ups and downs, Holland started exporting these fabrics to Europe and Asia. When the fabric with prints entered Africa it was love at first sight. Africa adopted it and made it its own. Nowadays the Dutch Wax Print is produced in different parts of Africa and the world.
Every print has a story, a message. Thus the Kitenge is used to celebrate important life events, to transmit a message through the images it depicts, to show the status of a certain person or even as a sling by moms. A print is a clear statement in the African culture - two roosters mean that the woman is the boss in the house, the image of a sugarcane stalk means 'I love you like sugarcane!' and the flying birds mean 'money has wings'.
THE LOCAL COTTON MARKET
In the '80 Africa was the biggest cotton producer. From the Kenyan cotton farms to the cotton factories, everything was from the local market for the local market and for export. Unfortunatelly, the 'mitumba' - second hand clothing from Europe, America and other parts of the world - inunded the market and the cheap clothing began to replace the locally produced cotton which was not needed anymore. Half of the cotton factories went bankrupt and had to close their gates. Today there are only a small number of factories left and they are striving to stay alive.
There still is a long way to go until Kenya will recover from the impact of cheap, second-hand clothing. We are hoping that by using the local cotton we will help shorten the recovery process!