Wax print is a modernized version of handmade batik. It is also referred to as Ankara or Ankara fabric. The craft of batik can be traced back to thousands of years. It is believed to originate in ancient Egypt in the fourth century B.C. Archaeological findings assume a further spread of the technique across Africa, to Asia and Persia.
The art of batik is found throughout different countries and is most prevalent in Indonesia. The word Batik itself stems from the Javanese language of Indonesia. It means “to write” or “to dot”, which are techniques commonly employed in Batik manufacturing. During colonial times, Java (modern Indonesia) was part of the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch wanted to participate in the Indonesian batik market and invented methods of industrialized batik production, thus “wax block printing” was born. However, the industrialized batik version failed to enter the Indonesian textile market, as the locals still preferred entirely handmade batik.
In search of new markets, the Dutch began importing these batiks to Africa, where it was a huge success. Later England and other key players joined the market by producing wax prints as well, with companies that are still producing today.
So what makes these fabrics African? In the later years, the production shifted to Africa, where more and more African graphic designers and textile manufacturers began to be employed. Also, many symbols and color combinations stem from the various cultural heritages and traditions of African countries.