Dashiki Fabric: Origin and Meaning

AFRICAN NUBY Blog Author Sam Coumba, Blogger and Writer at AFRICAN NUBY

Dashiki is an ample shirt or tunic of bright color, native to West Africa. Its bright colors and design is also a symbol of protest for the African-American movements and an excellent way to claim the African heritage.

It is also said that the color of dashikis can correspond to certain events in a man's life. We know that the white dashiki, still in the Yoruba ethnic group was worn at weddings or the purple dashiki which was worn by some men to highlight their belonging to royalty.

DASHIKI: Origin and Fabrication

The fabric of the dashiki is printed according to the traditional batik technique. This technique exerts strong pressure on engraved and perforated plates and rollers, ink and dye are applied precisely to the fabric in order to print the smallest details.

The principle of batik consists in drawing on the fabric the final pattern to be reproduced (this operation is not essential); protecting areas of the fabric against coloring by applying hot wax; applying colors by dipping in dye baths or by applying dyes directly on the fabric; repeating operations two and three successively for each color from light to dark colors; removing the wax, either with an iron or by dipping in boiling water.

A Dutch colonial company, Vlisco, founded in 1856, wanted to reproduce mechanically the hand-made Javanese batik. Since the mechanically printed version of batik was not popular in Southeast Asia, Dutch traders sought other outlets and eventually sold the fabric in West African markets.

Dashiki Origins

In 1963, Vlisco designer Toon Van De Manakker took inspiration from the tunics worn in the 19th century by the women of the Ethiopian nobility to develop a new product that has remained popular to this day for its incredibly elaborate details and vibrant floral patterns.

When The Worlds Celebrates DASHIKI

Apart from African superstars such as Magic System, Koffi Olomidé and others, WizKid, Dibi Dobo, Tach Noir, in short the young generation, it must be said that the recent return of the dashiki, across the Atlantic, is mainly due to the African-American stylist Ron Bass. The latter created the independent music label Royal Kulture, based in Queens, New York, which also offers an Afro-centric and streetwear line.

In 2013, he launched the "Africa Leaders" series and in 2014, the "Dashiki Jersey Kollection". A dazzling success. His clothes are immediately worn by personalities like Beyoncé, and others... In 2014, the dashiki was also used by the Los Angeles brand Dimepiece for a model worn, this time, by the Barbadian singer Rihanna. Chris Brown, the Bad Boy of the industry has also very often worn his dashiki, even on stage...


In fact, it has become very fashionable for many American stars to wear a dashiki during Kwanzaa week (December 26-January 1), a celebration created in 1966 by activist Ron Karenga to bring African-Americans back to their roots. Fabregas probably didn't miss this fashion... However, it was of course Africa that saw the dashiki born and made it the iconic motif that we know - even if it was a Dutchman who first marketed it, giving it its international dimension, fifty-two years ago....

DASHIKI: Perfect For All Seasons

The Dashiki braves the seasons and is fashionable at all times. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, it goes everywhere! You just have to know how to adjust according to this period of the year. An incredible epic that never goes out of fashion!

Dashiki Sweatshirt ISONDO

Some people thought it was totally outdated, tucked away in the dungeons of fashion history. And yet, year after year, it comes back stronger and stronger, usually through artists who bring it up to date. The latest is Fabregas, with his hit "Mascara", released in December 2014. In his video clip, the Congolese singer and his band wear shirts with traditional patterns "dashiki", immediately renamed "Ya Mado" by the Congolese street, the name of the dance that accompanies the song ...

In Conclusion

Today, the dashiki serves not only as clothing, but also as cultural communication around the world. People can wear it for a dance, wedding or graduation ceremony; the dashiki can also be used as a symbol to show their pride and African roots during Black History Month, Kwanzaa celebrations.

Interestingly, the majority of dashiki-style shirts on the market today are primarily made in Asia. In China, the dashiki is translated into daxiji by its pronunciation and is accompanied by Chinese characters, meaning joy and good fortune. Hitarget is the market leader among new Chinese brands11.

It is a thorn in the side of a number of competitors. These include the Dutch company Vlisco, as well as Nigerian- and Ghanaian-based manufacturers of popular African print brands such as GTP, ATL, ABC, Nichemtex and Uniwax. More than half a century later, the fabric remains one of Vlisco's flagship Java loincloths, as its creative director, Roger Gerards, points out, "Associated with the hippie movement in the 1960s, it is also linked to the reflection on African identity during the wave of independence as well as the confirmation of African-American identity in the 1970s.

This motif is therefore fashionable, but it is also a symbol of protest for African-American movements".4 More recently, in September 2014, Vlisco is launching a major campaign to protect the brand in its African fashion markets.11 The brand's name is now being used in a number of African fashion markets.