Wax Prints – An Integral Part of African Society


Africa is known for many things; its natural resources, human resources, beautiful weather and many others. One of these many Africa is known for is its wax prints.

As you may already know we are people who love colour and design and our wax prints are not left out.

Wax prints come in many vibrant colours and are worn on an everyday basis and on special occasions. It’s exciting to walk down the fabric bazar with beautiful colours hanging in the stalls. You can get stuck in the market for hours trying to decide which one to pick. Wax prints can be dressed up or dressed down depending on what the individual prefers.

Women normally wear it in 2 pieces; a blouse called a “Kaba” and a long skirt called a “slit”. In the past women would have an extra piece of cloth about 1.5 to 2 yards worth of material called the “akatasuo” or “a covering” to wrap around their waist or draped over their shoulder. Traditional attire is slowly fading out as modern women prefer to wear tighter and smaller blouses that do not require the akatasuo. It’s also partly due to changing times and young people wanting to wear clothes more in Western Style.

Men wear their wax print as a wrap using 8 to 12 yards of fabric depending on how big and tall they are. This is seen a lot among older men for special occasions. The younger men wear shirts made with wax prints.


Prints with white backgrounds and black/navy blue patterns are normally worn on special occasions or celebrations such as marriage ceremonies and naming ceremonies. These are also worn to the funerals of people who lived a long and full life or on the last day of the funeral where most of the time the family goes to a thanksgiving service or when a party is held to round off the funeral celebration.

Women who have just delivered are supposed to wear white in the Akan culture for at least 6 months depending on which family they belong to. Black, red, and brown are worn for mourning and sorrow. Red doubles as a colour to show anger and sorrow, worn usually at the funeral of someone who dies young or whose death is considered unnatural or tragic. These prints are predominantly black, black and brown, brown and black or red and black and black and red.

When you see another wax print, think of Africa, think of Style!

Written by thelma  kwofie

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