I’ve been a big fan of Lola Akinmade’s blog, Geotraveler’s Niche – her photographs never cease to floor me. So I am very happy to feature Lola’s story about shopping for ankara fabric in her home country of Nigeria. Enjoy!
SHOPPING FOR ANKARA
Not the gorgeous city in the Mediterranean country of Turkey, but rather, the yards and yards of cloth printed with creative designs prevalent in West Africa. Jeans is to casual American wear as ankara is to casual Nigerian wear. Made in places such as Holland and Ghana, ankaras come in various consistencies, qualities, and of course designs. They range from your low-end Super Print ankaras starting at 800 Naira (1 US$ = 148 Naira) to Holland and London waxes, and your high-end Ghana waxes costing between 2,800–3,500 naira for six yards of cloth (1 yard = 3 feet). Once acquired, ankaras are handed to local tailors to sew into outfits which can also be mixed and matched with English wear.
So on Monday morning while travelling in Nigeria, my siblings and I made our way down to the famous Balogun Market close to the Lagos Marina. The market is divided into nameless regions based on what vendors collectively sold. We were looking for “Ankara Alley”.
“Hold on tight!” our mother yells in reference to our purses as we meander through and navigate the obstacle course that is the market, narrowly missing vendors, porters, and motorcycles squeezing through crowds, and leaping over backed up drainage. After a 10-minute dodge course, we make it to the narrow alley, and a wave of color hits us. Walls of ankara surround us and we spin around confused and awed. Picking what we wanted through thousands and thousands of folded multicolored cloth was darn near impossible and so we plotted strategy: color first, pattern second, price third.
I find a gorgeous black ankara with white and orange flower prints all over it. “Sister, sister!” the vendors yell at me. They are women about my age. If I’d been older, they’d have called me “Mommy! mommy!”.
“See this one! See this one!” they lift folded cloth up to my nose like I was meant to sniff them like flowers. They try to sell me the high-end ankaras. I speak Yoruba to them and they understand not to peddle their most expensive wares to me. I marvel at their stock and then point to my black ankara. “How much?”. We haggle a little bit for the price, and they graciously knock about 100 naira off. One can’t be too greedy when trying to purchase beautifully printed material with designs so unique that frankly, you might be part of a handful of people on earth with that particular style.
My intention was to buy just six yards of black ankara.
I left with 30 yards of beautiful ankara waxes in different colors.