Michelle Obama’s Bag
The release of this print coincided with the arrival of Michelle Obama in Africa, who then was First Lady of the United States. The story goes that the fabric was named after the eye-catching handbag she wore as she was disembarking the plane.
Also Known as Ahuodi Pankassa | Makaïva
This fabric is known as “Ahuodi Pankassa Wusa Arm”, which translates to ‘empty barrels make the most noise.’ It means that if you are good at something you must be modest about it. Others may say you’re good, but to say so yourself would be a hollow claim. Sometimes one colourway of a pattern acquires a special meaning. In Ghana, for example, this pattern in blue main motifs is only worn by women who want to indicate they are pregnant.
The pattern is very popular in Ivory Coast and Togo. Its two colours, red and yellow, are printed on top of each other. Each year it is worn during the meeting of the Lomé Houngni women, an order of women from Lomé, Togo. Despite the many imitations of this pattern that circulate today, the real Vlisco pattern remains the first choice for notables and upper class.
The Happy Family
Also Known as La
The Happy Family design represents the archetypical African family. It is synonymous with the social identity of its wearer. At the center is the maternal figure, the chicken, surrounded by her chicks and future chicks, the eggs. The father – the rooster – is nothing but trouble and only his head is shown. This clearly indicates the pivotal role of women inside the family. The Happy Family stands for family value from which the wearer derives status.
“Obaapa” means ‘A Good Woman’ or ‘A Good Wife’. It indicates that you want to be a good woman for your husband.
Also Known as Guerre de
This popular fabric in DRCongo is called ‘Village Molokai’, as connecting the village of Molokai in DRCongo to the village depicted on the design. The pattern is also called “Guerre de Shaba”, ‘The War of Shaba’, on account of the struggle for independence that broke out in Shaba, a province in the southern part of DRCongo, now known as Katanga.
Also Known as Kilikili Star
One of Vlisco’s most beloved heritage designs is that of the Small Star, known locally by the Igbo tribe in Nigeria as the “Kilikili Star”. This is one of the stories behind it’s name. The king of Moonland commissioned a mirror that should shine like the sun. When the only reflection the mirror gave was the moon, the king flew into a rage and cursing he smashed the mirror. Sending hundreds of fragments into the air, where they planted themselves like shining stars in the sky.
Also Known as Alphabet
People wear this design to indicate that they went to school and know how to read and write. They also attach importance to a good education for their children, and they set aside money to provide it.
Don’t get married empty-handed
Don’t get married with empty hands: In Togo, young women prepare for marriage by assembling their valuable materials and financial assets, in order to be financially independent from their future husband. it is said that when a girl is wed with love as her only baggage, she runs the risk of returning to her mother’s arms in tears very quickly.
Also Known as Ya Mado, Miriam
This pattern was originally one of the most important of the Vlisco range. The popularity of the print coincided with the release of the hit song “Angelina” by legendary Ghanaian band “The Sweet Talks”. People began referring to the printed fabric as ‘Angelina’. In Congo, this print is called “Ya Mado”. Famous Congolese singer Fabregas released the song “Mascara”, in which “Ya Mado!” Was part of the lyrics, referring to an attractive voluptuous woman. As the dancers wore this pattern in the music video, the name Ya Mado gained popularity in Congo. Since the passing of beloved singer and activist Miriam Makeba, in Congo this fabric is also named after her, as Miriam was always dressed in African prints.
Also Known as Don’t be unhappy because I walk with my Hands tied.” | Aban Nkaba | Olympia
This fabric is known as “Olympia” but more popular is the name: “Aban Nkaba”- (detention chains/ Handcuffs). The lyrics of a popular Ghanaian song about a man going to prison read “Don’t be to unhappy because I am in prison and walk with my hands tied.” The rings in this design were associated with the handcuffs mentioned in the song.
Also Known as Darling don’t turn your Back on Me
This rare three-colours pattern, loved by the Igbo, is one of the few Wax Holland patterns to incorporate three colours. Santana is derived from the name Madame Santa Anna Nelly, the name of one of the Nana Benz in Togo who apparently got the exclusivity of the sales of this pattern. The pattern is based on a sketch provided by vendors. It is said to represent an angry woman lying in bed with her back to the husband. Her husband is asking for forgiveness and begging her to turn around, saying “Cherie, ne me tourne pas le dos” (Darling, don’t turn your back on me).