Skip to main content

We are here to help

Contact Us

African Commemorative Textiles : The Textile Industry

Area Studies Librarian

Profile Photo
Emilie Songolo
Memorial Library
Room 278F
Subjects: Africa, Ethnic Studies


This guide was created and managed by Kirstie Yu, with support from Emilie Songolo. For questions, contact

Books About African Cotton Industry

The Effect of U.S. Subsidies

The United States and Europe subsidise their cotton producers heavily (US subsidies alone came to USD 3.9 billion in 2001 and 2002), creating an imbalance in the international markets. This protectionism, which benefits 30,000 privileged farmers in the United States and Europe, threatens the livelihood of 10 million people in western and central Africa whose only resource is growing and exporting cotton. Four African countries have joined forces to launch an initiative at the heart of the WTO, attempting to put a stop to these hidden barriers to trade and the free exchange of products originating in developing countries. For the first time, emerging nations are using diplomatic means and the structures of the WTO to change the rules of international trade. In this era of globalisation, small countries are demanding that the rules of globalisation apply to everyone, and not just when the interests of developed countries are at stake.

The rest of the video can also be found on Youtube.

Organic Cotton in Africa

This video discusses the rise of organic cotton growing in Africa, and why this trend may continue in the future. To find out more, read the article posted here by IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks).


CICAM (La Cotonnière Industrielle du Cameroun) is a textile company based in Douala, Cameroun. According to their website, "Fonded in 1965, CICAM is the result of a cooperation between the State of Cameroon, the German Bank of Development, and the French textile group DMC with a dual mission that is industrial as well as commerical." Or, put another way, "From cotton to textile... We have mastery of the entire chain of production."

The video below (in French) is about CICAM's commemorative fabrics, focusing on International Women's Day. It emphasizes fabric as a vehicle of communication, one that gives voice to women, that acts as a symbol of solidarity and and an object of memory.

Nana-Benz, Togo

This video shows an interview with one Nana Benz, women known throughout Togo for selling wax print fabric internationally. To learn more about these textile queens, read this article.


Vlisco is probably the biggest name when it comes to African wax prints.

According to their website, "Since 1846, Vlisco has been creating unique textiles, in Holland, that have influenced the fashion landscape in West and Central Africa. These textiles are a display of true Dutch craftsmanship and as such were originally known as ‘Hollandais’, from the French word for ‘Dutch’. Vlisco is still today the only brand creating authentic Dutch wax fabrics and is recognizable for its unique design, colours and wax effects which combine to create this inspiring fashion statement. In fact, every centimetre of fabric is unique due to the special wax process, which originates from batik techniques."

There are many articles available online that give explanations as to how a Dutch company came to find a niche market in Africa.

Business of Fashion

The New York Times

Beyond Victoriana


Congo Story

Additionally, the video below provides a good look at the thought behind Vlisco's designs, and its understanding of their growing international market.

Issues in Cotton Labor Production