Correcting Yvette Carnell’s Ignorance About the History of Dashikis

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For someone who claims that Pan-Africanism is a dead ideology, Yvette Carnell spends a great deal of time commenting on African history, despite not knowing very much about this history. The latest example of this is her attempt to get African Americans to stop wearing dashikis because of some supposed link between the slave trade and “African print.” As you can see from the screenshot above, Yvette is now claiming that dashikis were invented by the Dutch.

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When you actually read the article that Yvette cites, there is no mention of dashikis anywhere in the article because the article is not referring to dashikis. It is specifically referring to the pattern found on Dutch wax prints, not dashikis, which are a separate pattern. Yvette is so misinformed about Africa that she does not realize the difference between the Dutch wax prints mentioned in the article and the very distinct African designs seen on dashikis. The pictures below clearly shows they are of different designs.

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This is a quote from the article: “We think of these prints as “African” because they are widely worn in West Africa: Here three contestants in the 2008 Economic Community of West African States beauty contest model dresses tailored from fabric in the same vein as Stefani’s. But when we refer to these fabric as “African,” we’re missing a much larger story; this type of fabric is traditionally designed and manufactured by Europeans in European factories for export to West Africa — and the designs are derived from patterns that European designers adapted from traditional Indonesian batik.”
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Notice how different the dashiki design is from the two pictures above

Secondly, the article says nothing about the slave trade or African slave traders. The article explains:

The story begins in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where locals have long used the technique of wax-resist dying — basically applying wax to a cloth, and then dying over that wax to create a pattern — to make batik. These elaborately patterned handmade textiles bear some similarities to the prints we’ve been noticing on the runways: bold, repeating, intricate motifs set against backgrounds of varying hues. So what accounts for the overlap? One prevailing theory is this: In the mid-19th century, the Dutch enlisted a bunch of West African men — both slaves and mercenaries — to beef up their army in Indonesia. While there, these men took a liking to the local handicrafts and brought batik back to their home countries. And voila: A taste emerged in West Africa for these Indonesian designs.

The article clearly states that these Dutch designs did not come into Africa until the mid-19th century. This is important because the slave trade had been mostly abolished in the early part of the 19th century. The Dutch had abolished the slavery trade in 1814. Brazil was the last Western nation to abolish the slave trade, doing so in 1850. There was not very much of a slave trade by the mid-19th century, so Yvette is extremely confused about the chronology of what is being discussed in the article. The majority of African traders who wore these Dutch designs would not have been slave traders and the article itself makes no mention of the slave trade.

Yvette is so confused about this chronology that she is claiming the Dutch invented dashikis in the 19th century, but dashikis existed before the 19th century. One article explains:

The dashiki can trace its roots back to Yoruba language and culture. In fact, the word dashiki comes from the Yoruba word “danshiki” meaning a short sleeved work shirt typically worn by men in West Africa.

So how far back does the dashiki design date back? Tunics similar in design to the modern dashiki were uncovered in Mali burial mounds dating back to the 12th — 13th century.

Also in the Yoruba culture, certain colors of dashikis were made to represent different emotions and events. For example, traditionally white dashikis were worn by grooms on their wedding day. Sometimes couples, opt to wear purple instead for their wedding day since purple is the color of African royalty. Blue is known as the color of love, peace, and harmony, so sometimes blue dashikis are worn for weddings as well.

The “Angelina print” which is featured on dashikis was inspired by an Ethiopian design, so how does one come to the conclusion that the Dutch invented dashikis when there is no supporting evidence for this claim? As I said before, the article that Yvette cites does not even mention dashikis. This notion that the Dutch created dashikis is one that Yvette imagined.

Yvette is not only misinformed about Africa’s history, but she is embarrassingly misinformed. Yet she continues to involve herself in these discussions about Africa’s history, which only misinforms the people who follow her on social media and do not engage in their own independent research. My advice to Yvette is to just leave Africa alone and focus on reparations for African Americans. The HR40 bill which Yvette opposes is starting to gain more traction among Democrats in the House and Chuck Schumer is talking about introducing that same bill in the Senate. She should focus on that fight and leave Africa’s business to us Pan-Africanists.

We should not tolerate such blatant attempts to lie about African history, especially if it includes trying to give credit to Europeans for inventing things that Africans already had. Moreover, it is also disrespectful to African Americans who turned dashikis into an international symbol of African resistance and liberation. Nigerian musician Fela Kuti explained that it was seeing Black Americans in their dashikis that inspired Nigerians to adopt their own traditional clothes: “We were even ashamed to go around in national dress until we saw pictures of blacks wearing dashikis on 125th street.” Yvette is not only robbing Africans of their history, but she is downplaying Black America’s history and contributions as well by trying to spread lies about dashikis.


Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.

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