September 20, 2018 - Art

Kitenge’s Offcuts Inspire Children to Design & Create their own African Prints!

Paint printing rollers children's art class primary school

Earlier this summer, the art teacher from Billingshurst Primary School in West Sussex, UK, got in touch with us. The teacher planned to carry out African Ankara fabric printing classes for 90, Year 2 pupils and was looking for materials for inspiration.

Kitenge recycles all fabric offcuts from our tailors’ workshop floors in Tanzania, East Africa, which reduces waste and prevents it from going to landfill. We upcycle the African print fabric by making smaller products including men’s bow ties and pocket squares. We plan to repurpose the offcuts by making patchwork fabric for our men’s and women’s made to measure shirts, trousers and shorts. The offcuts are also used to make the African print fabric contrasts for our popular plain-coloured shirts.

Learn more about our ethical and sustainable clothing production in Tanzania.


Betty with her tailors Lucy and Levina presenting their finished kitenge African print hair clips handmade using recycled offcut fabrics in Tanzania

Betty (centre) who runs her own business in Tanzania with her employees Lucy and Levina holding some Kitenge hair clips handmade using our recycled fabric offcuts

In 2018, we started to sell our fabric offcuts on our stall at UK music festivals to sewing and craft lovers and were delighted to donate some to the school to help inspire the children’s artwork. They had already learnt about printing in year 1 so the art teacher’s aim was to extend the children’s understanding of the process.

Primary school children inspired by African wax print fabrics art printing class

In their first lesson, the children watched a BBC Africa video clip about ‘Kitenge Fridays’ including information about the colourful fabrics’ origin, history and why Kenyans love to wear traditional African clothing.

After learning about how Kitenge fabric is valued and worn by East Africans, the children took a closer look at the colours and patterns. They then discussed how the fabrics could have been made. After exploring the fabrics the children copied or created 8 different patterns in their sketchbooks.

Primary school child sketching with pencil a African wax print fabric design from a photograph in art classYear 2 pupil drawing with pencil a traditional African clothing fabric pattern in their sketchbook during an art class Child sketching African print clothing fabrics in school art class

They then chose their favourite pattern, which they printed with polystyrene tiles, small wooden wheels (with wool glued on) and printing ink. They also learnt to layer up the printing process by using 2 or 3 different tiles to create a multi-patterned print. The aim was to produce a large art installation of all the children’s prints using white, double bed sheets and the results were fabulous!

African print clothing inspired fabric printing children's artworkTraditional African clothing inspired children's printed artworkAfrican wax print fabric inspired printwork by primary school pupil African print fabric inspired artwork by a primary school child


As well as printing, the children also drew patterns in their sketchbooks with white crayons and painted over them with watercolours to create a ‘batik‘ style of art. They also coloured in their kitenge designs that they had sketched and created their own Kitenge-inspired outfits.

Primary school children use kitenge offcuts for inspiration in art printing classChildren's artwork inspired by colourful African wax print fabrics

In industry, African print clothing fabrics are produced using melted wax (resin) to create the pattern and 2 or 3 colours are printed onto the cloth one at a time. The children learnt the basic principles of batik while using their own imagination and creativity.

Learn more about how African wax print fabrics are made.

“We have had an incredible term learning all about kitenge. The children absolutely loved looking at the offcuts, they found the colours and patterns truly inspiring. Thanks again for sharing the fabric with us, I don’t think our artistic endeavours would have been anywhere near as fantastic if we didn’t have such great material to inspire us.”

Art Teacher
Billingshurst Primary School, UK
Finished children's African print inspired artwork hanging outside to dry on washing line in gardenprimary school childrens artwork african wax print inspired artwork drying outsideChildren's kitenge inspired printing art installation drying outside after class

We were so pleased to see that the children really enjoyed learning about Kitenge and were inspired by all the vibrant colours and different designs. They looked like they had great fun creating the prints too. While you are here, please take a look around our African boutique online, especially our blog, which is packed full of interesting articles including behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with our talented team of tailors in Tanzania.

Related Articles:

Everything You Need to Know About African Print Fabric

African Wax Print Clothing – The Story Behind The Fabric

Meet The Tailors Creating African Print Clothing in Tanzania

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