From Java to Africa, via your inner compass

The fabric we chose for our Fire Compass Dress combines the rich cultural heritage of West Africa with deep symbolic overtones from world mythology. Like most of the fabrics in the Maakola collection, Angelina was made by Vlisco, a traditional manufacturer of luxurious Wax Hollandais fabrics, with respect to traditional and time-honoured methods. This particular print is part of Vlisco’s Java range, which features interpretations of intricate, ancient Indonesian Batik designs. With its dramatic central motif — which to our eyes, resembles the needle of a compass — we couldn’t resist building a show stopping dress around this special print.


This fabric has many globally recognised names. Perhaps the most literal is the name “dashiki”, which originated in Ghana and is derived from the words “danshiki” or “dan ciki”, meaning “shirt” in West African languages.

But the fabric has music in it too. It was introduced to the market in the 70s, in the same year that the song “Angelina”, by Ghanaian band Sweet Talks, was released. The pattern became unexpectedly associated with the song, and has gone by the name Angelina ever since. More recently, the same fabric was associated with another song: “Mascara (Ya Mado)” by Congolese singer Fabregas. In the 2014 music video, you can see dancers wearing shirts in the so-called Ya Mado print in various color combinations.

This pattern is connected to one more prominent music figure: the late singer and activist Miriam Makeba, who was an important advocate for civil rights and black feminism. She wore many African prints in her lifetime, and was often seen in this one.

the maakola meaning

The Fire Compass

Of all the names given to this fabric, we love Water Well, which comes from Ghana. The name references the ripple effect that you see when you throw a stone into a body of water — a reminder that every action you take will have an effect on the people around you. It’s a message that we take to heart at Maakola, where we believe that the clothes you wear have a social, economic and environmental impact.

At Maakola, we see the bold shape at the center of this fabric as the needle of a compass: a symbol of every woman’s strong sense of intuition. The compass represents a woman’s natural strength, allowing her to make everyday choices and strong decisions from a place of wisdom.

With this print, we want to help women to connect with their inner compasses. We hope that when you wear Angelina, you’ll feel passionate in your life and work, and empowered to tap into your female intuition to make important decisions.

The red colour of the compass represents passion, fierce energy and life — it is a colour of blood and fire. It is also a colour of revolution. The fire expresses the warmth of the first human homes, who perceived fire as a gift from the gods. It is also a symbol of libido and desire, or divine destruction which prepares the soil for a new life. Green in the background communicates notions of rebirth and creation. It stands for hope, a promise of reaching one’s goals. In ancient mythology, we can see it connected to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and pleasure. The color green is also associated with the Tibetan deity and female Buddha Tara, the goddess of compassion.

How we work with the Angelina fabric

Angelina is a guaranteed Java print on high-quality satin cotton, which feels smooth to the touch and has a natural sheen. With a weight of 120 gr/m, this Java fabric is perfect for dresses, shirts and the like, as it is printed on one side only, making it lighter than other types of Wax Print fabric. It’s just as easy to care for, however: Simply hand wash it in warm water as necessary.
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