The blueprint for the modern day hand fan dates back to the reign of King Tut. Long handled fans were used in religious ceremonies, conveyed wealth and influence, and served the practical purpose of cooling. Over the millennium this evolved into smaller hand fans which again served multiple purposes (e.g., advertising and communication, self-cooling, making a fashion or political statement). You can find several types of hand fans from black owned brands. See the descriptions and product links below.
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Folding fans in Ankara/African prints unfold into a round fan and generally have leather handles. When folded, these fans can be stored and carried in a purse. The attachment on the handle keeps the fan in place when folded or unfolded.
- Rufina Designs (advertisement) offers a diverse selection of fabric folding fans. Select items are pictured in the carousel below.
- Wrapped In Power (advertisement) offers a selection of fabric folding fans. Select items are pictured in the carousel below.
- Africaboutik offers a selection of folding fans in over 25 prints.
- Afrikrea offers a large selection of folding fans from different vendors.
- Afrohemien offers folding fans in six prints.
- Bah•Nica offers a selection of folding fans in various Ankara prints.
- Cultural Interiors offers folding fans in seven prints.
- Mandinka Style offers a selection of folding fans in twelve prints.
Other hand fans have many folds and open into a half circle. The rib (lower part of the fan) is typically made of wood or plastic, while the upper part is made up of various textiles.
Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons via the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Afrikrea offers a selection of hand fans in African prints from various vendors, and several come with cases.
- Betty’s Promo Plus offers an Alpha Kappa Alpha hand fan with Japanese letters.
- Izzie & Liv offers a selection of thematic and culturally relevant bamboo hand fans.
HAND WOVEN FANS are typically made with elephant grass or wicker, and have handles wrapped with leather. Generally they are shaped like a leaf, with some being more circular.
- Rufina Designs (advertisement) offers a diverse selection of hand woven fans. Select items are pictured in the carousel below.
- African Bookstore offers a selection of woven fans made in Burkina Faso that are 16 inches in length.
- Afrohemien also offers circular and leaflet shaped woven fans made in Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
- Cultural Interiors offers a selection of woven fans made in Burkina Faso that are 17 inches in length.
PAPER based (church) fans are also available.
Leather and OTHER fans
In reviewing these products, I hope you find a hand fan or two that works for you.
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- The Fan Circle International. “Fans of Tutankhamun’s Tomb.” https://www.fancircleinternational.org/history/fans-of-tutankhamuns-tomb/
- Tippecanoe County Historical Association via Purdue University. https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~salvo/@SEA/exhibit/index.asp
Photo Credit Tyck via Iwaria