Image: Ghanaian fashion designer Atto Tetteh wearing garments made from Simone Post's Bubble Block wax print fabric
Join us on Wednesday 7 April for an evening of virtual discussion on the topic of African Wax print, followed by a screening of Aiwan Obinyan’s documentary film Wax Print. With a multitude of names from ‘Dutch Wax’ to ‘Liputa', wax print textiles are found in African homes across the world and have become an important part of African cultures - a symbol of strength and identity in the face of oppression. Surprised to learn from her Nigerian grandmother that ‘traditional’ African wax printed fabrics were a colonial invention made in the UK and Holland, in the film Aiwan sets out on a journey across four continents to trace the two-hundred year history of this iconic textile that has come to visually represent Africa and Africans.
Image: Atto Tetteh wearing his design made from Simone Post's Bubble Block Wax print fabric. Simone the fabric for Vlisco, a Dutch fabric manufacturer that produces textiles for the African market.
The documentary takes us back to the Industrial Revolution - where mills across Europe spin and weave cotton sourced from North America and colonialism leads to the discovery of batik in Indonesia. Dutch and English traders copy the designs and industrial innovators mechanise the process leading to the creation of Wax Prints. In the scramble for Africa, the textile is then brought on merchant ships and sold by missionary trading companies to local women who are economically and politically empowered by this new import —but at what cost? By the late 20th century, the influx of Chinese counterfeiters floods the market with cheap Wax print copies and one by on big Wax print companies are forced to close their doors. From this decline emerges a new cottage industry, where designers reclaim the means of production in their homes, studios and local communities. But when all is said and done, is Wax Print African? And who gets to decide?
Image: Detail of one of Simone Post's rugs made from misprinted Vlisco fabric.
Prior to the film screening we will be joined by barrister-turned-designer Adaku Parker of Dovetailed London who will be talking to us about sewing with African wax print. Dutch textile designer Simone Post will then discuss her latest project with us: creating one-off rugs from misprinted Vlisco fabric. Finally Anne Grosfilley — an anthropologist who specialises in African textiles and fashion — will discuss the complex interconnections between the continent and colonialism, modern technology and Old World practices, and the complex origins of the textile.
To find out more about this event, and to book tickets, visit our talk page: Wax Print, Film Screening by Aiwan Obinyan.