Wax Print: 1 Fabric, 4 Continents, 200 Years of History

Friday 1330 Fillmore JHC 1:15pm

01:37:38
by Aiwan O
in Documentary

In African homes across the world a benign textile lies unassuming and taken for granted. With a multitude of names from ‘Dutch Wax’ to ‘Liputa’ and ‘Kitenge’ to ‘Ankara’ this textile has become an important part of African cultures across the diaspora. 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, British-born filmmaker and fashion designer, Aiwan Obinyan, 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.

The Industrial Revolution. Cotton is king. Mills across Europe spin and weave cotton sourced from North America. 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, Wax prints are brought on merchant ships and sold by missionary trading companies in the bustling markets and village squares of West Africa. Local women are economically and politically empowered by this new import. Business is booming for all. But at what cost?

The late 20th century sees the influx of Chinese counterfeiters flooding the market with cheap copies (?), business declines and one by one the big Wax Print companies 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?


Director Biography – Aiwan Obinyan
Aiwan Obinyan is a Nigerian-British, Filmmaker, Composer and Fashion Designer.

She has worked in the film and music industries, as a musician, studio engineer, composer and filmmaker. Her work has appeared on national and international TV and in 2013 she founded AiAi Studios an Audio Post-Production company specialising in music for Film & TV, sound design, editing and dubbing.

 

 


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