Wax prints and fancy prints in Kumasi market – Textiles in Ghana (15/16)

Wax prints and fancy prints in Kumasi market – Textiles in Ghana (15/16)


The market in Kumasi must be one
of the largest in West Africa. You can find almost anything here,
including lots of cloth. Cloth has always been important
in West Africa, long before Europeans came around
the coast in the late 15th century, cloth had been traded back and forth
between West Africa and the Mediterranean. West African markets have always
played an essential part in mediating taste between artists
and their patrons. Some cloth from Bonwire is being sewn
together. But, far more important,
as far as this market is concerned, are the printed cotton textiles. During the latter half of the
19th century, Dutch textile makers wanted to copy
Indonesian batiks and sell them to Indonesian people
at a price that was cheaper than they could make
them for themselves. Eventually, the Dutch found a way
of printing resin rather than the wax of a true batik,
onto both faces of the cloth. The resin resisted the dye, but the
results were not popular in Indonesia. Yet, quite by chance, they sold well in that part of West Africa
known as the Gold Coast, today’s modern Ghana. Many of the current popular designs
show the strong trace of their Indonesian origins. These cloths were first produced
in the Netherlands and then, soon after the beginning of the
20th century, in Britain, especially in the factories
around Manchester. These resin-resistant cloths are known
as wax prints because of their history, and they’re different from the so-called
fancy prints, which are simply printed imitations
of the resist-dyed cloths. Money flies, okay. It means that the money has wings,
and if you have money, you will be on the move all the time. As soon as these fabrics began to sell
on the Gold Coast, the Dutch developed designs around
local West African interests. These especially focused upon
the visualisation of proverbs, already an established art tradition
among people like the Ashanti. ‘Money has wings’ was first designed
in the Netherlands but was very popular in Ghana
and was widely copied. It has also been redesigned in Ghana, replacing the bird with a hand holding
an egg and adding the words “life is like an egg.” This reminds us how easily our lives
can be broken and yet we hold our destinies
in our hands. We are outside the
Catholic Cathedral in Kumasi, and a young mother is wearing
a pattern we’d seen in the market, ‘money has wings.’ She said she wore the cloth
because she liked it. Then she said she’d bought it when
she was expecting her first child. The design may have made her think
of the baby growing within her. Sometimes the remnants
from dressmaking are patched together for re-sale. This is really beautiful,
so – What is this hand? The hand was educational
as well as proverbial. The spots were originally the twelve
pennies in the Victorian shilling. This one is… Okay, wait, wait. On what occasions would someone
wear this? Like when they are doing something
like… or all these things. They can wear it any time,
any time at all Okay. Okay, what about this one? Pebbles or stones…
okay. I want to see the old cloths. Old cloths. First, and then after that,
maybe show – These ones –
these are ones are old cloth. These are old cloth. It’s called… Okay, so it’s from the early 60s… Yes, it was. At independence, these technologies
were transferred to West Africa. Akasombo is one place in Ghana
where there is a textile printing factory. This one’s from Akasombo. It’s from Akasombo. Okay. – So, is this a real wax?
– Yeah, it’s a real wax? Do you have a super wax here? – This one is a super wax.
– This is a super wax, okay. So, what is the difference between the
super wax and the ordinary wax print? Okay, this one’s very good
than the ordinary printing, wax. – In what way?
– Than this one. In what way? You know, this one,
the colour is very good. The one they are using to do this one,
is very good than this. And what about this one? This one… Most of the cloths in Kumasi Market
are either fancy prints or wax prints made in Ghana or Nigeria. This is a very old cloth, it’s called Bonsu –
it’s a name – a name of a person. – Bonsu.
– Yeah. Okay. Other themes included the novelties
of the day, such as education in the
late 19th century. It’s called… Or the mobile telephone
a hundred years later. When did it come out? – This year.
– Only this year? How much? This one is not Ghanaian cloth,
it’s Nigerian. – It’s from Nigeria.
– It’s from Nigeria. The designs are responding to the
senses both of tradition and of modernity. And the English models,
one tree is broken – gets broken by the wind,
one tree gets broken by the wind. Okay,
where – for your factory? In Ghana,
in Akasombo. This is, in fact, a locally –
factory-printed copy of a resin-resist cloth produced in
Holland by the Vlisco company in Helmond. And one of the problems that the
Dutch producers of these cloths had is that as soon as they produce a new
popular design, over here, the textile factory owners
and designers pirate it. So, the very fact that the Dutch designs
are copied by local factories, means that the Dutch designers
have to work very hard keeping on top of the whole fashion
interest in these cloths. The more expensive Dutch and English
cloths are sold in specialist shops. Could you explain to me why this
particular cloth is so much more expensive than the
Ghanaian printed cloths? For this one, it’s import one,
from Holland, that is why this one is more expensive
than Ghana one. – So, this cloth is from where? And do you know how they make it? They use polyester to make it. You mean foam rubber? Yes. They have some – a lot of designs,
they have a lot of designs, so when they pick their design,
they put it in the this thing. The wax. Yes,
and they print it. So, they print the hot wax onto the cloth. Yes, they use foam. And then the wax resists the dye. Yes. It’s another version of how the whole
Dutch wax thing came about, which involved printing hot resin onto
both faces of the cloth, and, of course, they did that in imitation
of Indonesian batik, and that’s how this whole thing started. So, this – so, you’ve actually got a number
of things going on, you’ve got that technique, you’ve then got the printed imitation of it,
fancy cloths, and then you’ve got this kind of thing, which is a local reversion back to the
where the technique originally came from. These cloths are a record of
collaboration between art makers, designers, print workers and traders,
and the people who buy and use them. We can see the designers’ response
to local poetic interests, visualising people’s ideas about
themselves and about the society in which they live. With Adinkra and Kente, the relations of production include
the African diaspora. Wax cloths and fancy prints are the
result of even wider global relations. Studying these textiles emphasises
how important it is to be open to the ways different
societies define their own art making.

2 Replies to “Wax prints and fancy prints in Kumasi market – Textiles in Ghana (15/16)”

  1. Love the video ! Would you happen to know where I can find information on how to treat the fabrics? My wax prints are stiff and I don't want to destroy them trying to get a better drape.

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