I came across these African Wax Prints a while ago and fell in love with them. They are so full of colour and meaning that I had to find out the story behind them…
Originally, the wax resist dyed fabrics came from Indonesia which were then exported to the Gold Coast and spread over West Africa into Central Africa. They became extremely popular and over time the Africans customised and personalised the designs. Nowadays they are primarily made in Ghana and have strong cultural, social and economic importance.
The patterns tell stories of relevance to the wearer, such as proverbs, poems and traditional African fables. The colours also hold significance as they can represent social standing, age, tribal orientation and marital status. One example (left) is a cloth carrying the proverb “Ahonnee pa nkasa”. Literally translated this means: Precious beads make no noise. That is, empty barrels make the most noise or a good person needs not blow his own horns.
Last year, I was given this fabric (below) as a gift from a friend who visited Central/West Africa. This cloth was made for the celebration of National Women’s Day (08 March 2007).
What I love most about these cloths is that they have more significance than simply surface value.