Arts and fashion: wax and Tingatinga

The ASCL Library recently added pictorial works to its collection showcasing two of Africa’s many colourful fashion and art forms. 

Two new French-language books, Wax & co : anthologie des tissus imprimés d'Afrique, by Anne Grosfilley, and Wax, by Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, focus on the history of popular West African textiles, which are often referred to as  ‘Dutch wax’ (wax hollandais). The authors trace these fabrics back to their first production in the 19th century, when European factories, including the Dutch company Vlisco, initiated the production of industrial batik, intended for the (Dutch East) Indies. By the end of the 19th century, the first shipments of these textiles set sail to West Africa. Their popularity would become immense, especially at the hands of Togolese women traders, nowadays referred to as ‘Mama Benz’ or ‘Nana Benz’.

Wax book covers

Crystallizing African Textiles: Strategic Innovation African Waxprints Textile: Vlisco Crystals: Swarovski Initiator: Alexander Sarlay, Silke Hagen-Jurkowitsch

Wax prints and textiles soon became interwoven with all aspects of African life. Many examples are shown in both books, in the form of prints with love symbols, animals, feminist statements, luxury items, and pictures of political leaders. The book by Anne-Marie Bouttiaux also holds a large section on uses of African prints in contemporary fashion and arts. It includes photographs by Malian portrait photographer Seydou Keita, whose work was recently exhibited in FOAM. On this occasion the ASCL Library extended its collection of his works with two more recent photobooks. African wax often plays a prominent role in his photographs.

Commemorative wraps (Pagnes) printed on wax fabric in the 1960s. Malian Modibo Keita MaliCover Seydou Keita Galeries National du Grand Palais, ParisWaxprints sold in a Shop in West Africa

Another famous African art tradition is highlighted in Tingatinga: Respect Edward Saidi Tingatinga, by Jung Hae Kwang, which the ASCL Library recently received as a gift. What makes this book especially interesting is that it looks at the East African art movement of Tingatinga from an Asian point of view. The book was published by the Africa Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea, and is written in Korean and English.

Germa Seuren

TT4782 by Mwamedi Chiwaya - Tingatinga art (76 x 76cm), Oil on canvas