Wax prints in West Africa: unravelling the myth of Dutch colonial soldiers as cultural brokers

TitleWax prints in West Africa: unravelling the myth of Dutch colonial soldiers as cultural brokers
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsW.M.J. van Kessel
EditorJ.W. Osei-Tutu
Secondary TitleForts, castles and society in West Africa; Gold Coast and Dahomey, 1450-1960
Series titleAfrican history ; 7
Pagination92 - 118
Date Published2018
PublisherBrill
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
ISSN Number978-90-04-38017-2
Keywordsblack soldiers, dyeing, Ghana, historiography, history, Indonesia, Netherlands, textiles, veterans
Abstract

According to a tenacious historical myth, first published in 1924 and recently revived by the British Museum, it was African veterans from the Dutch colonial army who introduced or popularised the colourful wax print textiles in West Africa. As the story goes, African soldiers retiring from army service in the Netherlands East Indies returned to West Africa with Javanese batiks as gifts and merchandise. This article unravels the historical data and concludes that there is no evidence whatsoever that the returning veterans acted as cultural brokers, introducing new fashions. Apart from analysing the construction of a historical myth, the article also explores the position of the Java veterans in Elmina society.

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https://brill.com/view/title/39016

Citation Key9759