Origin and meanings of African wax: the story behind the fabric and patterns - Africa Tourism Consultants

Wax is now a very popular fabric in the fashion world. It is used for clothing, making accessories but also for interior decoration. Today we offer you an overview of this textile with varied and colorful patterns.

A meeting between Europe and Africa 

Wax only dresses Africans. African designers and fashion houses by their originality have been able to outsource this fabric all over the world. If for a long time, wax was associated exclusively with Africa, to know the history of its manufacture you have to go to Indonesia, partially colonized by Holland in the 19th century. The technique of Javanese Batik dyed with wax makes it possible to better fix the colors. What we know today as the African loincloth then takes the name of wax which means "wax" in French. To introduce this new fabric to Africans, it is necessary to count on the Ghanaian soldiers who left to fight alongside the Dutch colonial forces in Java, Borneo and Sumatra. Back in the Ashanti Kingdom, located on the Gold Coast, present-day Ghana, success was immediate. Everyone loves wax, both the aristocrats and the people. The reputation of wax crosses borders and extends throughout West Africa and later around the world. Today, the manufacture of wax is no longer the exclusive prerogative of Europeans. Many manufacturing plants have sprung up in Africa, particularly in Ghana, Benin and Côte d'Ivoire, where various ranges of fabrics are offered to make wax accessible to all budgets. The famous textile that captured the hearts of Africans is now steeped in tradition and is also used as a means of cultural expression. 

The wax a means of cultural expression

The wax is at the origin of many African proverbs. In Burkina Faso, for example, we say “the beard says by day what the loincloth says by night” or “a woman recognizes herself by the knot of her loincloth”. This shows the strong symbolic value of wax in African culture. It is offered as a dowry during customary marriages. Moreover, it is not uncommon to see members of a group or a family, as a sign of solidarity, wearing the same wax motif during important ceremonies such as baptisms, weddings, funerals... For a long time in Africa , the making of the wax has remained very sober to highlight only the patterns and colors. The loincloth was very simply tied. Thus a woman who wears two overlapping loincloths is considered a married woman while the one who wears a knotted loincloth is a heart to be taken. Despite its great success, the popularity of the loincloth experienced a slight decline in the 80s with the advent of jeans and t-shirts in Africa. It is the beginning of a new era. The knotted loincloth is abandoned in favor of sought-after and no less extravagant models which are the success of wax today. If the way of wearing wax has evolved a lot over the years, African women have always competed in ingenuity to name the different models according to the patterns.

The way to wear the wax says a lot about its user

“My husband is capable”, “You go out, I go out”, “when the woman passes, the man passes away”, “the eye of my rival” are all symbolic expressions used by African women to name wax. We have already seen women crepe their bun because they felt "provoked" by the loincloth of another. Mothers-in-law in particular have a reputation for cleverly using the loincloth to send a harsh message to their daughters-in-law. And the men! The poor who have the misfortune to choose without seeking its meaning are constantly paying the price. Some patterns have remained timeless and are often reissued. But in some families, young girls are lucky enough to inherit original models that are passed down from mother to daughter over generations. It must be admitted that the first models were of a quality that is now very rare.

You have adopted the wax and want to decline it in several aspects? Find our selection of products designed from wax. From decoration to jewelry, clothing, bags, shoes... you will be spoiled for choice at Africa Tourism Consultants.

Original article: AwaleBiz

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