The textiles


Africa is known for their richly colored fabrics called “wax prints”. These textiles have been given their names because they previously were produced using wax (and to some extent still are). The colorful textiles, which many consider as characteristically African, holds a special story. A story that covers several centuries and across several continents. Throughout Africa, but especially in West Africa, the use of wax prints has become an integral part of the culture, and the different patterns have names in the form of i.a. events, sayings, songs, names and people.

Kwadusa (Kwadu Sa) is one of the oldest textile designs from the 1800s. An Indonesian design that adapted Africans’ taste and culture. Directly translated it means banana hand, i.e. a bunch of bananas. In Ghana, this design has also been named “Independence” and refers to Ghana and Africa’s independence.


Wax prints, as we know them today, emerged when the Europeans in the beginning of the industrialization mass-produced cheap versions of Indonesian batik, first on Java and later in factories in Europe in order to sell them to the Indonesians. However, the Indonesians did not like the quality. Therefore, textiles were sailed ahead with European merchant vessels to West Africa, where they tried to sell them. The African soldiers, who served in Indonesia, also brought wax print home to Africa. From West Africa textiles spread to the whole of Africa.


The Africans were far more enthusiastic about the textiles than the Indonesians were and as the years went by, the textiles became integrated in the culture and society. The people also got more and more influence on the patterns and shapes. Europeans adapted them to their taste and culture, and the particularly popular textiles started getting names. Even today, wax prints are still prestige symbols of high value and fashion and they are available and used throughout the whole world. Today wax prints is produced only on a single plant in Europe, the Netherlands and otherwise the production takes place in Africa and increasingly in China. There is a big difference in quality depending on the country of production and it can often be very difficult to distinguish the various textiles from each other.

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