Thank you for visiting the “Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints” digital exhibition. Included are resources to help you explore the history and culture of African wax prints from the comfort of your home. New resources will be added periodically, so check back every week or follow us on Facebook for exclusive content before it’s added here. I am, of course, very sad that I can’t show you this exhibit in person. I hope you have fun exploring the history and tradition of wax prints online.
“Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints” is a tribute to African Wax Prints, the common name for a textile that had its origins in Indonesia, was imitated by Dutch textile manufacturers, and ended up marketed to an African and global audience. As early as 1846, European cotton printers flooded the West and Central African markets with wax prints. Today, they are seen in markets in Accra, Monrovia, and Lagos, and catwalked in international fashion shows in Paris and galleries from New York to London.
Although not originally African, these textiles have been adopted in African culture and society, and through a process of assimilation, appropriation, and mutual influence, the African sensibility has made an indelible mark on the kind of designs the Dutch, British, and Chinese producers of these textiles design and manufacture.