On December 30, the newspaper Le Monde published an article on the WAX titled: ‘’Comment le wax fait croire qu’il est africain et étouffe les vrais tissus du continent’’ (French Only) which raised a lot of reactions like: Really? I did not know that…
I was surprised to read such comments, but at the same time I understand because I learned the true origin of the WAX only when I started working with this fabric. I wanted to discover the origin of this textile which is found in most of my creations and I thus learned that:
The WAX, although commonly called African fabric and mostly worn in Africa, does not come from Africa. Its manufacture began in the 19th century in the Dutch and English colonies.
Since that time, the WAX has spread widely on the continent and even outside where it is declined in different formats: clothing, decoration accessories, fashion accessories for men, women, kids, Etc.
The Dutch, particularly Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen, installed a Vlisco factory in 1846, which produces the Dutch WAX and three other brands: Woodin, Uniwax and GTP in Helmond in the Netherlands. He industrialized the technique of the Indonesians to be able to produce the WAX in larger quantities and sell it cheaper.
There are different types of WAX, namely: the Dutch WAX, as the name suggests, is produced in Holland; the English WAX, less prestigious than the previous one and produced in the United Kingdom.
There is also the African WAX, mainly produced in Ghana at the beginning, was subsequently extended to other African countries such as Benin, my home country. In Benin, the WAX is produced by the Société Béninoise de Textile (Beninese Textile Company), SOBETEX , where there are three qualities of WAX: the Chigan, of comparable quality to the Dutch wax; The Védomè, of intermediate quality and the Chivi which quality is clearly lower than the first two.
In recent years, the enthusiasm for the WAX has grown dramatically on the African continent as well as in Europe and the United States with stars such as Rihanna, Beyoncé and many others who have not hesitated to wear it. Even luxurious brands such as Burberry have inserted it in their collections.
With this widespread deployment of WAX around the world, the question is: what place do we as creators give to fabrics of African origin in our creations?
For my part, I already use African WAX in some of my creations and this year, I introduce the bogolan (fabric produced in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea and characterised by its stripes and the dye technic) which also has the wind in its sails in recent times (article Pagnifik ).
The creators Élie Kuamé who likes dan fani (woven fabric in Burkina Faso) and Iman Ayissi who uses batik and kenté (Ghanaian fabric) refrain from using WAX which is not African and highlight in their creations textiles from the continent.
Although the WAX is booming, textiles of African origin are making their way. It is up to us creators to use them more and more to contribute to their outreach and export.
Ingrid, founder of Coo-Mon Accessories and Cultures