While batik originated in Indonesia, what we know as African wax prints began as an attempt by the Dutch to take over the textile market in Indonesia using a cheaper technique. Thankfully this didn't work in Indonesia, but the fabrics definitely took off in West Africa where local colour combinations and motifs were incorporated.
The wax prints are created a little like Indian block prints, but instead of using a wooden block dipped in ink to create colour, a copper block is dipped in wax then pressed into the fabric to create a resist when dyeing. Subsequent layers of wax are added, or partly removed, then the fabric is dyed further to create the wildly colourful wax prints we know today.
At Baobab Batik we were using a brush and the Indonesian tjanting (pictured below) to apply the wax and create our patterns. We had three special days, being taught by a wonderful group of women, how to apply wax, how to recognise when it was too hot or too cold, and how to apply the layers of dye and fix them to the fabric.
|Bonsile watching on, with Busi pretending to help.|
|Bonsile helping me lay out the leggings.|
When that finished I was promptly sent back inside to wax like a crazy person as it was our last afternoon at the wax pots. My pattern is slightly bigger and a bit more uniform than the way they are normally done, and there are sections where my wax was too hot. It's nice that I could also tell that on the day, but I didn't have time to stop and fix it – I was on a mission.
Our leaving time came and went, with everyone else being dropped at our next destination and the bus coming back to get me so I had extra time to finish, which I was super grateful for. And the result?
|My finished leggings after waxing and their final dip in navy dye.|
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