DIY Sewing

The Wax Entitlement

While in Nigeria, I was able to get my hands on some Ankara fabrics and I’m excited to begin cutting into them.

For so long, I have not been able to make any new accessories because I couldn’t afford to buy the fabrics sold here. I see price tags on some ankara things and I understand it completely because buying in Europe is really teuer.

I used to buy from an eBay seller aus Großbritannien but I didn’t quite like her shipping method so I stopped ordering from her. Wasn’t worth it for me.

I was going to just start with using regular fabrics I pick up from the fabric shops around but I felt like I was cheating my idea. Yes I do want to add in normal fabrics too, but I want wax print to be my primary fabrics. They are so vibrant, versatile, they can be mixed and matched, they can be used for every season and they just make the world more beautiful.

So anyways, the internet took offence when Stella Jean debuted another line of ankara designs and she was called an appropriator, a thief, very unoriginal, inconsiderate! All the while, I am trying to understand the anger towards her and her designs. According to most people she shouldn’t just up and use the fabrics without permission.

Me? I say boohoo!

Let us revisit history here for a second.

The wax print has a back story that did not start in Africa. In fact, it is actually European. Dutch to be exact. The process of its making was influenced by an Indonesian method of dying cloth called Batik.  During the Dutch colonization of Indonesia in the 1800s, the idea was to flood the market with cheap machine made Batik imitation.

For some reason, that plan wasn’t lucrative at all for them. They however got a wide reception when they began trading through ports in West Africa. The Dutch wax quickly became famous, used for clothing and communication. Interesting names began to surface, and the fabric, through time became African-owned by the mid 1900s.

Before the 1960s, a massive amount of the wax fabrics sold in West and Central Africa were manufactured in Europe, before West Africa began their own high quality production which greatly reduced the cost compared to European import. Companies like ABC wax, woodin, GTP, are responsible for this drop in price and hey, we should be thanking them!!

Check this link out for the full history.

So before we go crazy about appropriation, shouldn’t we understand the idea behind a persons intentions? OK so maybe she didn’t give credit where it was due and we can go on and on about that, but this isn’t the first time she has used wax print in her designs. In fact, when I first heard of Stella Jean, her ankara designs are what got me to notice her.

I think it is amazing that the wax print has gotten so much global recognition and I’m hoping it keeps getting bigger. It’s a beautiful piece of fabric and the vibrancy is incomparable. What I like about wax print is the fact that you can get many different designs from one print. If I were to make say a set of bangles for three different people, the way I will cut the fabric will give three different looks which I find beautiful.

Ankara can give you a sense of uniqueness. which is one of the reasons I was excited about using it.

Oh wow I remember when I first came up with the idea of using ankara. I was so excited and I made a list with drawings of all the possible accessories I could make.

Then a friend sent me a photo of bangles Ituen Basi had made and I was so sad because I was certain this was an original idea, one nobody was ever going to think of!!!

But hey, who says we can’t all have the same kind of business oder?

So yes, I’m very excited about the fabrics from Nigeria and yes I think that everyone should have a wax print outfit in their wardrobe and various accessories all made out of wax print!!

The wax print brings sunshine into your life, it adds a beauty you cannot get from any other fabric and did I mention it’s perfect for every weather?

Winter? Make a high neck long sleeved dress you can wear with tights and knee high boots. Make a dress and pair it up with turtle neck, make a skirt and pair it up with a thick sweater and tights. For spring, fall and summer? Oh the endless possibilities!!!

So hey, don’t wait for approval from your African friends. You want to buy wax print and make yourself a dress? Go right ahead. There shouldn’t be any unspoken law that says only a certain skin color should wear a certain fabric.

So long as you don’t take a traditional outfit and disrespect it, or a religious outfit and call it your own invention. Na there we go have wahala with appropriation!

The world of home sewing is growing. People are starting to realize that handmade is the ultimate. Sure it can get a bit expensive but isn’t that how everything begins?

So don’t go fabric hunting and the fear of cultural appropriation makes you leave behind the most beautiful fabric you will ever have among your stash.

I say grab that Hollandias and go make your whole Stadt an outfit if you want to! There is no such thing as cultural appropriation when it comes to using wax print to create fashionable outfits that can be worn by every single skin color known to man!

It’s the beauty of the wax print and everyone should have a piece of that beauty in their lives!

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