01 Nov A Tale Of Two Fabrics… The Fabric Of Life in a Wax Print Setting
The functions of clothing go beyond looking good or protecting the wearer from nature’s elements. There are various symbolic and thematic undertones that present in textiles and the designs. Clothing has always been a non-verbal communicator of mood, wealth and status consciously or unconsciously. Society thrives on fashion as a form of identity, expression and as a source of progression. Therefore, it is quite interesting to discover that our ties with Africa wax prints, though subtle, go well beyond the ordinary; these fabrics have been with all of us far longer than we can imagine.
Act 1 :- A Celebration of Life
For the purposes of this article, we are introduced to Kofi; he is our hero in today’s piece.
The setting is a sea of white and light coloured clothes which are mostly in a representation of lace, silk, wax prints and various luxurious fabrics from the likes of GTP, Woodin and Vlisco. The scene is representative of a typical traditional Ghanaian naming ceremony of a child locally know as, “Outdooring”. It is Kofi’s Outdooring and you can’t get it wrong! The mass representation of the colour ‘white’ signifying new, fresh, birth is represented and manifested in the attire of all the guests at the event. From birth we are introduced to the ethereal presence of wax prints as children from being swaddled and carried on the broad and dependable backs of our mothers. Being cocooned in warmth and the scent a mother’s love is the first experience we all have of wax prints.
The School Years
This scene recounts the events that unfold during the first day of boarding school. The School Cloth. Kofi is in his early teens now and he has just been accepted into the secondary school of his choice. The school cloth is handed to him with all the other items he will need for his stay in the boarding school environment. The school cloth is a visual representation of the school. Usually a textile company is contracted by a school to design and produce school cloth specifically for the institution. It then becomes part of the brand of the institution. Kofi has his school cloth which he will wear on formal occasions at school such as Induction services, Sunday services, Speech and Prize Events and on his Graduation day.
Act 2 Adulthood and Life
Kofi is now in the youthful phase of his life. He has a great job at a leading institution. The company advocates for the ‘Friday Wear Special’ Initiative which is aimed at promoting the wearing of African wax prints by the general population, both indigenous and foreign.
African wax prints are renowned for their richness in design and quality of the fabric. The versatility of the fabrics makes is a ubiquitous component in fashion choices for both the youth and the older generation. It can be worn for any and all occasions. We catch up with Kofi who has recently snagged himself a girlfriend as well; they enjoy a beautiful courtship. Kofi finds his soul mate at a Woodin Shop where they both discovered each other while shopping for fabrics for their individual needs. This scene leads us to the next fascinating point in Kofi’s life.
The scene is set for an engagement ceremony and a wedding. Kofi is getting married. The atmosphere is charged with tradition, pomp, and pageantry and above all, love. There is so much joy and the scene is scattered with bouts of colour, patterns and motifs from all the wax print designs represented at Kofi’s wedding day. The day is filled with toasts, well-wishers and old folks dishing out blessings and the odd stern warning of rapid baby deliveries to continue Kofi’s lineage (from the parents and In-Laws, of course). We all remember the same during our joyous day as well. We leave Kofi and his new bride as they jet off to some undisclosed location for their honeymoon.
In all intents and purposes the circle of life has been orbicular in essence and in form, rotating from the beginning of time, between life and death. We witness the various phases and celebrate each stage of life with joy. We meet up again with Kofi on his journey in life. He is now a proud father to a set of twins; one boy and a girl. The adorable cherubs are being feted at an outdooring ceremony so elegant it rivals christening ceremonies at Buckingham Palace. Guests, families and friends all congregate to congratulate Kofi and his wife. It is one of the highlights of his life.
Act 3:- A Celebration of Life
This scene, although somber, is one of reflection and admiration of a life well lived. We are at Kofi’s funeral. The circle of life is complete. Family, friends and sympathizers have all gathered to bid a great human being farewell on his next journey into the afterlife. This scene is awash with dark coloured African wax prints as funeral garb on the burial day and in black and white on the thanksgiving Sunday. We listen to the accounts of achievements and incidents of Kofi’s life. A hymn and a prayer… the scene ends our story.
We live our daily lives shepherded by the influences and choices we make. Our life’s existence is witnessed by friends and family. However, there is one other witness to our lives; one that is mostly silent yet speaks loudly on our behalf at each stage of our life. Regardless of what we may think, African wax prints have been with us throughout our lives witnessing every milestone and every occasion.