Here are some pictures I took during Belgian Renaissance‘ May event/lecture at Le Space in Brussels. The talk was led by MIT PhD candidate Amah Edoh who discussed her research on African cultural production. Edoh is currently working on her dissertation on wax cloth (also known as “African print cloth”).
Her focus lies on the interplay between social relations and creative practice, and how these dimensions inform conceptions of African-ness . During her talk she discussed the production cycle of the cloth, from design to production and marketing. The talk was followed by a discussion and Q&A with Christelle Pandanzyla and Sibo Kanobana.
Her dissertation, provisionally titled “Of Fabric, Fashion, and Fans: Dutch Wax Cloth and Imag-in-ing the New Africa,” is an ethnographic study of wax cloth (also known as “African print cloth”) designed and manufactured in Holland for West African markets. The dissertation traces the cloth’s trajectory from Holland to Togo, from design to advertising to market, to elucidate how African-ness is being imagined and produced visually and materially in the present historical moment.
The discussion delved deep into the intricacies of authenticity, heritage and identity. Edoh made a compelling case for Africans worldwide to look critically at both Western and the own outlook on culture ownership in a globalized world. It is true the subject can easily cause offend. Cultures are so intertwined with our (sense of) identity and help shape our worldview(s). This makes it sometimes hard to detach oneself from discussions about the cultures that shaped our existence. I won’t argue it is completely possible or even necessary to do so. But to come to a greater understanding of the cultures we love to celebrate it is instrumental to look beyond what we’ve known and believed for our whole lives. Because to honor the fluidity of our identities is to honor who we are.
Follow these links to read more on wax cloth:
- The Curious History of “Tribal” Prints
- The excitement about ‘African fabric’
- When It Comes to African Wax Prints, Buying Local, Thinking Global Isn’t As Easy As You Think