The Wax is a true emblem of African fashion. For several months, we’ve seen this traditional fabric flourish everywhere: in magazines, in the collections of fashion brands, in advertising campaigns and in the street. Today, the Wax is reinterpreted by young African-European brands seeking to reclaim this African culture by mixing it with Western references, and by Western fashion houses, which see it as a source of aesthetic inspiration. Since Wax is approached as a trend, the danger of cultural appropriation is never far away.
Wax is a cotton canvas that takes its name from its double-sided wax, making it waterproof and printed with patterns and shimmering colors. This fabric dating back to the nineteenth century is in fact an appropriation of batik, an Indian fabric, by Portuguese settlers who imported it into sub-Saharan Africa in order to trade with local populations. Since then, the Wax market has been firmly rooted in African culture.
The most famous form of this textile is the African loincloth, but the meaning of the motifs of Wax is often unknown to Westerners. Indeed, the Wax is not only an aesthetic vocation: originally, each motif corresponds to a message, allowing African women, then often subject to their husband, to express themselves non-verbally through their clothes. In this sense, the Wax played a big emancipator role for the woman. Among the most appreciated motifs are the “Genito” (I like young men), the “You go out, I go out” (If you deceive me, I cheat on you) or the “My husband is capable” ( My husband fulfills me sexually).