Ivory Coast’s "Pagne", an invitation to a festival of colors !
Small reminder :
End of 17th century, Holland has a few colonies in Indonesia.
With a drastic increase of uprisings in the colonies, the Dutch hire mercenaries from the Ashanti Kingdom (Ghana) to deal with them.
Their work done, the Ashanti got back home with chests full of indonesian Batik cloth.
Such glory for the aristocracy and the ashanti people! Everyone wanted their share of the wondrous drapery.
The Dutch, smelling profit, set up factories back in Holland, with one goal: flooding the African market with indonesian inspired loinclothes, carefully crafted according to the lost "wax technique".
A new class of rich women emerged, buying directly to the Dutch, removing Ghana from the equation. They were called "Mama Benz" in Togo, thanks to the Mercedez-Benz they drove. They soon possessed several hotels in various African countries.
"Wax Pagne" is born and it’s now more than a cloth. It’s become a symbol, a sign of social status and used for important stages in life (engagement, wedding, baptism, end of apprenticeship)
See above, old pattern with little stories which change according to the different African countries and the mood of the woman who wear it !
(From left to right)
"Tomato" : just because it seems like tomatoes...
"5 hours" 1936 : in some villages, as they were no clock, this pattern represented the sun at 5.PM, so that the workers can remember when they have to go back to the village.
"Fan" : I saw a merchant wearing it and she was selling fans !
"Eye of my rival" 1949 : lots of patterns talk about the relationship in the couple, about women seen as rivals, especially in polygamous families.
"ABC Alphabet" 1920 : when a child enter school for the first, we can wear this pattern.
"Family": Rooster, chicken and chicks.. I’m sure with funky colour, this pattern is nice to wear...
"Heart" or "Sowing"
"Devaluation" or "US dollars" 1967.
It’s are also used for historical events ! They’re then kept as souvenirs.
Below, the famous Henry Koman bridge, finished in December 2014.
I have to admit though, this is -not- very classy...
But how are these clothes crafted?
Well for starters, we need a rough, yellow, previous cotton piece.
That cotton piece is then processed to give it its white hue.
There are 3 different ways to print on the cloth:
Direct printing: The dye is applied directly on the piece of cloth.
"Reserve painting" :
Products (here wax) are applied to the cloth, preventing dye to fix properly.
Discharge painting: Dye is removed locally from the piece of cloth.
The pattern is engraved on a piece of copper.
The cloth is then immersed in dye (base colour).
As stated previously, the wax won’t allow the dye to penetrate the covered parts and is removed mechanically afterwards.
The Tomato one !
Colours and finals touches are added before the loincloth can be put up for sale.
Lots of patterns and colours become available each year. Old patterns are reused, re-colored, re-styled.
They’re is also "Pagne Baoulé ", witch are stripes of woven cotton, sewn between them.
Women get creative and always find very elegant ways to wear and display their Wax !
The Vlisco Wax is an institution ! Women know how to wear it with style, It’s an other world of fashion. And men can have shirts, hat, shoes, also in Wax !
And maybe you will recognise some pattern "déjà-vu" ! ;)
So I didn’t miss that opportunity ! I got myself some nifty Wax trousers. (cf 1st image)
It would have been a shame to damage them during the rest of our trip, so I left them sleeping safely back in France, awaiting my return!