Let’s start with wax resist
Wax resist — aka batik — is a very old way to make fabrics. It began in Indonesia, got mechanised in Europe and the patterns became wildly popular in West Africa.
Right, tell me more
Etched rollers print designs in wax on cotton cloth. The waxed parts then ‘“resist” the dye, leaving a pattern, with more detail printed on top.
Personally, I’m more interested in the result
Well a lovely artisan effect usually has a bit of “crackle” where dye seeps through the wax. Colours are jazzy — some would say jarring — and with traditional or madly modern motifs.
Can’t I buy something for my home?
Yes, that’s the point. For that African touch, we love Natalie Manima of bespokebinny.com for fleecy-lined throws, aprons and lampshades. Also check out baskets and bags by Xandra at lollykiks.com and Eva Sonaike does “luxury” designs (evasonaike.com).
But could I stitch something myself?
Sure. You’ll find stalls selling fabrics at markets in Brixton, Shepherd’s Bush, Petticoat Lane (Middlesex Street) and Dalston.
What else should I know?
Bone up on other types of African fabrics. Explore africanfabric.co.uk — Magie Relph and Bob Irwin have been collecting treasures for more than 30 years. Just arrived: mud cloth from Mali and Kente cloth from Ghana. But I’ll finish with the art.
Showing off again?
An explosive new show of African scenes by Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage, painted on Ugandan barkcloth is at the Royal Academy. They say it’s “Gauguin meets Goya”.