This fascinating film, Wax Print: 1 Fabric, 4 Continents, 200 Years of History, follows Aiwan Obinyan as she learns about the colonial history and origins of traditional African wax prints. It traces the global history of a fabric that has become an iconic symbol of Africa and her children worldwide.
Surprised to learn from her Nigerian grandmother that ‘traditional’ African wax printed fabrics were a colonial invention made in the UK and Holland, British-born filmmaker and fashion designer, Aiwan Obinyan, sets out on a journey across the globe to trace the two-hundred year history of this iconic textile. From the intricate hand-crafted batiks of Indonesia to the cotton fields of North America and from European industrial mills to the bustling markets of West Africa, the story of how one fabric came to symbolise a continent, its people and their struggle for freedom.
Surprised to learn from her Nigerian grandmother that ‘traditional’ African wax printed fabrics were a colonial invention made in the UK and Holland, British-born filmmaker and fashion designer, Aiwan Obinyan, sets out on a journey across the globe to trace the two-hundred year history of this iconic textile.
Obiyan started her clothing line ONOMEN in 2014 using Wax Print fabrics as her foundation and inspiration. When her Nigerian Grandma saw the clothes, she remarked ‘Ah, you are using Hollandaise, that’s good.’ The remark made Obinyan confused as to why she referred to it as ‘Hollandaise’ and why that was good so she decide to discover the true history of Wax Prints in a bid to answer the question: Is Wax Print African?
According to Obinyan, “I am both honoured and humbled to have undertaken this incredible journey.” The discovery has taken two years and involved a lot of world travel, from the Vlisco factory in the Netherlands to the cotton field of the USA and from the bustling markets of Ghana to Obinyan’s sewing school in Nigeria. She has also met with young Africans in the Diaspora reinterpreting and reclaiming the wax print fabrics in bold and new ways.
Watch Online Screenings:
The Wax Print film is screening online throughout the month of August via Aya Flims – a film distribution company with a specific focus on African and Black films. This screening is part of Film Feels: Connected, a UK-wide cinema season, supported by the National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network. You can book your ticket by paying what you can and then enjoy access to the film at this link: https://www.ayafilms.org/watch-at-home/
I have always wondered myself about origins of the African print so I was really excited to hear about this production and I rushed to watch the trailer and eventually the film. Of course, it did not dissappoint. The production was authentic and very relatable. In the documentary film, Obinyan does a great job of telling the story of the wax print from a variety of perspectives in such a tangible way that it resonates and hits home with most Africans who are familiar with the fabrics. Are you intrigued yet? Make sure you watch the film!
Special Live Discussion:
It does not end there, Aya Films will be hosted a special live discussion: African Fashion Connects, on Friday 14th July at 7:00 p.m. (UTC)+1 on Aya Films Facebook page. You can check it out and bring some of your thoughts after having seen the film. This discussion will draw on the global connections of African fabric and fashion with speakers from the African continent and diaspora. Panellists will include:
Chair: Firdoze Bulbulia
Firdoze Bulbulia is a South African activist, theatre director, producer, writer and educator. Firdoze comes from a long line of fashion designers and merchants and will draw on this lineage during the discussion.
Born in Madagascar, raised in South of France, now living in the UK, Christelle has been working as a makeup artist specialised in the fashion and editorial since 2010. Christelle grew up surrounded by dress makers and her creativity has always been an important part of her life. Christelle’s has worked across advertising campaigns, magazine shoots, films, music videos, TV shows, London and Paris Fashion Week.
“I have always worn a headwrap ever since I was a child. I am Haitian so it’s part of our culture. My mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother always wore one so it was perfectly natural for me. I used to think they look so regal and bold and always stood out – I wanted to feel that way too. I wear my headwrap because it makes me feel confident and strong. Like I’m ready to tackle the world!” Sandra is the founder of Knots UK an African headwrap company.”
About the Director:
Aiwan Obinyan is a Nigerian-British, Filmmaker and Composer. She has worked in the film and music industries as a musician, audio engineer, composer and filmmaker. Her work has appeared nationally and internationally with clients including Young Vic, ITV and Majek Fashek. In 2013, she founded AiAi Studios a production company specialising in music & sound design for Film, TV and artists.
Are you surprised to learn that wax print fabrics, a.k.a. African prints are not really African? Share your thoughts and comments about this reality below.