In a small shop nestled inside the heart of Accra, Patience Golo prepares to stitch yards of African wax print for a wedding dress she is making for a client. The fabric is rich in color: pops of papaya-colored lines run through jewel-toned boxes. Across from her hangs a suit made of emerald green and opalescent champagne-hued fabric. Its pattern forms an intricate composition of designs — just about as complex as the fabric’s past. Golo, born and raised in Ghana, rarely uses anything other than wax print for her designs: “It portrays our culture. It’s our cloth,” she said. But oddly enough, African textiles aren’t African. In 1846, Dutch entrepreneur Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen learned that there was a high demand for printed cotton.
With the big boom of the Industrial Revolution happening at the time, he discovered that he could mechanize the method used to make prints on batiks, a popular cloth worn in Indonesia. His company, Vlisco, introduced the printed materials to the Gold Coast (now Ghana), where it exploded on the scene and immediately took off throughout the continent. Since then, the fabric has become deep-rooted in Africa, and has since spread and seeped into societies across the world. Rapid accelerations in technology have made the prints easily accessible and at the disposal of those who choose to wear them. And some historians wonder what lies ahead for the cloths in coming years.
Whether from Dutch or African origin, Africans are the people who valorize and practise the culture of the printed cotton more. And, immigrants on iMiMatch, being mostly Africans, attach particular attention to the said fabrics. Whenever Africans on iMiMatch organize social meetings, most at times, they agree to an explicitly African design dress code. On such days, the colours reverberating in the arena are bright and sparkling and they tell elegantly, the multi coloured history of Africa. Right now, it is not only Africans who wear these designs on iMiMatch but also, some American locals too.