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Wandering Spirit-African Wax Prints Opens at Funk

Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints

September 1 – December 15, 2018

This exhibition is a tribute to the century-old handmade designs and patterns on textiles that originated in Indonesia and were copied and industrialized by Europeans and exported to Africa. Wandering Spirit traces the developmental pathway of the African wax print and tells how these fabrics reflect the stories, dreams, and personalities of the people who wear them.

Batik is a Javanese word that refers to a traditional technique of wax-resist dyeing, in which a pattern is made on both sides of cotton fabric with warm liquid wax applied by a tjanting, a small brass cup with a spout. After the wax cools and solidifies, the cloth is dyed with a primary color and the wax is then removed, revealing the pattern where the wax had once been.

The success of the wax prints on the African scene is driven by many factors, such as the culture, taste, and desires of the African consumers. Clothing in Africa serves an important means of communication, sending secret messages and retelling local proverbs. Clothing also depicts a person’s social status and position, political convictions, ambition, marital status, ethnicity, age, sex, and group affiliations. The names and stories associated with the fabrics differ from country to country and region to region. One fabric may have different names in different countries, depending on the symbolism that the consumer can read in the fabric.

The history of the African wax print is a history paved along colonial trade routes and globalization in the post-colonial era. Though not originally African, these textiles have become ingrained in African culture and society, and loved and identified as their own.

A program of Exhibits USA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts. Supplemental exhibition curated by Dr. Gifty Benson and organized by The African Hospitals Foundation, Tulsa, OK.


Select programming made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation for Brevard.

Images from left to right:  Record (also known as Asubura, also known as Water Well), n.d., manufactured by Vlisco, Netherlands; Dutch Wax Block on cotton, 48 x 12 inches; Large Snail, n.d., manufactured by Vlisco, Netherlands; Dutch Java Print on Damask-Bazin, 48 x 12 inches; Bunch of Banana (also known as Kwadusa, also known as Shell, also known as Helmet), introduced 1914, manufactured by Vlisco, Netherlands; Dutch Wax Block on cotton, 48 x 12 inches; King's Chair dress Form, introduced in 1980, manufactured by Vlisco, Netherlands; Dutch Wax Block on cotton, 59 x 15 1/2 inches; Courtesy of Beatrice Benson Collection.


Tuesday - 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Wednesday - 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday - 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Friday - 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Saturday - 12 p.m.–4 p.m.


Admission is free.

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Terri Wright has held the position of General Manager at WFIT since 1998.