GHANA IS WELL KNOWN FOR IT’S VIBRANT FABRIC PRINTS. You see the gorgeous finished products stacked up in stalls throughout the markets and streets of the city and even on the high fashion runway shows of Marc Jacobs and Diane von Furstenberg. But how exactly are these fabric cloths made? There are a variety of processes for producing these colorful designs. Unfortunately, a lot of the cloths are imported into the country from places like China and Holland where the prints are mass produced for worldwide distribution. This affects the ability of local producers, many who have learned the trade from elder family members, to sell their original designs. We wanted to expose the tour group to this unique cultural tradition and to support the economy of local fabric producers.
One style of fabric printing is batik- the most popular form of printmaking in Ghana and other parts of West Africa-where symbols are stamped onto the cloth and then dyed one or more colors.
The batik activity was, possibly, the most fun for the EBC group. We arranged a class in Arts Centre for the group to understand the complicated process of making printed fabric cloth. Each person worked with professional batik makers, some who have been in the industry for two decades, to complete the step-by-step process of fabric printing.
Here is how you make a batik cloth:
Step 1: Collect two yards of white fabric cloth.
Step 2: Select the sponge blocks that will used to decorate the cloth. There are more than two dozen sponges available with different symbols that communicate particular characteristics, religious phrases or ethical proverbs.
Step 3: Dip the sponge in a large bowl of steaming hot wax. Shake off the excess wax and print precisely yet firmly on the white cloth. Create a pattern with one or more of the sponge symbols until the cloth is covered fully.
Step 4: Allow the wax prints on the fabric to dry. Select the color dye for the fabric cloth.
Step 5: Soak the fabric in the selected color dye and chemical setting mixture for 15-20 minutes.
Step 6: Allow the fabric to dry on the ground for 2-3 hours. El fini! The cloth can now be used to make: 1) a shirt or skirt 2) a tablecover 3) a throw for a chair, couch or bed or 4) a wall hanging.
After finishing the batik making process, the EBC crew had an enhanced appreciation for the work of fabric cloth makers and sellers.
Check out video of the group making their batik cloths: