Object Project Question

Posted: February 16, 2012 by lilzak in Uncategorized

“A picture of a pipe isn’t necessarily a pipe; an image of “African fabric” isn’t necessarily authentically [and wholly] African”.

quoted by Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian-British contemporary artist known for his amazing artwork using African print fabrics in his scrutiny of colonialism and post-colonialism.

My questions regarding African wax prints are who decide what authentic African fabric is?

Most people do not know the history of African wax print fabrics. Like myself I assume it was of African origins side it is so widely worn in West Africa. I would like to correct this misconception and clarify how it came to be ‘African’ and why and how the African diasporic community incorporates the cloth in its perceptions of Africa.

What role does Afro-European history play in this authenticity and how does this affect African diasporic identity?

Here I want to provide an understanding of how and why the Europeans came to be the exporters of the African wax print into Africa and how it affected to traditional production of textiles. Also how the fabric was received. It is also interesting that the ‘middlemen’ used to sell this product were women and how this product was marketed by them in Africa. I also want to explore how this affects the diasporic African community whether or not they know of this history and their response.

Does objectification and commoditization of this cloth alters the sense of African in the diasporic identity?

This fabric is widely worn by Western Africans and often bought by diasporic Africans as a way to incorporate ‘Africa’ into their lives. I wonder how does buying and selling the fabric affects identification with Africa? I also want to show how Africans have changed the fabric by customizing them to reflect their own cultural and religious values.

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