Wax Prints: Fashion and Visual Agency in Brazil and Nigeria

Researcher:

Dandara Maia Schellenberg

In this study, we propose to investigate the use of wax prints – or Ankara – dressing the black body as a performative act that produces and asserts identities due to the power of its visual materiality. The intention is to map ways of how wax operates expressing and discussing social and ethnic issues by studying the image created by this cultural performance. I argue that the image of wax prints is able to represent and materialize an imagined territory, a mythical Africa, which is referenced by black people from diasporic countries. Also, this hybrid object encounters tradition and modernity decolonizing notions of beauty and reaffirming Africa as an epicenter of art and fashion.

 

I analyze a selected number of wax prints concerning its visual characteristics as well as with other physical and sensorial properties. The empirical approach connects the visual analysis work with the uses of wax and its aesthetics experiences in everyday life and fashion collections in Nigeria and Brazil. This permits us to understand how wax acts and how it impacts peoples in both countries. We establish a connection between fashion in Lagos and the Brazilian counterparts to show how issues of cultural/racial interconnections are mediated by the wax image but also making out possible areas of transatlantic translations and transformations.