Batiking 101

Trip Start Feb 21, 2010
Trip End Apr 18, 2010

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Flag of Ghana  ,
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I have to admit that I've misled you all. Batiking in fact is not dyeing but rather writing with wax. Batiks origin can be traced back to Asia, India and Africa. Some say the word is of Malay roots and translates "to write" or "to dot".

Batik is an art medium and methodology for creating design, usually on cloth, by applying wax to portions of the material and then dyeing it, then removing the wax. This can be done to make vibrant colors and incredible designs.

Batik is an ancient art that has been handed down for thousands of years. Although the exact origins of batik are unknown, it is most common on the island of Java, Indonesia. When the art of batik was first practiced in Java, it belonged only to royalty and families of wealth and position. It was a hobby for the royal woman. Aristocrats and royalty had certain designs identifying a family, social status or geographical location on the island. Many of these designs have survived to this day.
Today it is believed that certain patterns have special meanings and are thought to bring the wearer good luck, wealth, prosperity, health, etc. If you're really lucky, I'll bring you back something special that has been batiked by one of the African women that I am currently working with (and totally admire).

Yesterday the office went on a field trip to one of the batikers shops. Gina, or Georgina Abra Afenyo, has been working in partnership with Global Mamas for over two years now. Gina's husband teaches french at an all girls private school, so their home and shop is on the grounds of the school. Gina teaches textiles and design part time at a public high school in the area. By Ghanaian standards the Afenyo's are wealthy so Gina gives back to her village by mentoring young women and holding a variety of workshops throughout the year.

It was incredible to watch the batiking process, from boiling the paraffin wax (most commonly used as bee's wax is very expensive), to stamping the cloth, then washing the cloth in boiling water, scooping up the wax and then re stamping and redyeing, the finished products are a labour of love.

The wax stamping is done to isolate designs that should not be dyed. Multiple colours need multiple stamps and the first dye used is always the lightest. It's easy to make mistakes, but we found out yesterday that the majority of the problems occur when the dyes are mixed. The women measure colours like I measure spices, a little of this, a little of that. This would be great if you only need one dress, but when you have a large order from the US, every dress has to be the same colour, or at least close to it.

At this exact moment, a US volunteer Jane, is working on a pattern beside me. Each pattern is cut out onto a piece of foam the size that you see in the photo, then the foam is dipped into the wax a number of times to cover the desired areas. A large majority of volunteers that come to Ghana with Global Mamas are designers, in the summer they expect over 9!

Yesterday was such a treat, Gina is so passionate about her work and I can see that she is an excellent mentor and teacher. I can only hint that she might be getting the recognition she deserves at our upcoming party!
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Aunty Val on

Hi sweetie. This is right up my alley! Wish I were there as a student. Bring home lots of ideas for me. Love the pictures and reading about your travels. I'm so happy you're having such a good time, Mel. Stay safe. All my love and good thoughts. Aunty Val xo

Thomas Clark on

Mel, so good to hear from you! The pictures and stories you shared are so good. Can't wait to read your next posting and see the amazing pictures that you are going to have. Stay safe and have fun!!

othermom on

I hope I'm one of the lucky ones!

gramma_nance on

Mel -- there are a number of us old hippie chicks who know and love batik! And in fact, we have been exposed to it in our early years. ;-) Thanks for providing such a thorough description, it truly is an art and your photos and story are wonderful! Now, us old hippie chicks (and others) can really appreciate this art (that is lost to North America) once again!

Janine on

Hi Melly, I can't believe the experience you're having, sounds like you're having a great time. I love your posts, keep them coming along with more pictures, i want to see you in more of you of them, i'm showing Audrey the pictures and i don't want her to forget what her Auntie Melly looks like.
Missing you lots...


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