AFRICAN URBANISM

When many think of African fabrics, the first thing that comes to mind is wax prints: the brightly colored, geometric, symbolic designs on fabric sported by Africans and those living inside (and more and more outside) of Africa. A recent article on the history of “African” wax prints reveals its complicated beginnings (which aren’t really African, by the way). The article describes how today’s African wax prints were actually developed by Indonesian invention, Indian influence and Dutch manufacturing. What’s more, one the biggest and perhaps most well-known and respected manufacturers of African wax prints isn’t even African — it’s Vlisco, a Dutch company. It’s an incredibly interesting (and informative) story, but I think it misses out on the bigger picture: What does it mean when non-African companies like Vlisco are the major purveyors and trendsetters for “African” fabrics? And what does this mean for opportunities for a local (or…

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