Shirt, mens, cotton, maker unknown, Nigeria, 1953-2001
This shirt is a representative example of the popular wax-print technique used in clothing from West Africa, especially Nigeria. The technique is closely related to the batik art style of Java, Indonesia and indeed this is where the idea for wax-print originated, given the presence of Ghanaian soldiers enlisted by the Dutch East India Company who had visited Indonesia in the 19th century. Wax-prints are characterised by their use of bright colours, marbled effects and heavy, almost compacted, use of motifs.
This particular men's shirt forms part of an extensive collection of textiles, dress and handiwork assembled from 1953 to 2001 by Mrs Helen McLeod Crocker, traveller and collector. Almost thirty countries are represented in the collection including Afghanistan, Australia, Bali, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Central America, Central Asia, China, Europe, India, Japan, Kenya, Lao, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Salvador, Somalia, South America, Syria, Thailand, The Ivory Coast, Turkey and Yemen. Helen was very selective in the objects she acquired and the inspiration for her collection originated from her desire to preserve the true essence of the societies she encountered.
This shirt was made in Nigeria by an unknown maker between 1953-2001.
This shirt has been decorated using the wax-print technique. It is produced by the cotton cloth passing between two rollers, which print the wax designs onto both sides. It is then immersed in the dye. Once the wax has been melted off, other colours are added using printing pads. It is common to find streaks of colour or small bubbles created by the tiny cracks in the wax.