Enhancing the quality of life of people of developing nations.

African Textile Projects

A History of West African Textile

West Africa textile, one style of which is called batik was first introduced and imported from Indonesia in the 19th century. The batiks that are now sold in western Africa were discovered by accident. Dutch textile manufacturers were trying to adopt the wax-resist method and failed at removing all the wax from the cloth, which created spots, soon adapted into designs by western Africans. Batik textiles have been sold in African markets since the industrial revolution and many of the original designs are still popular today. The colorful patterns made the styles an instant success, and wax-resist batik soon became very popular and started reflecting local traditional culture. Today's designers are also creating new patterns that cater to more modern tastes, as well as upgrading traditional designs to fit contemporary expectations.

Along with decolonization, West African countries started building their own textile mills and creating designs that reflect the essence of the African culture. Each ethnic group has its own patterns and colors, that have a meaning within the community and also serves as another means of recognition between groups. The designs depict stories, important events, daily life elements and often have a meaning to the wearer. It might also provide information about the wearer’s age and social or marital status.

Nowadays, batik is used to tailor clothing, but also household accessories as tablecloths or pillows, quilts, canvas wall hangings and fashion accessories as bags.

Fabrication Method

Batik is a wax-resist process. Once the fabric has been woven, it is “stamped” with melted wax to create the designs. Using hand-carved wood cut dies, the wax is applied to prevent the penetration of the dye, preserving the underlying cloth color. It is common to use a mixture of both beeswax and paraffin wax. In this manner the beeswax adheres better to the fabric and paraffin component will allow cracking that adds additional detail, a characteristic of Togolese and Ghanaian batik. Each swatch or Pagne is hand done, which makes it unique.

In every area where the wax mix seeps through the fabric, the next applied color dye will not be able to penetrate. The fabric is dipped in a tub of dye up to two hours, until the dye saturates the non-waxed portions of the fabric, leaving the wax impregnated area either white or the color of the previous dye application.

Once the fabric cools down, if desired, cracking of the wax is then done to accentuate the design. Once the batik has thoroughly dried, the wax is then removed from the fabric by moving through multiple washes of hot water, or wax can be removed afterwards, ironing the batik between paper towels or newspaper to absorb the wax. The process can be repeated using several colors and repeating the waxing, dyeing and drying steps.

The Project Goal: Empowering Local Textile Workers

World Market Exposure

Hand-dyed batiks are produced in many countries in West Africa, and our batiks are mostly sourced from Ghana and Togo. By providing exposure to the world market through internet sales and publication, the local producers of cloth, design and Batik with realize increased income. The Noar Foundation acts as a catalyst, creating a clearing house, purchasing textile through sellers like Fidèle, selling the Batik fabrics in local and national American and European markets, and reinvesting 100% of the profit into the local African economy in order to provide more jobs, support the industry, and empower workers of the textile trade. It is envisioned that using this model, the local African providers will eventually learn to assume the role of the Foundation and develop their own independent trading companies, thereby completing the full cycle of economic empowerment.

Fidale, designer and batik exporter lives in Togo, the Togolese Capital. She sells some of her fabrics through the Noar Foundation, to maximize her income and support her business.

From Cotton to Finished Product

The entire batik production process takes place locally, in Sub-Saharan Africa: growing the cotton, spinning, weaving, printing, packaging and selling.

Supporting the local industry assumes that more people will be employed as cotton growers and pluckers, spinners, weavers, designers, dyers, stevedores, packagers, carriers and sellers.

As the result of the anticipated increased demand, new infrastructure will be developed. One example would be the construction of new weaving mills, creating even more new employment opportunities.

The preliminary results of the UN Millennium Development Goals show that no long-lasting social improvement can take place without economic growth. Therefore efforts should be directed at simultaneously helping individuals, families and communities generate income to improve their overall condition of life, invest in health care and send the youth to school.

Visit our Store

Please following link provided to see and/or purchase the Pagne or bolt of cloth of your choice. Remember, every purchase you make will support the local economy.

You may also select a design and a fabric and request a garment to be custom made for you!

How to take care of batik: Does this apply to the kind of batik the Foundation sells?

  • Hand wash
  • Use very little detergent
  • Hang the batik directly, do not squeeze the cloth
  • Do not hang in direct sunlight
  • The iron should not directly touch the cloth, best to use a steam iron
  • Do not spray perfume onto the cloth directly

The Noar Foundation for global community development. 
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© April 2024 the Noar Foundation