Wax Print

Amazing Grace’s Fabric Shop sits two doors down from the Tiny Mosque. When I ask the grey-haired woman sleeping with her eyes open about the mosque, I find out her name is Margaret, not Grace, and she surprisingly knows nothing about the mosque sitting at her footsteps. What she does know a lot about, however, is the collection of fabric rolled up neatly inside a glass display case by her side. Each piece is a brilliant array of lines, colors, and patterns. You see, there are two ways you can dress in Ghana: regular, like everyone else in the world, or original, displaying your own creation made with an infinite variety of Ghanaian wax print fabric. We can’t walk far in our neighborhood without passing in front of a fabric store or a tailor.

“How much for a yard?” I ask.

“It depends on which one,” she answers.

My eyes jump from flower to circle to raindrop to leaf to star. This is going to take awhile. I look at Kojo who is happily exploring the faces of the women standing around him and say, “Could I see this one, that one, the one on top, and these two in the back?”

She begins the process of pulling each one out. I can’t appreciate or evaluate the fabric unless I open it up to see the pattern extended over a few yards. Then I begin to imagine it flat over my chest, gathered around my waste, bundled up around my wrists or flowing over my legs.  

“This one,” Margaret explains, “is called Water Well, it teaches us that actions have consequences. This one comes in green, blue or purple and is called Cluster of Trees it means that the community is greater than the individual. If you look here, this one is called Cow Dung it refers to the fact that outward appearance does not always reflect the true character of something.”

It strikes me that I’m standing in the presence of a teacher who loves her subject matter. I listen intently as Margaret comes to life. I have many yards of fabric at home over pillows, baby blankets, bags and bibs. I wear it often yet have never realized the lessons and stories hidden in each design.

This is a story telling culture. We learn from the experiences of others told by others in the hopes that we can make our own connections. What we find is that there are certain universal truths or common human traits and virtues that we all strive for. In Ghana, people wear their beliefs, values, and history. They walk proudly in the hand-sewn interpretations of their best selves.

“I’ll take four yards of these five.”

It’s a small price for all I’ve gotten. Kojo helps put the folded cuts in a bag and together we carry our stories home.

Note: As I learned about the meaning of the wax prints, I realized that many of them would fit well with the stories I’ve written so far this month. You are invited to visit the archived slices to see the image and meaning of the fabric I’ve selected for each one.

4 thoughts on “Wax Print

  1. “It’s a small price for all I’ve gotten.”
    I agree totally with you!
    The story behind each unique cloth is powerful! Thank you for telling the story in your slide. You have done justice to the prints.


  2. Oh! I cannot wait to go see the various fabrics you’ve paired with the slices. I love the idea that each pattern tells a story, that the way we dress literally tells the story of what we value. As a sewer, this makes my heart go pitter pat. Would that I could be at Amazing Grace’s with you; thank you for taking me there in spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

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