A new exhibition has launched at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, titled ‘Creative Africa’. From centuries-old sculpture and architecture to contemporary photography and fashion, ‘Creative Africa’ is combining innovation and tradition to celebrate a full season of African art and design. Among a dynamic schedule of programs, artist talks, family festivals and community conversations, a highlight of the exhibition is an installation titled, ‘Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage’.
On display from 30th April, 2016 to 22nd January, 2017, at the Joan Spain Gallery, ‘Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage’ explores the history of the Dutch company, Vlisco, and how its textile brands became so influential, not only in Central and West Africa, but also throughout the fashion industry worldwide. Showcasing the bright and bold patterned fabrics that Vlisco is famous for, visitors to the exhibition will get a taste of the company’s effortless fusion of tradition and luxury, and how African and European designers and makers have interpreted these beautiful West African fabrics.
It is surprising to learn that Vlisco’s wax printed textiles have actually been designed and manufactured for a long time in Europe, China and India, while the most luxurious fabrics are made in the Netherlands. Although originally exported to Indonesia during its foundation in 1846, Vlisco entered the West African market three decades later and to this day, African consumers, fashion experts and fabric enthusiasts around the world still relate the bold, vibrant textiles to West Africa fashion and culture.
Another part of ‘Creative Africa’ which will also be celebrating the beauty of West African textiles is the ‘Threads of Tradition’ installation, in the Costume and Textiles Study Gallery. ‘Threads of Tradition’ honours the techniques, skill and creativity of the textile makers. Exploring the various methods that African weavers and artisans use to create patterns, including strip-weaving, resist dyeing, applique and embroidery, the installation reveals how each piece of fabric possesses a deep cultural significance.
With such an interesting story and rich heritage, it is exciting to see Vlisco, wax prints, West African textiles and the artisan’s intricate techniques represented and celebrated on such a scale. For more information on the exhibition, you can visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s website.