Symbolism of Selected Wax Prints in West Africa


Wax prints have been a part of the material culture and visual anthropology of West Africa for centuries. Even though they may appear the same in outlook and material constituent, their interpretation and disposition in the scheme of things differs from country to country across the sub-region and beyond. This study, therefore, seeks to identify, assess and discuss the differences in the symbolism and application of selected traditional wax print designs of four West African countries namely Ghana, Nigeria, Cote de Ivoire and Burkina Faso. The qualitative research design was used to sample ten (10) traditional wax print designs for the study. Interviews, observation and documentation were used to collect data while thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. The findings indicated that there were some similarities as well as differences in the designs that were assessed in the study. Also, the etymology of the prints are appended with interesting stories that resonate with respective culture of application within the study area. It is recommended that information about traditional wax prints are well documented and catalogued so that they remain relevant, timeless and serve as visual metaphors to the future generation.

Author Information
Naa Omai Sawyerr, Takoradi Technical University, Ghana
Richard Acquaye, Takoradi Technical University, Ghana
Cynthia Agyeiwaa Kusi, Takoradi Technical University, Ghana

Paper Information
Conference: ECADE2022
Stream: Culture and Heritage

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon