NTOMA IS CLOTH.

IMG_4211 It was during the 1920’s that west Africa fully adopted the Dutch wax print as a cultural staple, one that has since it’s entry to the Gold Coast (Ghana) suggested status and a symbol of identification. The Dutch, being partly responsible for nurturing the region’s appetite for the vibrantly coloured wax print, slowly adopted cultural symbols into their prints to purposely entice the West African, and it worked,to the extent that proverbs and catchy names coined by the locals have gone to brand this celebrated fabric. Since childhood, “ntoma” which means cloth, has been synonymous with the wax print so much that I thought that was the only fabric that existed. “Ntoma”,

has on gone to become a symbol of our culture without much emphasis on it’s origin, and I think, so long as these fine wax prints bare symbols that resonate with our culture, its manufacturing process is practically blind to us. We, as West Africans have adopted it as our own and now it’s ours, the end.Today the Dutch have been content with the backseat in regards to the face of wax prints, the print has gone so deep into our culture that we are easily identified with it, to the extent that when the world fell in love with it “again” it was documented as “the African Wax Print”. The wax print was a cheap version of hand batiked prints from India, just when demand lost it’s foot in Europe, West Africa picked it up on it, so much that we single handedly built a wax print empire that operates to date. The cloth has become a symbol of status and identification for most with no boundary in it’s use. “We have slept and woken up print” . With time, new alternatives have flooded the market, but the cultural attachment has turned this foreign import into tradition, one that resonates with every West African, regardless of status.”Ntoma” has become us, the colours know our skin and the symbols know our tongue.

”A young girl sits in front of corn grinding shop whiles her mum sells corn based porridge about a few yards away” (Accra, Ghana)

words and photo by Allen Coleman

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