14/0663

‘The serial number of one of the most iconic African wax-print patterns if 14/0663. This classic design features a series of concentric circles speckled with indigo blue and white dots that create a glistening sun effect. The central pattern is surrounded by small, interspersed dark figures that resemble a network. With the contrasts of blue, orange, and red, the radiating circles create a pulsing visual effect. They capture the eye and pull it toward the centre blue disk, a centrifugal pattern that is in tension with the active, intersecting network that surrounds it. The pattern is vibrant and dense; pulling and radiating with energy like the sun; it has an agentive quality, and when women wrap this “sunray” cloth around their bodies, or tailor it into a two-piece outfit, it becomes fully animated.’ NS 1

‘Patterns that are considered classics–such as … 14/0663–have special aesthetic and economic value. Six yards–the standard length required to make a woman’s outfit–of the 14/0663 design costs about $65, although its market price can skyrocket when supply is scarce and the pattern is in demand. Known by a variety of names such as “Target,” “La Cible,” “Disk,” “Record,” or “Plaque-plaque,” 14/0663 has long-standing currency as an investment and fashion piece in West Africa and beyond.’ NS 3-4

This fabric is called Target Consulaire Gbédjégan (Traditionel King’s hat) or Gbedze in Togo. A hat that resembles the straw hats of kings. These hats are worn during everyday activities and also during work in the fields. It is different to the royal crown. It covers the entire head and is made of straw. Some women wear this hat to protect themselves from the blazing sun in front of their stall at the market.

Text – Vlisco Stories

‘Indeed, 14/0663 features the same circular repetitions with uneven radiating streams that West African tie-dying creates. And this brings us back to the iconic sunburst pattern. A global assemblage par excellence, it mimics the visual detail of West African tie-dye cloth but expresses it with a colonial-era process that was an innovation of Southeast Asian resin-resist printing.’ NS 5

Josephine, a translator in Rwanda, wears a dress made out of 14/0663 fabric.

Image – Judith Gueyfier

Patterns of Appropriation

‘…Vlisco was not the first Dutch company to produce the iconic pattern. 14/0663 was already a copy of a pattern that another Dutch manufacturer had been producing since the late nineteenth century. But this is not where the peculiar story of copy and appropriation of the sunray pattern end.’ NS 4

‘Wax cloth is shot through with technologies of mimeses at the level of production and consumption. The current concern with the Chinese impact on authentic African textiles is full of irony, considering that what produced ‘authenticity’ in the first place was rooted in the very technology of reproduction. All cloth, as print, to some extent is copy. Wax cloth is no exception. The classic pattern 14/0663 is printed in hundreds of thousands of yards each year, through both authorised and unauthorised channels. In fact, 14/0663 survives through its technological reproduction and dissemination. And yet it defies the logic of seriality and replication in conventionally printed, mass-produced cloth. Recall the crackle, the distinctive and inimitable visual background effect, produced during the manufacturing process when dye leaks through the cracked wax resin. Each yard requires a form of originality or authenticity (an ‘aura’ as it were ) that is enhanced rather than diminished by the technical apparatus of mechanical production (Benjamin [1936] 1969).’ NS 16

Dutch version

Chinese interpretation

Digitally wax printed version

Coming soon.

Research –
Vlisco Stories

 

Sylvanus, Nina. 2016. “Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender & Materiality in West Africa”. The University of Chicago. NS

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