Handmade Batik From Tanzania

One of my favourite fabrics are batiks. When handmade every piece is unique. The history of its origin goes a long way and is complicated. The origin is most likely in Indonesia and there are different versions how the technique came to Africa. Now unfortunately many batiks are machine-made, imported from China.

Handcrafted batik is made by painting or stamping hot liquid wax onto a piece of cotton fabric in the desired pattern. The fabric is then dipped into a fabric dye which adheres to all of the areas that are not covered by the wax. Through handling and dying the fabrics the wax will crack and the dye also slips through these fine cracks. This is how the fabrics get their unique look. After dyeing the wax is removed (washed out with hot water) and the first pattern is visible. The process of painting or stamping and dyeing can be repeated with other patterns and colours and beautiful fabrics are created.

The technique is quite simple but very time consuming. And of course the special beauty and uniqueness of the design depends on the creative input from the artisan.

In Tanzania batiks with tribal and wildlife designs are popular by tourists. But my experience is, when you by one, at home it disappears in the closet. I personally love these fabrics the most for home textiles, like cushions, table sheets and -runners and even in bed sheets they look nice. It’s timeless. Also for garments they can be used but in many cases the fabric is quite stiff. So the design has to be suitable for the fabrics.

I was happy to discover that there is a revival in producing handmade batiks, in some cases on organic cotton. Over the last 10 years small companies and artist have established step-by-step an income by producing these fantastic fabrics. In many cases they are part of a micro-finance projects or are helped by NOG”s to develop their business.

During my mission in Dar es Salaam for PUM I met some small companies, members of the Womans Chambre of Commerce, dealing with handmade batik production. They are now in the process of making a small collection of home textiles. If you are interested in joint production or importing handmade batiks please click here.

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