A center for “art, knowledge and society” created in 2008 in Dakar, Senegal, the Raw Material Company opened the doors on April 10 to its new exposition – Hollandaise: a journey into an iconic fabric.
Following the path of Dutch Wax, the name for these vibrant, printed fabrics exported to the African continent, the exposition draws on the history of this material and a technique first created on the island of Java in Indonesia, which was subsequently developed in the Netherlands and then exported to Africa. Today an icon of African tradition and production, this know-how is the fruit of the complex process of globalization. Traveling through history, it questions the relationship between culture and authenticity, identity and territory.
Uniting five renowned African and Dutch artists – the South African Billie Zangewa, the Ghanaian Godfried Donkor, the Malian Abdoulaye Konate, and the Dutch Wendelien van Oldenborgh and Willem de Rooij – the exposition creates the link between age-old symbolism and contemporary production through the use of videos and textile products specifically created for the occasion.
Fascinated by the therapeutic, historic and creative quality embedded in the fabric, above all in the silk, Billie Zangewauses three of his standard applied tapestries to illustrate the city, modernity and the woman, delivering femininity as a beautiful song.
The enormous hanging of Abdoulaye Konaté, African Feast (the men and the marionnettes), made for the exhibition with fabrics from Mali and Dutch Wax, chronicles a large Malian celebration in a manner that is almost theatrical. Masks, dancers, mythical animals and more – all is shown in bright and vibrant colors. The contrast between the medium and what is shown highlights the paradox and tug represented in the thematic of the exposition.
The video is also in the honor of the Raw Material Company. By taking into account the current point of view of both Ghana and the Netherlands, Godfried Donkor and Wendelien van Oldenborgh allow the medium to illustrate in a descriptive and detailed manner their own relationships with this textile tradition. The former filmed the fabrics at the production point, in a familiar environment surrounded by his friends and family. By reiterating the traditional and economic production that lies within this textile production in his region of Africa, the Ghanaian Donkor recounts the tale of these ingenious businesswomen who stick to their tradition, in the same vein of the Togolese Mama Benzes. With his movie La Javanaise, van Oldenborgh presents the Western viewpoint, or at least a viewpoint “from the West”. Situated in the former Colonial Institute of Amsterdam, the documentary follows three protagonists – the Sudanese model Sonja Wanda, the writer Charl Landvreugd and the researcher David Dibosa – who explain their relation to and their reflections of this symbolic fabric.
The last bridge between the Netherlands and Africa, Willem de Rooij’s Blue to Black offers a silent testimony on colonial history. Produced in Ghana, this large rectangle of fabric, used traditionally for both festivities and funerals, shows an ombre effect of blue to black that is contrasted with the radiant color usually applied to such a material.
Realized by the Cameroonian curator Koyo Kouoh, Hollandaise: a journey into an iconic fabric is the result of a collaboration between the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam and the Raw Material Company for Project 1975, a program which explores the relationship between contemporary art and colonialism.