The African woman’s addiction to Hollandaise!

1040 0

One only needs to visit any market in Sub-Saharan Africa to see first hand what is meant by the African’s women’s addiction to Hollandaise.  Before we launch into our short treatise, we need to address two important definitions.  

Women dressed in African wax fabric
The word on the street is Hollandaise!
  1. The treatise that follows discusses the fabric Hollandaise also known as African wax and not the sauce.  
  2. African wax is African in so far that it is a fabric beloved and worn by African women, particularly those in the west of the continent

It was well-meaning Dutch sea merchants of the 17thcentury who traded with the Javanese, the inventors of batik fabric, taking the fabric to Europe to sell to Europeans industrializing the manufacture of the fabric in the process.   The Europeans were not enamoured by the fabric so the Dutch peddled their wares to other cultures.  West Africans loved the fabric and it soon became woven into the culture of the Diasporas, from Senegal to Cameroun.  Many theories abound about who actually introduced the fabric to West Africa first Dutch sailors, Dutch soldiers or Dutch traders?  No one knows exactly but there is agreement that whichever profession was involved the nationality of the perpetrator is Dutch. 

Dutch trading merchant ship

The West Africans took the fabric to be their own and the Dutch understanding their market adapted the Javanese batik to meet the tastes of their new customers.  Out went the small intricate patterns with muted colours of the Javanese and in came patterns with large dimensions and bold colours often representing motifs relevant to the West African market.  The Javanese parent fabric almost looks anaemic compared to its West African offspring.  

The Dutch were on to a good thing. The West Africans were truly hooked and the addiction was catching on all through the sub-continent. Today Hollandaise is a worn by women and men all over sub-Saharan Africa.  In addition, some countries are developing a middle class able and very willing to pay premium prices for the Real thing nick-named “Veritable Hollandaise”.  African textile mills manufacture cheaper versions of Hollandaise; such that Hollandaise addiction afflicts both the middle and working classes.

Where there is gold, there will be diggers, enter the Chinese; master bootleggers and expert manufacturers. Chinese mills are now major producers of Hollandaise.  There have been cries of foul play from both Dutch and African textile designers who complain that the Chinese are copying their designs.  So far these cries have fallen on deaf ears and the addiction continues unabated.   The market for Hollandaise is being broadened with designers and celebrities in Europe and the USA getting hooked on Hollandaise.  At Reina de Santiago, we are firmly in the grip of Hollandaise fever and we do not plan to give up our addiction any time soon.

We were intrigued to learn where in Holland all this history was woven.  Imagine our awe when we found that the town of Helmond with a population of 90,000 of which approximately 7000 are involved in the textile industry is responsible for the growing addiction to Hollandaise.

To conclude, Dutch are guilty of introducing the fabulous fabric Hollandaise to West Africa.  West Africans are responsible for giving the fabric its distinct identity.  The motto “bold is beautiful” seems apt and somehow reflects West Africans taking charge of their own destiny.   The name Hollandaise is out dated, from here on in, this glorious fabric shall be known as “African wax”.