If you’re visiting Philadelphia, be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building to view a dramatic exhibit that highlights wax printed textiles associated with Central and West Africa.
The Perelman Building, located a few minutes’ walk away from the museum’s grandiose main building, traditionally hosts edgy, offbeat shows that explore intriguing topics. The current show, “Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage,” is no exception. Running until January 22, the exhibition highlights a number of designs by Dutch label Vlisco, one of the oldest international textile brands specializing in Dutch wax fabrics. Items on display include early designs as well as recognizable patterns, plus a cross section of iconic styles re-interpreted in a contemporary manner.
Guests can view various classic Vlisco patterns, such as the “Happy Family” egg motif, with the image of a hen surrounded by her chicks, the “Alphabet” design, which symbolizes the value that Africans place on education, and “Swallows,” the pattern worn in the 1970s by Air Afrique flight attendants. Most of the designs on view were produced by the Dutch for the African and diaspora markets.
In the words of Dilys Blum, the museum’s Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles and organizer of the “Vlisco” exhibit: “The wax-printed fabrics long associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history that is truly global. Many of the patterns shown in this display tell stories and convey images that reflect Africa’s past and reimagine its future.”