Cloth, 1999, African. Wax-printed cotton, 47 x 71 3/4 in. (119.4 x 182.2 cm), Seattle Art Museum, General Acquisition Fund, 99.56.4
For The World Stage: Africa, Lagos-Dakar
series, Kehinde Wiley places his subjects before a pattern inspired by so-called Dutch wax textiles. Originating as 19th-century Dutch copies of Indonesian batiks, the wax-resist-dyed fabrics were unsuccessful in their intended Southeast Asian market and instead were sold in West Africa. There they proved popular and became a part of everyday life—to the extent that they are now considered quintessentially West African prints. With these global and market-driven origins, the fabrics raise uncomfortable questions about the legacies of colonialism and notions of authenticity and cultural identity.