The worldwide Augustana College experience

Bitik-ing at Aba House

This past Wednesday we took a field trip with our art class to the Aba House nearby on the coast. Aba is an American woman who takes in young kids and teaches them some sort of artisan trade so that they do not have to just beg on the streets for money. They make paper and journals, fabrics and carvings, and then in the fall, Aba and the others who run the place buy the kids school supplies for that year. We went there to learn how to bitik, which is a traditional African fabric design using hot wax and dye as the mediums. First we cut out our individual stamps from foam blocks. We used Adinkra symbols, which are everywhere here–their meanings typically having something to do with praising (G)od or proverbial sayings on how to treat one another.

After cutting out the stamps, we picked out our fabric. We then dipped our stamps in burning hot wax and, after blotting the wax on the wooden tables, stamped our fabric with whatever pattern of our stamp we desired. Most did straight lines as that is the typical arrangement on these bitik-ed cloths. Maggie and I used both of our stamps so we had two designs on each of our cloth, and added our own splatterings of wax (Jackson Pollock style) just to make things more interesting.

The wax dried very quickly, so then it was time to begin with the dye. I had picked a white cloth, so I chose a violet dye. We soaked them in whichever color we chose for about 20 minutes, then laid them out in the sun to dry for about another 20 minutes. We then soaked them in a pot of boiling hot water in order to remove the wax, immediately transferring the cloth to a pot of cool water to wash the removed wax off. The cloths were then hung on a clothesline to dry. About an hour later, we had the finished results!

While we were waiting for our cloths to dry, we walked down to the beach (the Atlantic Ocean!) which was about a 5 minute walk.  It was absolutely gorgeous. The waves here are indescribably powerful–absolutely huge forces to be reckoned with. Huge expanses of layered rocks also lined the shore, which we climbed all over, allowing the crashing waves to splash over our feet and occasionally our whole bodies. As we were walking back to Aba House, we searched the shore for shells, of which there was quite the abundance and variety–all sorts of shapes and colors that were new to me! It was definitely a venue that allowed for much scope of the imagination.

Leave a Reply