How the Stunning African Batik Silhouettes are Made

A big thank you to Discover Corps for providing this artsy experience! As always, all opinions are our own.

Ever wonder how the beautiful silhouette scenes of Africa make it on to fabric?

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

We did and, as part of our Discover Corps experience in Tanzania, we learned the secret. We even got to try our hand at making our own. 

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

The method is called batik and the process uses colorful dyes -- controlled by applying wax to cloth -- to create the images.

How the Stunning African Batik Silhouettes Are Made!
How to African Batik!

The idea of the our endeavor was to (hopefully) bring out our artistic qualities.

As we began they seemed to be fairly well concealed, but the group of artists who came to visit us at our homebase were as patient as they were talented, and coaxed us into making bold attempts.

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

We were each issued a piece of fabric and a pencil to begin our endeavors.

The idea was to sketch a picture that would then be dyed into the material.

Looking around the table we noticed many diligent, yet somewhat pained expressions on the faces of our Discover Corps mates.

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

Many of us were unknowingly doing the classic tongue-sticking-out-of-the-side-of our-mouth and slightly-bitten look of a kid really bearing down on something.

Once we managed to draw something loosely resembling a picture, wax was applied to all areas that would remain white.

The wax acts as a shield so, when dye is applied, the colors wouldn't affect the waxed portions.

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

Once the wax hardened, the staining process began.

Wanting a sunset silhouette, we chose vivid colors of red and yellow -- to blend into the brilliant oranges of sundown -- and the dyes were applied to the entire cloth.

After the background was laid down, the fabric was dried over a charcoal fire.

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

Once dried, more wax could be applied to the entire cloth - minus the areas that would ultimately be black. So our happy little tree was left unwaxed.

This enabled our tribe of less-than-precise artists to color the waxless areas without the worry of the dye going all willy-nilly.

Brilliant!

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

We painted in the black dye with a tiny brush to the proper areas, and, upon completion, the drying process was repeated.

To remove the wax, we simply rubbed the fabric against itself vigorously.

In Tanzania, nothing is wasted; the wax that fell from our masterpieces was gathered and returned to the melting pot to be used again.

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

We then ran a hot iron over our cloth to melt away any remnants.

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

Creating a batik from the book cover of Going Gypsy with Discover Corps in Tanzania, Africa

Viola! We had our masterpieces.

Actually, many members of our group made very impressive scenes, however David’s elephant’s head came out looking more like a cassowary than a pachyderm.

On the other hand, Veronica managed a rather clever adaptation, an African version of the cover of our book, Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Delve Deeper:
See our Tanzanian adventure from the very beginning
Click to see all of our adventures in Africa!

A big thank you to Discover Corps for providing this artsy experience! As always, all opinions are our own.




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