The Curator of COTTON: Global Threads and Deputy Director of the Whitworth, Dr Jennifer Harris discusses with Liza Lemsatef Cunningham this curious design, currently on display in the Textile Gallery, part of the gallery’s extensive textile collection.
Six Bougies is a cotton ‘Dutch Wax’ fabric sample first created for the West African market in 1940, as per the date on the print. Many Dutch Wax designs feature deliberately misaligned registration in the print, dense patterning and sometimes, as with this one, reflect social, historic or political interests. This design features motifs and the text ’6 Bougies’, meaning ’6 spark plugs’ in French. This would reflect social status, the prestige of owning a powerful car requiring 6 spark plugs to operate – associating yourself with this image by wearing it would be perhaps be aspirational or to publicly underline the fact you owned one of these prohibitively expensive vehicles.
(photography © ellelens.com)