Won most ‘Likes’ at the virtual Character Showcase 2019 hosted on Facebook group, Loom to Wrap.
When I heard about the Character Showcase, I immediately thought of Okoye, the greatest warrior of all times of the Marvel universe. I entered the showcase just to weave Okoye. I was so happy there was an opportunity to motivate me to honour my one and only warrior worthy of spending sleepless nights on, in my opinion.
A fiery, fearless and ferocious Okoye is the General of the kings guard of Wakanda, the Dore Milaje. ‘X’ is inspired by everything she represents. When King T’Chala is dethrowned by Killmonger, Okoye was invited to run away in order to plan how to overthrow the new King. However, the General refuses, despite how her stance may disappoint her friends and allies; she explains “I am loyal to that throne, no matter who sits upon it.” And then she asks “what are you loyal to?”
I choose to do a plainweave as I wanted to be safe with the batik dyeing. I was unsure on how other patterns would behave with the wax, hence stayed with plainweave which is the weave pattern in African cloth that gets turned into batik.
To stay true to my artistic identity, I added an element of clasping, at the middle marker point. I wove Okoye’s sword because her sword is the symbol of her warriorship. Therefore, it was crucial that I included her sword; this clasping was very precised, measured and took me a very long time to achieve. It had to be centered correctly in order for the finished textile to work on the body the way I wanted it to. I hemstiched the fringes.
Choosing the fibres
I wanted to use the mulburry silk I dyed in gold for my last weaving project, the Black mamba. It was meant to be the remaining weft of a second Black Mamba piece. But since my life circumstances came in to disrupt my plans, I had that silk waiting to be used. So I used them on the top and bottom rails of the warp to represent the gold jewelry Okoye is wearing around her neck. Silk being sleek and shiny was in my opinion the best fibre for this purpose.
I also choose Rose Viscose for the main part of the warp only because I had it and I cannot even remember how I got it? Did I buy it? Was it gifted to me? Where did it come from? If anyone remembers passing it on to me, please let us know; it’s a mystery!
The weft as bourette was to add grippiness to the silk and rose viscose. Since I was planning to do plainweave, I needed by weft to make sure my threads don’t shift and my wrap is strong to bear weight for babywearing purposes. Also the bourette is unused yarn that I bought for the last GCOW that I was sponsored for but could not do my piece for that competition. Therefore, I am very happy to have used it.
‘X’ is also inspired by the futuristic aspect of Wakanda with Okoye’s sword made of Vibranium that helps her in combat ‘X’ features pure silver yarn at it’s middle-marker point. Okoye’s spear has been woven using clasped weft at the middle point, and gold-painted pure silver thread has been added on top of it to add shine, but also a metallic texture, such that when it is touched, it feels like truly a metal weapon.
I wanted to respect African textile art again, as usual and wanted to try something new to me. Hence I went with African Batik. This is a complex technique that I enjoyed learning, firstly at a workshop with African dye artists at the Wassan’Africa festival in Launac (southern France), and then with online resources. With my batik, I showcase various types of wax resist dyeing (thin lines, dots, brush painting, thin cracks, thick cracks, and large cracks). I used over 50 different colour mixes.
‘X’ – It is not pronounced as the letter x, nor is it verbalised at all. It is shown by crossing one’s own arms over one’s own chest in an ‘X’, just like the ‘Wakanda Forever’ sign.
The wrap’s name celebrates non-verbal communication that is very present not just in Wakanda but in many African cultures. Many things are said without uttering a word, but rather head and/or hand gestures, face expressions, body language… Hence ‘X’ is not something we say, but something we show.
Despite the risk of how it may be received, ‘X’ does not trade on the tradition and is hence designed to a length that respects the average length of African babywearing cloth pieces. With 162cm plus fringes, women of all sizes can wear in a torso African carry, tied on chest, but even better, knotless.
However, to allow wearers to have choices and other options, ‘X’ can also be worn with a sling ring in at the hips or on chest (for smaller babies).
Removing the wax was the biggest challenge. It took me over a week to remove the wax! Also, I accidentally cut up a tiny piece of the wrap at the tail. I was devastated. I however managed to fix it, although at some point I thought my dream wrap was over and it will remain a wall artpiece.
- ‘X’ was shot at a fallen castle, to represent the Kingdom of Wakanda after the battle with Killmonger. Chateau de Lespugue (or its ruins) in south of France.
- ‘X’ is super soft after washing, and ‘hardens up’ a bit after ironing. Not sure why?! Maybe the wax? It’s a mistery!
- ‘X’ was shot all using a phone camera, my uncle’s! And zero edit has been made apart from cropping, collage and adding of watermark!
- When produced ‘X’, I felt like I was doing a self-portrait.
- To my model Drey Mchd Rlnd who drove a total of 3 hours return trip to the chateau for the shoot.
To my uncle Frank Sansano who was the photographer and super moral support!
To Loom to Wrap and Saltwater Rose for sponsoring me to buy materials and dyes.
- To the last GCOW for sponsoring me then and I managed to use some of the yarn for this project.
To anonymous friend for also partly sponsoring me for sponsoring me, especially for batik materials and equipment.
To Louise Macdonald for gifting me the gold-painted silver yarn all the way from Australia.
I dedicate this piece to every little Black girl who grew up never seeing a warrior that looks and celebrate them.