Kean to Kick Off African History Month with African Wax Prints Exhibition

Century-old handmade designs reflect wearer's stories, dreams and personalities

UNION, N.J. – Kean University will host the Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints exhibition at the Karl and Helen Burger Gallery from February 1 to March 3, 2017. In celebration of African History Month, an opening reception will be held on February 1, from 3-5 p.m. Admission to the reception and the gallery exhibition is free and open to the public.

"The Wandering Spirit exhibition is a great opportunity for visitors of the Burger Gallery to consider the cultural dynamic that drives taste and trends in clothing and fashion,” said Neil Tetkowski, Director of Kean University Galleries. “Even today in Harlem, one regularly sees these colorful, typical fabrics mostly worn by first-generation immigrants from West Africa.”

The works in Wandering Spirit trace the history of the African wax print and tells how these fabrics reflect the stories, dreams and personalities of the people who wear them. The exhibition is a tribute to the century-old handmade designs and patterns on textiles that originated in Indonesia as a wax-printing technique called batik. The method of creating a pattern with warm liquid wax was copied and industrialized by Europeans, and eventually exported to Africa.

From country to country and region to region, clothing in Africa continues to serve an important means of communication today, sending secret messages and retelling local proverbs. Clothing depicts a person’s social status and position, political convictions, ambition, marital status, ethnicity, age, sex and group affiliation.  

Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints is curated by Dr. Gifty Benson and organized by Exhibits USA/Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition at Kean University Galleries is presented in collaboration with Kean's Office of Student Government and Africana Studies program.

Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints
February 1–March 3, 2017
Karl and Helen Burger Gallery
Kean University
1000 Morris Ave. Union, N.J.
Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

For more information, visit, email or call 908-737-0392.


Kean University will host an exhibition of century-old handmade designs and patterns on textiles that reflect the stories, dreams and personalities of those who wear them in Wandering Spirit: African Wax Prints at the Karl and Helen Burger Gallery, 1000 Morris Ave. in Union, from February 1 to March 3, 2017. Fig. 1: Michelle's Shoes, introduced 2011, manufactured by Vlisco, Netherlands; Dutch Super Wax on cotton, 48 x 12 inches; Courtesy of Beatrice Benson Collection. Fig. 2: Heart of Barack, introduced 2007, manufactured by Vlisco, Netherlands; Dutch Super Wax on cotton, 48 x 12 inches; Courtesy of Beatrice Benson Collection. 

Kean University Galleries has a rich and diverse exhibition program that highlights cultural issues and are interdisciplinary in nature. These no-cost, public programs are designed to educate and engage gallery visitors through the visual arts. Resulting dialogue further encourages visitors to think, share, question and collaborate. At Kean Galleries, we believe that art is an effective vehicle for building awareness of critical world issues and initiating social change.

Founded in 1855, Kean University has become one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, with a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving nearly 15,000 students. The University's six undergraduate colleges offer 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers four doctorate degree programs and more than 60 options for graduate study leading to master's degrees, professional diplomas or certifications. With campuses in Union and Toms River, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, Kean University furthers its mission by providing an affordable, accessible and world-class education. Visit


Press Contact: 

Millie Gonzalez
Media Relations Specialist
Kean University | 908-737-0586

Neil Tetkowski
Kean University Galleries | (908) 737-0392

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