Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Information & Videos About West African Mud Cloth (Bololanfini)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba at the Jools Holland 2007

reebeeking | March 10, 2008
live Mali Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba Africa

This post provides information & videos of bògòlanfini ("mud cloth") and is provided for historical, educational, and aesthetic reasons.

My thanks to the video uploaders, producers, and all the artists associated with this post.


There are several mud cloth in West Africa. The most prominent is said to have originated with the women of Mali where it is called Bogolan cloth or Bogolanfini (a composite of bogo, meaning "earth" or "mud"; lan, meaning "with" or "by means of"; and fini, meaning "cloth".) One center of high quality Bogolanfini production is the town of San, so it is sometimes referred to as San Cloth.

Traditionally, Bambara (Bamanan) women, as well as those of the Minianka, Senufo, Dogon, and other ethnic groups, produced the cloth for important life events and taught the process to their daughters. Men, especially hunters, wore it for hunts and celebrations. Today, both women and men make mud cloth for sale in markets, and Malian students study it at the arts academy.
Bògòlanfini or bogolan ("mud cloth") ... has an important place in traditional Malian culture and has, more recently, become a symbol of Malian cultural identity. The cloth is being exported worldwide for use in fashion, fine art and decoration.

The technique is associated with several Malian ethnic groups, but the Bambaran version has become best known outside Mali...

In traditional Malian culture, bògòlanfini is worn by hunters, serving as camouflage, as ritual protection and as a badge of status. Women are wrapped in bògòlanfini after their initiation into adulthood (which includes genital cutting) and immediately after childbirth, as the cloth is believed to have the power to absorb the dangerous forces released under such circumstances...

Bògòlanfini patterns are rich in cultural significance, referring to historical events (such as a famous battle between a Malian warrior and the French), crocodiles (significant in Bambara mythology) or other objects, mythological concepts or proverbs. Since about 1980, Bògòlanfini has become a symbol of Malian cultural identity and is being promoted as such by the Malian government.
Editorial statement: For the record, I am very opposed to female circumcision. However, my admiration for mud cloth is separate from that particular use for that cloth.

Also note that mud cloth is also traditionally made in Burkina Faso, West Africa (see video #2 and read the uploader's comments).

Video #1:
This video is placed at the top of this post.
Click for information on the ngoni musical instrument.

Also, click for Part 2 of my series on "Traditional Musical Instruments Worldwide" which includes information on Ngoni Ba, as well as more information about the ngoni.

Video #3 below showcases annother type of ngoni (donso ngoni).

Video #2: More than Mud - Coulibaly & Brothers, Burkina Faso

Ten Thousand Villages, Uploaded on Jun 17, 2010

"Habibou Coulibaly named his workshop Coulibaly and Brothers because he considers everyone who works there his brother.

Coulibaly and Brothers is one of 20 ...workshops that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Burkina Faso represents. Habibou Coulibaly and his 'brothers' have been making bogolan (mud cloth or 'batik') in the same way hunters in Burkina Faso have for centuries. Hunters used the mud cloth as a way to disguise themselves by changing their sent and among these hunters there were some who added designs. Habibou learned how to do the mud cloth dying process with his grandmother.

Mud cloth is created using natural dies including one produced from the leaves of the sycamore tree. The artisans use brushes and stencils to apply the design to the mud cloth. Women, who traditionally weave the cloth, are now beginning to learn how to do the bogolan or mud 'batik' work as well.

Today Coulibaly's workshop includes 8 artisans and 25 to 30 more people when they are busy with orders. Habibou states that fair trade provides just pay and is helping to change lives in their community. Their work and income helps to unite them and provides them with a decent living.

Because of the work provided by the workshop people now have a mode of transportation where they were before walking by foot. Habibou wants customers to understand that they are not only buying a product but they are also assisting in development. The sales of products provide employment, which eliminates poverty. Habibou wants customers to see the energy and the life of the artisan in their bogolan works of art.

"Don't just look at the price of the product but most of all see the image of the artisan." -- Habibou When you purchase a product at Ten Thousand Villages like this mud cloth, you are purchasing more than a beautiful product. Your purchase assists in development, reduces poverty and takes the image of the artisan into your home."

Video #3: Mud Cloth | African Print Diaries | LAJA

Ashan-wa Aliogo, Published on Sep 10, 2017

Halla halla, I discuss Malian mud cloth today and share a couple tips on how to authenticate, it's presentation in fashion and more :)
This video replaces one that is no longer available.

Cloth Dyers of Mali: Self-Empowered Women

Maureen Gosling, Uploaded on Aug 15, 2008

This is a sample for a one-hour film BAMAKO CHIC, which celebrates the legacy of a small group of dyers whose creativity fueled cloth dyeing into a national commodity in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. Stay tuned for the completed film!

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