Today we will be talking about the Faso Dan Fani, known as Burkina Faso‘s national cloth. For starters, the Faso Dan Fani means “woven cloth of the homeland” (pagne tissé de la patrie). All the words are Dioula: Fani = cloth/wrapper (pagne), Dan = woven (tissé), Faso = homeland (patrie). It is known locally as FDF. As you have probably guessed, the Faso Dan Fani is a handwoven cotton cloth. The weaving style and patterns differ depending on the ethnic group. As you all know, weaving cotton is an ancient African tradition (African textiles): in the old days, the spinning was done by women, while the men were left with weaving the cotton threads into cloth. With time, women took over the weaving business as well.
In 1986, the President of the Faso, Thomas Sankara, declared that it was important to “produce and consume Burkinabé“. Thus, he declared “In all the villages of Burkina Faso, we know how to grow cotton. In all villages, women know how to spin cotton, men know how to weave it into cloth, and other men know how to sew those threads into clothes... [Dans tous les villages du Burkina Faso, l’on sait cultiver le coton. Dans tous les villages, des femmes savent filer le coton, des hommes savent tisser ce fil en pagnes et d’autres hommes savent coudre les pagnes en vêtements …]” and further “We should not be slave of what others produce [Nous ne devons pas être esclave de ce que les autres produisent].” For the president, “wearing the Faso Dan Fani is an economic act, cultural, and political to challenge imperialism [porter le Faso Dan Fani est un acte économique, culturel, et politique de défi à l’impérialisme].”
Thus under Thomas Sankara’s revolution, the traditional attire was imposed in work places. … Many were not pleased with it, to the extent that some had nicknamed the FDF, “Sankara is coming“ [Sankara arrive] since the PF was known to do impromptu visit of his ministries. Under him, the FDF had become the signature of Burkinabé outside the country. Sankara even made a speech at the United Nations where all the members of his delegation and himself were dressed with the Faso Dan Fani entirely made by local Burkinabé artists to be consumed by Burkinabe.
Today, the Faso Dan Fani is seen as a symbol of national pride, and people are starting to wear it again. Check out ThomasSankara.net to learn more about it, and this article “Faso Dan Fani: what if Thomas Sankara was right?” and this article on AfriqueFemme.com. Enjoy!