Bogolan: The art of making mudcloth

I thought of re-posting this great article on the Bogolan, the Malian fabric used for centuries. This article was first posted on on 11 Sept 2009. Enjoy!


A piece of Bogolan cloth

I would like to introduce you to Bògòlanfini commonly known as bogolan which is a traditional Malian fabric dyed with fermented mud, particularly associated with the Bamana people of Mali. The name is a Bamana word meaning “earthcloth” or “mud cloth” (Bogo = earth, lan = by means of, fini = cloth; the cloth obtained from the earth). Bogolan became mainstream when the genius stylist Chris Seydou (who worked with stylists such as Yves Saint Laurent) modernized its use in society, incorporating it into western coats, and dresses. Today, as you walk down the streets of New York City, you would definitely encounter beautiful African American ladies wearing Bogolan coats in the midst of winter. The Bamana people have used Bogolanfini in all parts of their lives for centuries, and the art of making it is centuries old, and is passed from generations to generations.

Couvre-Lit en Bogolan

The Smithsonian made a beautiful page about the Bogolan and some of its artists, including the great Chris Seydou. One of the artists, Nakunte Diarra says that in the Bamana creation, “Since God created the world, … Bogolan was there.” What a beautiful way to emphasize the importance of Bogolan in the Bamana society, and in today’s Malian life.

Please check out the website by the Smithsonian, and get a chance to make your own bogolan:

The video below was chosen particularly because the artist, Issiaka Dembele, gives a historical background to the art of making Bogolan. You will find shorter videos on how Bogolan is made, but this one was the most profound!

When Benin Stuns All!

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

The presidential election last week in Benin stunned all. Most thought that the candidate of the hexagon Lionel Zinsou, the candidate of colonialism, was going to win. We all thought that, France, was going to crush the people’s will and have its man be handed the country. But the people of Benin said NO! The people of Benin resoundly said NO! The country of Béhanzin said NO! The country of the beloved Mathieu Kérékou said NO to France and its puppet and elected Patrice Talon. Vive la Démocratie! In some other African countries (I will not name them), France’s will would have been almighty… but in the land of the fierce Amazons said NO! We, the people has spoken!

I live you here with an excerpt of this victory, and its meaning to all Africans. We have a lot to learn from the people of Benin who have taken a hold of their destiny. Check out these articles by the Brookings Institute, AlJazeera and the BBC on this historic win. And of course, when ‘We the people’ wins, the imperialistic forces are bitter and unhappy, and want to brush it aside in the press.

Happy Easter 2016!

To all around the world, I would like to wish a Happy Easter or happy renewal day. This is celebration of renewal, restoration, and re-birth. I love this idea, particularly when spring comes or when the new harvest comes. The flower below shows all of it: it is slightly drooping on the sides, but still budding; it shows promises and life with its vibrant colors. This is the same for each one of us: a new day has arrived, a new dawn, a new chance at life; and this day is a gift, an opportunity to do right, to live life to its fullest, a new page. Enjoy! Happy Easter! Happy renewal!


Why the name: Mombasa?

Mombasa in 1572

Have you ever wondered about the origin of the name of Kenya‘s oldest and biggest port city? Why? I am talking about Mombasa of course, the coastal and beautiful city of Mombasa; the city visited by the famous Moroccan scholar and traveller Ibn Battuta in 1331, as well as the great Chinese navigator Zheng He in the 1413.

Mombasa_Moi avenue1
Moi Avenue with its tusks, Mombasa today

The earliest recorded mention of Mombasa is in the works of Diogenes, a Greek merchant in the First Century (supported by  Ptolemy). Diogenes reported that he had been blown off course from his usual route to India, ending up in a port town he called Rhapta. Rhapta has never been conclusively identified, but Roman coins have been found on several islands that were part of, or near, what became the Sultanate of Zanzibar, of which Mombasa was a core town. In 1151, the Arab geographer Al Idrisi described it as prosperous trading town. Other pioneers of maritime exploration also visited Mombasa, including the Portuguese Vasco da Gama (1498), Pedro Álvares Cabral (1500) João da Nova (1505) and Afonso de Albuquerque (1507). 16th-century Portuguese voyager Duarte Barbosa claimed, “[Mombasa] is a place of great traffic and has a good harbor in which there are always moored small craft of many kinds and also great ships,

View of Old Town Mombasa (Wikipedia)

The island was first referred to as Manbaça or Manbasa in 1502, when the Sultanate became autonomous from Kilwa Kisiwani. Manbasa is the Arabic form of the Kiswahili name, Mvita, derived from Shehe Mvita, the founding father of the island city (not sure how Mvita made it into Manbasa – another case of a foreigner playing with phonetics, i.e. not hearing well). It is also known as the “Island of Mvita.” Some sources claim that Mvita is actually derived from Mombasa’s violent history over the centuries. The history supposedly earned the city the Kiswahili nickname “Kisiwa Cha Mvita”, or the “Island of War”.

Map of Kenya with Nairobi and Mombasa

Most European travelers referred to it as Mombaz or close forms of the word. While it was a British Protectorate for 2 years between 1824 and 1826, Mombasa was turned over fully to the British Imperial East African Company in 1898. The Sultan of Zanzibar officially leased the town to the British government in 1895 as a follow-up to an 1885 agreement. Mombasa became the capital of the Protectorate of Kenya sometimes between 1887 and around 1906 until Kenya’s capital was moved to Nairobi around 1906. Technically, and legally, the coastal strip that is today the Kenyan coastline remained part of Zanzibar until it was ceded to independent Kenya in 1963.

Nyali beach in Mombasa (Wikipedia)

The town of Mombasa is centered on Mombasa Island, but extends to the mainland via two creeks, Port Reitz in the south, and Tudor Creek in the north. Today as always, Mombasa is a major trade center, and home to Kenya’s only large seaport. Because of its proximity to Zanzibar, Nairobi and the Indian subcontinent, Mombasa is a melting pot of diverse cultures and people. It is the center of the coastal tourism in Kenya. Enjoy this great video on Mombasa, the city of Mvita, named after its great leader and founding father.


Blague Africaine: Tombé du lit / African Joke: Falling from Bed

Tomber du lit / Falling from bed (source:

Un fou tombe de son lit pendant qu’il dormait. Surpris, il se lève et se couche à nouveau. 30 minutes plus tard, il tombe encore à la même place. Heureux, il dit : « tchiééé !! Donc si je ne m’étais pas levé tout à l’heure, j’allais tomber sur moi-même. »



A madman falls from his bed while asleep. Astonished, he stands up and goes back to sleep. 30 minutes later, he falls again in the same place. Happy, he exclaims, “Kaï!! So if I had not woken up earlier on, I would have fallen on myself!”

Proverbe Congolais sur la réalité / Congolese proverb on reality

African basket
African basket

Le panier du pecheur sent toujours le poisson (Proverbe Baluba – République Démocratique du Congo (RDC)). – Pas difficile de reconnaître les crapules; la caque sent toujours le hareng.

The fisherman’s basket always smell of fish (Baluba proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)).- It is not difficult to recognize villains; the keg always smells of herring.

Vogue Spain Declares ‘Black Is Beautiful’ with Cover Model Aya Jones Rocking Cornrows

Originally posted on Good Black News.
Very happy to see the cover of Vogue Spain which claims ‘Black is Beautiful’ and to see model Aya Jones rocking cornrows (on a cover). See… this made me think of the poem ‘African Hair’ by Esmeralda Yitamben and its beauty, the photographs taken by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere of different African hairstyles posted on my blog recently. Enjoy!

Happy International Woman’s Day!

March8th_2For today, in celebration of millions, and billions of women out there, I choose to re-post this poem which always stood on the door to my Mother’s office for many years. This poem, “WOMAN” is from Gold Touch International, and was originally posted on March 8th, 2012 on Afrolegends. Enjoy, and yes salute all the strong women in your lives.


Be tough, woman.

Be brave

Go out fearlessly and do the things

That your heart desires to do.

You will be counted in the world.

Don’t allow fear to paralyze you.

Stand up and face the challenges of life,

Squarely in the face, however great

They may be.

Forge ahead and conquer.

March on to the victory that awaits you.

No one will toss victory onto you.

You have to win it yourself.

Carve out a place for yourself in the sun, woman.

Let not fear destroy that great dream of yours.

Don’t fear to be laughed at;

Don’t fear to be criticized;

Don’t fear to fail;

Don’t fear to be thought crazy when you dare

To do the things that others fear to do.

Be tough and march on.

You will conquer, woman.

You have what it takes to

To win all the victories

That your heart desires to win.

Be tough and win.

This is a message from Gold Touch International.

Eco-Shoes: Manufacturing shoes from discarded tires and challenging perceptions about disabled people

Mabel Suglo (Source:

Ghanaian social entrepreneur Mabel Suglo is the co-founder of the Eco-Shoes Project, an initiative that assists artisans with disabilities to create marketable shoes from used tires and recycled African fabric. Started in 2013, the company currently employs 13 people. Her company is based in Kumasi, Ghana. It employs local able as well as artisans with disabilities to make shoes, bags, and accessories.

Eco-Shoes creation (Source:

“There are millions of discarded car tyre stockpiles and waste materials in Ghana which pose an environmental and health hazard,” explains Suglo. “Eco-Shoes rescues some of the millions of tyres and other material waste creating an environmental nuisance, to make fashionable and comfortable shoes.” She, and two of her friends were inspired to start the business to challenge local perceptions of disabled people as burdens to society.