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!